201-209 High St
Prahran, VIC 3181
Like Mexican food? Of course you do. In that case, allow me to introduce you to this new, sleek, and very sexy lady in Prahran – Queen of the South.
Being a Mexican restaurant, the first thing you see in the restaurant is a spacious bar designed for partying down with those margaritas. But the day was warm, and the agua fresca of Homemade Grapefruit Soda was perfect with its light sparkle and hint of bitterness.
There was going to be a lot of food that night, and although I had promised to pace myself, the Vasito De Elotes ($7) tested me hard. A handful of charred corn kernels were mixed with indecent amounts of chipotle mayo and queso, and the result was an irresistible combination of sweet, savoury, smoky, and spicy. For those of you who love Mexican-styled grilled corn, but hate getting your hands and face dirty, this is the holy grail.
To contrast the corn was the Nopales Tostada ($7ea) – a corn chip topped with a sharp salad of plump cactus strips.
The Oceano Trucha ($18) looked and tasted delicious. The ocean trout was cured for a good 24 hours in tequila, and the result was slices of slick, oily fish that melted in the mouth with a whiff of herbs and booze. And yes, the accompanying fronds of crisp fennel were delicious, but frankly the fish was excellent even as a stand-alone.
But even better was the Chuleta de Cordero ($22) – long, fatty cutlets of grilled lamb, rubbed with a smoky pasilla chile glaze, and served on top of an addictive corn puree.
Moving onto the heftier dishes, there was a plate of Cordero Barbacoa ($34) to share. The slow-braised lamb shoulder was as tender and flavoursome as you’d hope, and it was well-complemented by the crunchy, fruity cucumber and pomegranate salad. Scoop that biz up into a tortilla and chow down!
Or if you’re not a fan of lamb tacos, give the Pollo Pibill ($32) a crack. The crispy-skinned, achiote-marinated pieces of chicken were tender and juicy, served with refreshing sides of slaw and pineapple salsa.
In terms of veggies, there was a plate of Mole Amarillo ($22). Pumpkin seems to be all the rage these days, and it’s done especially well here. The wedge of pumpkin was sweet and soft, served on top of a hearty yellow lentil mole. But what really made this dish stand out was the tumble of coconut and almond salsa on top, which gave the hearty dish a fun, summery twist.
Miraculously, I still had room for dessert. I had been looking forward to the Pina Y Clavo De Olor ($14), and whilst the upside-down pineapple pudding tasted disappointingly similar to sponge cake, I was absolutely enamoured with the bright pineapple sorbet.
The Espuma De Luna ($14) on the other hand was a delightfully sophisticated take on the chocolate mousse. Instead of the usual sugary cream, this mousse was thick and sultry, with a smoky, full-bodied aroma, all topped off with pistachio praline and airy Pedro Ximenez cream.
And finally, a plate of Guayaba Y Durazno ($14) – tequila-poached peaches with hazelnut crumble, and a scoop of refreshing guava sorbet to finish off our night of indulgence.
I thought Queen of the South was pretty damned good. Not only did the restaurant look beautiful, there was also real substance behind the style. The food was interesting yet accessible, and would be just as good for the Mexican food veteran as it would be for the person thinking of branching out from Old El Paso. Yes, Queen of the South is a crowd-pleaser, but I mean that in the best way possible.
Rating: 15/20 – long live the queen!
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.
Sweet and Sour Fork dined as a guest of Queen of the South.