Nomad Projects’ owner Ricardo Amare claims to be doing Melbourne’s most authentic Mexican gear, but do the goods stand up to the talk?
Amare's sure as hell picked a good spot for Senoritas. You can’t move in Meyer’s Lane for star eateries and the promising fluoro sign adds to the alleys magnetic draw. Inside, the décor rather forcefully asserts: "This-is-a-Mexican-restaurant!" with antique crucifixes and portraits of florally garbed dead chicks lining the walls, and toilets luminously laid with over a thousand hand painted skull tiles. It’s like a funeral parlour for the super-fun and slightly deranged.
Speaking of death, kill the inevitable wait time for one of the 40 seats with a Margarita, or cut right to the chase and start huffing smoky mezcal and sangrita. The crew know their agaves, but considering all the ‘fresh’ jive talk, we’d suggest they upgrade the V8 to fresh juice for their spicy side sipper – or at least hide the evidence.
Your pesos don’t stretch as far as in downtown Me-hi-co, but in a taco gold rush anything goes folks, so ignore the big price tag on little plates and go heavy on the ordering. Amare assures us that they are the only restaurant doing tacos to Mex specs. Which means steaming and warming the tortillas on top of the meat as it grills and going heavy on the house-made salsas ($4 each).
Thusly treated, tacos Yucatecos ($9.50 for two) are flavoursome fistfuls packing juicy shredded pork dressed with pickled onion and soul searing habanero salsa. Make sure you hit them when they hit the table – the tortillas harden as they cool making for chewy work. Mix it up with other handheld fun like fried-tortilla duck cigars (flautas). They’re like meat filled Toobs, and with a dipper of guacamole they’re a beer’s best pal. We reckon everything is better if you add esquites too ($6): corn kernels mixed with a satisfyingly fatty combo of queso fresco (that goes-on-everything mild white cheese), chilli and mayonnaise.
We’re left a little cold by the prawn and mango ceviche, which is too cold to deliver taste and leans sweet over sharp. Still, there are plenty of limes going, so administer at will.
Amidst all the fanfare, it’s actually the humble dishes that shine. Like pozole blanco. A restorative bowl of pork broth (pork bits included) and hominy – maise kernels which look and taste like just-cooked potato – topped with a cleansing crunch of fresh radishes, lettuce and tortillas.
Senoritas has the capacity for excellence. The Mexican staff are a good natured bunch, who are likely to engender a lot of fans once they focus on showing the other side of the bar as good a time as they’re clearly having. And the food, when they stop telling you how good it is, is actually good. Amare’s passion is admirable, but reckon the meeker and cheaper will inherit the Mexperts of this town.