Singapore - Best Mexican in Town?
Finally got round to trying Casa Latina, the Mexican restaurant which has been talked about a great deal by foodies in town.
What we had last night:
- Tamales. Each order consisted of 4 small tamales - 2 traditional pork & red chile ones, and 2 with cheese & green chiles. They were good. Tamales are literally impossible to find in Singapore: Margarita's at Dempsey Hill used to offer them, albeit off the menu, and not very good ones at that (sometimes overly-dry and over-salted). But Margarita's had stopped offering them when their business took off a year or so back - which was about the time I stopped patronising that place. Viva Mexico listed tamales on their menu, but the last 3 times I went there, it was always NOT available.
Anyway, I'd go back to Casa Latina again, and again, and again just for their tamales! And ask for refills of the salsa verde or salsa roja sauces to go with the tamales. Delicious!
- Chile Poblano soup, which was pale-green from the green chiles and tasted cheesy, and also had strips of tortilla in it. It was okay, although a bit too salty. I didn't finish mine.
- A chicken dish with Mole Poblano and creamy green chile sauce (was it called Pollo Divorcado or something?). The chicken was delicious. The Mole Poblano was not as complex or bitter, perhaps a nod to local tastes here. Served with Frijoles Refritos, Mexican rice and a basket of warm corn tortillas on the side.
- Beef rib-eye Fajitas. This was, without a doubt, the BEST fajitas I've ever had in Singapore!! Forget about Margarita's in Dempsey, Cafe Iguana in Riverwalk, Viva Mexico in Cuppage Terrace, or any other pretenders - if there's anything that sets Casa Latina apart - this is it!
- Lime pie. It was beautiful to look at, but much too sweet for my taste. Also, the strong eggy smell/taste didn't go down too well with us.
- Pastel de Tres Leches - the famous Three Types-of-Milk Cake (purportedly Nicaraguan in origin) was moist and very addictive. The sponge cake was soaked thru & thru with a combination of sweetened, condensed milk; evaporated milk; and fresh whole milk till its texture became dense, almost resembling a cheesecake. Served with thinly-sliced strawberries & whipped cream on top.
They did not have the dessert we came for - the chocolate tamales - the waiter informed us that their shipment of chocolates from Mexico did not arrive on time for the dessert to be made. Oh well, another time then.
All in all, Casa Latina was certainly a welcome entrant to the Singapore dining scene which had historically lacked a truly authentic Mexican restaurant, despite decades upon decades of Singaporeans dining on pseudo-Mexican eateries here like Chico-n-Charlie's, Cha Cha Cha and El Felipe. With Casa Latina (helmed by Executive Chef Mario Galas, who hails from Puerta Vallarta) offering authentic Mexican cuisine, this will hopefully bring about the much-awaited & much-needed change.
42 Waterloo Street
Tel: +65 6884 6929
Lunch: 12-2pm Daily
Dinner: 6-10pm Daily
I first tried Margarita's probably a decade & a half ago - in its Faber Drive outlet in Clementi. Serving more Tex-Mex than out-and-out Mexican (dollops of sour cream are de rigeur here), Margarita's local owners (Andy Yap & his wife) nevertheless had been able to satisfy Singaporeans' craving for some "fairly authentic" Mexican, and its flagship outlet in Dempsey Hill - with its high ceilings and colorful decor - had always been one of my favorite places to bring guests to Singapore who yearned for something different.
Last Sunday's family lunch included:
- Tortilla soup: for some reason, the version here was less spicy than those I'd tried in Mexico, and even the United States. I wonder why - seeing that Singaporeans do like some chilli heat in their food. I'd attribute that to Margarita's possibly Filpino kitchen crew (didn't actually see them, but the front house service staff were all-Filipino);
- Nachos supreme, with frijoles refritos, melted queso blanco, guacamole and shredded lettuce. Nice, but somewhat lacking in the spice department (again);
- Chicken fajitas, served on a hot plate, with warmed tortillas and condiments. Slightly on the bland side;
- Pulled pork, also served with tortillas. This was my favorite dish of the meal: tasty grilled pork which still retained its moistness, yet fall-apart tender;
- Fish Vera Cruz, which has a tomato-jalapeno-olive-based sauce on grilled fish fillets. It came with green cilantro-tinged arroz verde, and frijoles negros (stewed black beans).
Quite an ample meal, washed down with copious amounts of Horchata. For better Mexican food, I'd still go back to Casa Latina in Singapore, where the Mexican ambassador & members of the Mexican expat community in Singapore loved to hang out (Margarita's in Dempsey Hill is more of an expat Indian favorite), but then, there's no other place in Singapore that can match Dempsey Hill's laidback atmosphere and its concentration of dining/drinking and food retail spots.
Blk 11 Dempsey Road
Tel: +65 6471 3228
If what you are looking for is tamales, you can get them from Belmonte Latin Foods. They have a shop in Kallang Leisure Park and they sell ready-made ones. Also you can get home-style made green salsa and other stuff. Google www.belmontelatinfoods.com and follow the link to their website (seems that the homepage is not working). They deliver also.
The wife and I love Casa Latina! Mainly for their fried cheese appetizer mmmm... Also, the food there is more central/mayan Mexican (the chef's from Cancun), so the flavors tend to be different than the Mex/TexMex that we're used to back in the States. The mole dishes are a most-try for those who like it.
Oh, and the cost is actually reasonable compared to other sit down Mexican places.
re: Curt the Soi Hound
One good Tex-Mex eatery at the other end of the price scale here in Singapore would be Spruce Taqueria at Phoenix Park. Tacos & quesadillas with good choice of fillings: pulled pork, beef-rib, etc. Served with fresh greens, guacamole, sour cream, salsa. The pork carnitas is great.
Very casual taqueria with alfresco dining, but limited operating hours though. Some options included fish tacos and also the very delicous tongue.
320 Tanglin Road
Opening hours: 12pm-3pm (weekdays only)
Tel: 6836 5526