72 Stubbs Street
Kensington, VIC 3031
03 9376 5577
As promised, after my visit to Bay City Burrito, here’s part two of ‘The Tortilla Tutorial’. Bytegirl took me to this authentic Mexican taqueria the same week we’d dined at BCB.
Considering it’s located at a godforsaken part of Kensington, the place is very busy… with a queue starting even before the doors opened at 6pm on a Friday. But the good news is you can make a booking.
But the bad news was we ended up at a table right next to the ‘aromatic’ baños (toilets), which I confess was a touch unappetising… latrine-infused tortillas, anyone? Bytegirl smirked dryly… saying how it’s part of the whole authentic hole-in-the-wall experience.
However, since we were one of the first groups in, we quickly asked if we could be seated at the colorful bar counter in the front (normally reserved for walk-ins). They happily obliged. Yes… now we have a full view of all the taco-making action! I liked the front section a lot more, even if our bar counter space was quite narrow. The cooking’s done in a colourful tented area… reminiscent of a mobile street stall.
I gave Bytegirl full reign with the ordering, but it turned out that with such a concise menu, we pretty much sampled every item between the two of us. The first thing she pointed out was how burritos don’t exist on the menu here, which tells us that burritos aren’t Mexican. It’s more a North American creation, where the classic taco has been supersized into a giant ‘monster taco’ wrapped in foil.
GUACAMOLE $6 Served with totopos (homemade tortilla chips)
We started off with a simple bowl of guacamole and refried tortilla chips. My companion would’ve preferred more lime in the guac, but I quite liked it as it was… I ended up spooning in mouthfuls of guacamole, ignoring the chips altogether.
We were given three types of salsas, each with a different flavour characteristic. The top left was light, tangy and fresh… top right tasted deeper with a smoky flavour, and the bottom one is the chunky oniony type that most of us are familiar with.
Being Singaporeans, we love our chilli sauces… so Bytegirl and I ended up refilling our bowls of sauce consistently (there’s a little stand in the middle of the room with large clay jars for you to self top-up).
And then *BAM*… all our quesadillas arrived, served ala ghetto-style on a beer tray. I loved it… it looked like the bambina in that tray was being attacked by quesadillas!
QUESADILLAS – all quesadillas are vegetarian, and can be vegan on request Sencilla (plain cheese) $3.50 | Frijoles (beans & white cheese) $4.50 Chorizo $4.50 | Hongos (mushroom) $4.50
We made quick work with saving that bambina from her outraged modesty… by systematically eating into each quesadilla. They were all vegetarian items (including the chorizo). The tortilla skins were rough and rustic, and I found the fillings rather bland. That’s when all the salsas came into play… it really helped lift the flavour.
GRINGAS $6.50 Al Pastor free-range pork with cheese in between two big tortillas
The pork gringas (something like a larger sized quesadilla) was pretty awesome though. Ha ha.. we are such carnivores through and through!
TACOS $4.50 each Carne Asada (grilled beef) | Al Pastor (free range pork)
Of the two tacos available on the menu, Bytegirl liked the Al Pastor while I liked the grilled beef. The style here was well and truly in its original form… free from modern embellishments, and probably what a Mexican grandmother would cook for you in her kitchen at home.
FLAN $6 – The delicious dessert with a rather unappealing name. Similar to crème brûlée. Made with free-range eggs.
We ended by sharing the only dessert in the menu. The flan tasted like a rather dense tofu cheesecake (with caramelisation) that’s served cold, we weren’t that fond of it.
I am glad that Bytegirl walked me through what’s probably Melbourne’s most authentic Mexican taqueria. Being there was an experience in itself, and I think that’s part of the joy with dining at La Tortilleria. I loved my introduction to Mexican food and am happy that I now have a better idea of the cuisine.
But the bottom line is: because I did not grow up eating tacos, I seem to prefer the more ‘tweaked and modernised’ versions of tacos that you’d find at places like Fonda Mexican or Mamasita. But I also realise that comparing La Tortilleria with those places would be unfair… it’d be like comparing I-Spicy and Thai Culinary against Chin Chin.