The next stop in our series covering global cuisines that you can dine on here in SG: Mexico.
Though the southern North American state is some 16,000 kilometres away from our island and will take you at least a day to get to via plane, luckily for us foodies, authentic Mexican fare is actually quite an easy find here.
And it’s well-loved; no wonder, since it uses familiar and flavourful ingredients such as corn, beans, tomatoes, sweet potato, chilli pepper and chocolate (it originated from ancient Mesoamerica, the current-day Mexico) in quite a few of its recipes.
So let’s “¡Arriba, Arriba! ¡Ándale, Ándale!” and make like Speedy Gonzales to these 4 popular restaurants serving up tasty Mexican dishes.
Those who work within the Central Business District or around Marina Bay would definitely know of this resto and bar.
Chimi’s is a renowned hangout for office folk in the after-hours, popular for both its drinks and Mexican bites, and is a sister outlet to the equally popular Chimichanga joints, Singapore first Mexican dive bars.
So, if you are in the area and hankering for some good ’ole Mexican grub, Chimi’s is it!
Let’s go straight for the chef-approved comfort foods. Start easy with the Chipotle Chicken Baby Chimichanga ($14 for 2 pieces) and Al Pastor Chicken Skewers ($12) that’s served with grilled pineapples.
The main stars – the burritos or bowls that come with a base of Amarillo Rice, White Quinoa or Salad Greens. Chomp on the Smoked Duck ($12) or the Carne Asada Beef ($12) – both are meaty eats, with tender and juicy duck breast meat for the former and marinated flash-fried steak strips for the latter.
For an early evening nightcap (or two) to end the day, there are the usual bottled beers, wines, gins and tequilas, plus non-alcoholic drinks such as juices, sodas and coffees for the non-drinkers.
But skip the usual and try its $20-for-2 cocktails during the bar’s happy hour (before 7pm) instead. The Baby Mule (vodka, fresh lime juice, housemade honey-ginger syrup and ginger beer) and Paloma Chimichanga (tequila blanco, fresh lime juice and salted pink grapefruit) are the fruity ones to knock back.
FYI, “¡Buen provecho!” is a common Mexican greeting between diners, to “enjoy your meal”, similar to how one would use the French term “bon appétit”.
1 Marina Boulevard, #01-01, 018989, www.chimis.sg
BONUS: SAFRA members get to enjoy 10% off the total bill, and 15% off the total bill during the member’s birthday week at Chimi’s. Click here for more information.
2. El Mero Mero
Want more than just your regular nachos and burritos? Still yearning for Mexican but need something extra special for date night? Then this restaurant specialising in contemporary Mexican cuisine is your go-to.
Founded in 2014 by Mexican-born former director in corporate law, mergers and acquisitions, Alejandro Blanco, the restaurant (formerly known as Señor Taco, a chain of Mexican taquerías in Singapore) underwent a revamp in late 2019 with a new kitchen team and menu, and refurbished interiors. The food? Still impressive and novel.
It’s all about modern Mexican gastronomy here.
First, prep your taste buds with some botanas (snacks or appetisers) and ceviches (smallish portions of raw fish or seafood). The Guacamole ($12 to $18) is a D.I.Y. delicacy with diners able to mix smashed avocados with onions, diced tomatoes, coriander and the like.
The Hamachi and Coconut Ceviche ($23) is actually hamachi aguachile (cubes of sashimi-grade Japanese yellowtail in chile water) tossed in a blend of Hibiscus Flower Milk, trout roe and avocado purée, and served in a fresh green coconut.
Then, elevate your palate with the house mains, all grilled in Josper-brand charcoal ovens. Pick the Atlantic Grilled Octopus ($32) with black garlic purée, corn crema and “Charcoal Dust”, or the 12-hour slow cooked Crispy Suckling Pig ($34) with charred pineapple sauce and Tiaquepaque Mexican salsa.
But, if you are in the mood for more familiar, less fancy fare, there are still its famed tacos to order, from its alfresco and online Señor Taco section.
Try the Baja Shrimp flour tortillas (from $9) with golden beer-battered fried shrimp, chipotle mayo and pico de gallo, or Crunchy Wagyu Beef crunchy tortillas (from $11) with Kirotoshi cuts, burnt cheese and avocado, and molcajete sauce.
3. Café Iguana
This is a golden oldie – Café Iguana was founded by American Devin Otto Kimble and Chilean Daniel Flores in 2000, even before the Mexican Wave food trend was even a thing. And it’s famed among tourists, expats and locals alike.
It’s easy to see why: The restaurant serves up all of the more recognisable Mexican food favourites, fresh and authentic, in the vein of the crowd-pleasing Tex-Mex variety.
Head here with your friends and family – it’s that kind of dining affair as the portions are sizeable. Here’s how you can order up a storm when eating with a very hungry party of 5.
Dig into the coconut crumbs-coated Coconut Prawns ($25) and “HOT-HOT” roasted chili-sauced Fuego Wings ($14) for appetisers.
Next, fill up on its lime-marinated Tequila Grill meats – choose from Prawn Skewer ($35), New York Steak ($34) or Half Chicken ($28).
Complement with any of the choices from its burritos, fajitas, chimichangas, tacos and enchiladas (from $5 to $30) with fillings that range from red snapper and mixed vegetables, to beef and prawn.
End the fiesta with some classic churros ($12) or its famous flourless Ancho Chocolate Cake ($14), both made more sinful with vanilla ice cream.
As for “adult-rated” beverages (read: alcoholic drinks), it has to be the signature Iguanarita margarita ($15 for a glass, $70 for a jug) that’s made from a no-nonsense mix of blue agave tequila and Brewerkz draft beer.
If not, take on any of its tequila cocktails such as the Cholula, cherry tomato, and lemon and orange juice Café Iguana Bloody Maria ($20) or its Tequila Flights (from $28), from which you can create your own set of tipples.
This institution’s a touch older than Café Iguana – it was established in 1988, making it possibly Singapore’s oldest Mexican food restaurant.
But, here’s the real surprise: it’s founded and owned by one Andy Yap (who worked in Mexico as a chef for 9 years) and his wife, Carol.
From its first location along Faber Drive to its current spot at Dempsey Hill, it has remained steadfast in the F&B scene and foodies’ cultural consciousness because it serves food that’s “an ode to authentic Mexican cuisine”, and like its dishes, in a restaurant setting that’s “inspired by the ruggedness, simplicity and tradition of Old Mexico”.
For entradas (Spanish for appetisers), start cheesy with the Oaxacan Tlayuda “Mexican Pizza” ($28) that’s topped with refried beans, grilled beef, chorizo and regional cheeses.
For platos fuertes (Spanish for mains), it has to be Margarita’s Kitchen Sink Burrito ($26) that’s a medley of chicken, beef, rice, refried beans, sour cream and guacamole.
Top picks off its especialidades (Spanish for food specialties) menu: The Cachetes De Res En Mole Pasilla ($42) which features braised beef cheeks nestled in cauliflower purée, citrus gremolata and pasilla mole, and the Costilitas Con Chile Ancho Y Kahlua ($38) that showcases Kahlúa-flavoured pork ribs.
For postre (Spanish for dessert), either the Leche Frita “Fried Milk” or Mexican Fried Ice Cream (both $16) are suitably sweet. For drinks, the restaurant serves up everything from Virgin Margaritas (from $8 a glass) to Lavazza Gran Expresso Blend cuppas (from $6), to tequilas (from $28 for 60ml) and Artisanal Oaxacan Mezcals (from $34 for 60ml).