Delectable Dining – Acland St. Cantina

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By Jessica Williams

 

Follow her food adventures on Instagram @jsallgoodthings

 

Blink and you’ll miss it, but locate a small door near the corner of Acland Street and Fitzroy Street, descend down a dark passageway towards the sounds of laid back Latin American beats – and you will find yourself at Acland St. Cantina, a Mexican restaurant showcasing rough raw brick, mismatched Persian rugs and moody lighting, half resembling an Aztec Tomb.

Then once settled into the warm and alluring surroundings, order a margarita — you’re in a Mexican restaurant after all; you have to order a Margarita. And if you arrive between 5pm and 7pm, it is Happy Hour, so this traditional cocktail (in this case served with black salt lining the rim for extra Mexi-tude) amongst other selected cocktails, are only $10.00 a pop! Good excuse to get in early.

Perusing the menu, you will find a selection of Bocaditos (small snacks) and Masa Delicacies (Mexican street food-style items); the latter being where you will find the Pulled Pork Arepa ($14.00) – which is like a hash brown that you stuff with taco fillings – and the Baja Style Fried Fish Tacos ($14.00) served with slaw and chipotle mayo. As for the Cantina Guacamole with house made corn chips ($9.00), you will find these amongst the Bocaditos; a good addition to ease the humming heat from the jalapeno that frequent the many Cantina dishes. Yes, consider yourself in Mexico folks!

The ingredients are fresh and the flavours are bold at Acland St. Cantina, except in the case of the delicate Hiramasa Kingfish Ceviche ($16.00), which is a light and refreshing way to begin your Cantina feast. The thin pieces of fish are served underneath a green matchstick salad of cucumber and Granny Smith apple, with delicate traces of chilli, spring onion and coconut shavings throughout.

As you can see, Acland St. Cantina is no ordinary Mexican restaurant, it’s not all fried beans and tacos with unidentifiable meat. The menu here shows restraint, and is full of the punchy and sometimes fiery Mexi-flavours we all know and love. You can thank Executive Chef Dan Hawkins from Newmarket, for taking the Mexican food at Acland St. Cantina to the next level! Job well done.

In regards to the night we dined, Eric Kwek was our chef, and we couldn’t praise him highly enough for the BBQ Lamb Ribs ($14.00) from the Barbacoa menu, which were lightly charred, tender, sweet and sticky, thanks to the stunning tomatillo caramel sauce.

A new menu item, the Poblano Chili & Agua Pepper Rajas ($7.00) with a cumin crema, were also intriguing and wonderfully creamy; and the side of Hominy Rice Pilaf ($7.00), dusted with buttery cheese shavings, jalapeno and oregano, was wickedly moreish, and made a beautiful accompaniment to the other dishes, and can quite easily to be devoured on its own.

Furthering our Mexican extravaganza, the Speciales De La Casa is where you will find the biggest and most elaborate dishes; the BBQ Tamarind Chicken ($24.00) being a show stopper. The well-balanced meal is all brown, green and gold; the brown being from a thick BBQ sauce with a spicy kick, the gold being from the caramelized mango and pickled pineapple salad, and the green being from the coriander to combat the sweetness of this dish, and freshen it up.

Finally, be sure to save some room for dessert, missing out on the house-made Salted Caramel Ice Cream, served with a Chocolate Churros Taco ($14.00) swimming in a burnt caramel nectar and peppered with nuts, would be a crime! As would it be too, to not frequent this wonderful establishment time and time again – a mesmerising dining experience to be had on all accounts.

*The menu at Acland St. Cantina has been seasonally updated since we dined, so please note: variations to dishes mentioned within this review, alongside their subsequent prices, and any specials, may be altered.

Acland St. Cantina

2 Acland Street, St Kilda

Open 5pm till late, 7 Days

Ph: (03) 9536 1175 for bookings

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