Monday, May 20, 2013

Acland Street Cantina


Acland Street Cantina
2 Acland Street
St Kilda, VIC 3182
Ph: (03) 9536-1175
Website
Acland St. Cantina on Urbanspoon

So, "Modern Mexican". It's a Melbourne dining trend that has pretty much passed me by. I visited Mamasita once back in 2010, wasn't a huge fan, and never had any burning desire to go back. Upon reflection my dislike of the restaurant was more to do with the inexplicable hype surrounding it, rather than the food itself, which was fine, if a little expensive. I just don't get why you'd want to line up for hours for it. (Or any restaurant, for that matter - but that's just my inner grumpy-old-lady talking). I must admit it also really grated on me that it was gushingly described by fawning bloggers and food writers as "authentic" Mexican, when it clearly wasn't.

And so, I never really had any interest in any of the Modern Mexican wave (hah!) of restaurants that have sprung up in Melbourne over the past couple of years. Prior to this visit to Acland Street Cantina, I hadn't been to Fonda, to Señoritas, to Chingón, to The Newmarket Hotel, to Touché Hombre. I had been to (and enjoyed) Los Amates, but as it's been around for ages, and serves traditional Mexican comfort food, rather than modernising it or creating a nightclub vibe with loud music, dark lighting and/or queues, I don't count it as being in the same category.

I much prefer trying to cook Mexican-style food at home, especially with my lovely cousin Catherine, who shares my cynicism regarding "Modern Mexican". (See Mexican Lunch #1Mexican Lunch #2; and Mexican Lunch #3. Hot tip for home cooks: sopes are way easier than tortillas!)

This is really just a long-winded way of explaining that I went to newish Mod-Mexican restaurant Acland Street Cantina twice this year, and despite all my preconceptions, really enjoyed it!
Acland Street Cantina

The first visit was on a Friday night - my cousin and I had just attended the launch of Circa's Pop Up Yakitori Bar at The Prince (you can read about it at Gourmet Chick's blog), and hadn't been sufficiently assertive in the packed crowd to get more than a couple of nibbles and a drink each. We decided to retreat next door to Acland Street Cantina (another Paul Wilson venture, incidentally) to continue chatting and get a bit more food.  We sat in the bar section at the front and shared some baja fish tacos and a bowl of bravas potatoes, both of which were very impressive.
Baja Fish Tacos, $14 for 2 (at night)

Bravas Potatoes - $7
The service was also very good - the waitress serving us was really friendly and patient, explaining the menu and even offering us tastes of the ice-cream when we went up to pay. (They have sweet corn ice-cream, peoples!) We left full and happy, promising that we'd come back together for a proper meal.

Imagine my delight, then, when I won a $95 voucher to Acland Street Cantina a few weeks later, as part of Cinco de Mayo! It was one of those "Retweet before 3pm for your chance to win" things, and I thought it couldn't hurt to give it a go. It sure didn't! I enthusiastically texted my cousin, but unfortunately the only time she had free was the last night my brother was in town and obviously we had to have family dinner. I felt so guilty cancelling on her! (Funnily enough though, they ran the twitter competition again that week, and guess who won that time: my cousin! Hah! What a crazy coincidence!)

I ended up taking my brother there for a weekday lunch - he's been living in Japan for the last three years, and I felt it was my duty, as an ambassador for Melbourne, to show him something really Melbournian - hence, Modern Mexican. And we've come full circle!
Flowers, tequila bottle
The restaurant portion of ASC only does dinner, but that was ok with me, as I prefer the bright and colourful front bar section anyway (the back section looks a bit dark and, um, sex dungeony - it used to be the bar Mink, if anyone remembers it).

Acland Street Cantina - bar section

Cinco De Mayo
They had a special Cinco de Mayo barbecoa feasting lunch, which is what my brother ended up ordering. It did come with beer or a margarita, but it was lunchtime, so just soft drinks for us.

Strawberry Iced Tea - $4
Jarritos Grapefruit - $4 (but included in the Cinco de Mayo plate)

We started by sharing a plate of pumpkin guacamole. Such a cute idea, and I liked the textural interest added by the toasted seeds (pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower) - something to try making at home one day. The stripey chips are vegetable chips - I think taro? Very crisp and a nice change from the usual corn / tortilla chips.
Pumpkin guacamole with vegetable chips and salsa - $12
Here's the $25 barbecoa plate! The savoury items were very impressive, especially the tender and smoky slow-cooked pork rib, and there was a good variety of flavours and textures on the plate. I'd probably avoid ordering the tres leches cake myself in future, as it was a bit small (I'm of the understanding that the small dish you see below is the full serving size if you order it by itself), and I didn't like the addition of autumn fruits to the plain cake. 
$25 Barbecoa Feasting Lunch
Clockwise from right: Tostadas w/ wild mushroom queso fundido
Blue corn & prawn quesadilla w/ chipotle aioli
Cochinta Pibil style pork ribs w/ crushed sweet potato - slow cooked pork short ribs w/ achiote & seville orange sauce
Tres leches cake w/ autumn fruits
I knew I couldn't go wrong by ordering tacos (and they're only $5 each at lunch!).
Tacos!

Authentic Al Pastor Spit-Roasted Pork w/ Pineapple Salsa - $5 (at lunch)

Pueblan-style goat w/ red mole - $5 (at lunch)

Baja Fried Fish w/ slaw and chipotle mayo - $5 (at lunch)
I'd had a hard time choosing which tacos to go for - I chose a fish taco because I loved it so much the time before, the goat taco because of the relatively exotic meat, and the pork taco because, well, pork. I liked them all, but the goat and fish were my favourite! And at $5 each at lunch, they're really well priced. Three tacos made a decent sized lunch, and had I not been there with my brother, I would have been fine not ordering dessert.

But, for his sake of course, we did order dessert. (I'm such a good sister, don't you think?) I had to try the famous salted caramel ice-cream churro taco. It was a great, super-intense dessert - cinnamon flavoured deep-fried churro at the base, with two scoops of smooth and creamy salted caramel ice-cream, drizzled with salted caramel and sprinkled with crunchy sweet sugary praline. Delicious, but crazy decadent! Definitely one to share!
Salted caramel ice cream churros tacos - $12

I had a bit of value left on my voucher, so one of the waiters suggested I get some groceries to use it up. Here's what I got!
My chilli haul
It was: two bottle of hot sauce, two packets of dried chillies (there's ancho chillies and another one of which I don't know the name), and a tin of chipotle chillies in adobo sauce. I didn't realise until after I got home that  they were all chilli products! I think I have a bit of an addiction!

Thanks for the voucher, ASC, it was an awesome lunch! Looking forward to coming back again on my own coin one day!

Do you have a favourite Mexican restaurant in Melbourne? Do you prefer modern or traditional Mexican food? Do you like to follow dining and food trends or do you just eat what you like?

5 comments:

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

We've got so much Mexican in Sydney at the moment it's kind of crazy! But Melbourne has been in love with it for longer so it's interesting to see how it has developed there.

Hannah said...

As an anti-avocado (except in raw desserts) girl, the pumpkin spin sounds YES to me. As does the churros dessert, though it needs peanut butter. All the peanut butter.

P.S. Lining up/no reservations places are ugh. Cranky old lady hearts unite.

Daisy@Nevertoosweet said...

I've read and seen so much about Acland Street Cantina! But haven't had the chance to go or try it >_< So sad... will need to especially after seeing the Salted caramel ice cream churros tacos!!!!! I WANT THAT NOW!!!! :)

msihua said...

So many Taquerias so little time!

Agnes said...

$5 tacos is something I can get behind. :D