The first of the new wave Mexican places in Perth and still at the vanguard opens for lunch on Fridays, and last week along we went. Walking in, I almost had a conniption when, looking down, the wooden floor at the entrance seemed to have been cutaway and the cellar floor far below beckoned – but never fear, it was covered over by a clear Perspex sheet; I don’t know if was that way when last I went but if it was I had obviously not looked down on that occasion. Anyway heart pounding we found a table and a heart starter drink was called for! Is this a cunning ploy to sell more booze?
We grabbed a booth by the window on William Street and proceeded to check out the drinks. The list is heavy on tequila – not surprisingly – with more than 100 listed but also has a nice selection of wines, all from Spain, Portugal or South America, and a handful of beers.
We opted for a bottle of 2013 Torres Rose de Casta, a Spanish rosé. This is soft pink in colour, has aromas of strawberries, with a background hint of apple, and a fruit driven palate, full of raspberry notes, good acid, and finishes quite dry – a very good wine to accompany spicy food.
As to the food, starters such as Mexican street corn, guacamole, and ceviche tempt the palate; followed by tostadas including chicken with corn salsa and crab with avocado; tacos include baja fish, beef cheek, slow cooked pork and scallop with cucumber salsa; quesadillas of chorizo, grilled zucchini and smoked chicken; followed by larger meals including whole fish with salsa; pork hock and Angus beef grilled with chimichurri.
I think the guacamole here is almost obligatory so we ordered that, as well as wood grilled octopus with smoky potato; and four tacos – beef tongue, slow cooked pork, crumbed prawn and pumpkin with pickled cabbage. I should add that the food here is not overly spicy, but on the table are a number of hot sauces, as well as chilli, lime and such to add according to your taste.
Guacamole here is outstanding – creamy avocado, lots of flavour from chilli, red onion, coriander, lime – and the crispy flour tortillas are brilliant for dipping – this is a really great starter to any Mexican meal.
Our dish of smoked potatoes with grilled octopus was another hit. Crispy, tender, juicy bits of occy, interspersed between cubes of beautifully cooked, smoky, spicy potato. It looked good and it tasted even better.
Our tacos did not let the place down, either.
A tender crumbed prawn, accompanied by crunchy sharp picked red cabbage, with avocado to add another dimension of flavour, rolled up in a soft tortilla – excellent.
Soft, gelatinous beef tongue, with a slightly spicy sauce and a sprinkling of coriander, again in a lovely flour tortilla, maintained the standard.
Slow cooked pork, meltingly tender, with pineapple and onion, provided yet another flavour combination that really works.
Finally, roasted pumpkin cubes, topping more of the brilliant pickled cabbage and queso fresco, a mild soft cheese, proved a vegetarian triumph.
La Cholita remains at the forefront of Mexican restaurants around town – they boast excellent food, a very good drinks list, especially if you are into tequila, efficient, friendly staff, and it is all round a great place to go – if only they would turn the level of the music down! This is a continuing bugbear and I don’t know why they persist. But it is no deal breaker and I will keep coming back.