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Montezuma’s Mexican Restaurant & Bar Williams Landing, T23/102 Overton Road, Williams Landing

This year, CTS has indulged in a couple of meals at Melbourne Mexican restaurants with reputations for authenticity.

Such are the continuous, unstoppable, nifty ways humans operate that “authenticity”, when soberly analysed in just about any setting (food or otherwise), is seen to be something of the ultimate straw man.

Origins of pasta, anyone?

Still, we were surprised just how little “wow” we found in those meals.

Maybe true blue Mexican is simply not for us?

And, gosh, tacos that amount to little more than a couple of mouthfuls can, over the course of a hungry meal, add up to more dollars than expected.

 

 

We were forced to acknowledge, somewhat to our surprise, that we actually may prefer the hybrid food usually referred to as Tex-Mex and as served rather well – we think – by our local.

So we are quite happy to rock up to Montezuma’s at Williams Landing.

It’s part of a franchise deal that has close to 20 eateries around the country, though this is the first in Victoria.

It’s located around the corner from the Williams landing shopping centre itself, and right next door to an also-newish Chinese place we have yet to check out thoroughly.

Montezuma’s is decked out, inside, in a predictable fashion and looks inviting in a familiar way.

But it’s a nice sunny day so we choose, for once, to go alfresco.

 

 

Bennie’s full pulled pork nachos appear rather hum-drum and are up there in price at $19.90.

But they work well and he enjoys his meal.

And there’s a heap of very good pulled pork – better than served in many non-barbecue specialist places – under all the usual trimmings pictured.

 

 

A side serve of guacamole ($4.90) and corn chips ($3) are just OK, but we are surprised we have to request hot sauce for our table when we have become so used to having a range of saucy bottles already provided – at all sorts of eating places.

 

 

The Montezuma’s menu is extensive and there are many combinations to be had.

Mine, the #17 Speedy Gonzales, costs $19.90 and comes with a beef taco, chilli con carne, corn chips and salad.

It is dull.

All is perfectly edible, but there’s simply no zing.

The chilli con carne is particularly lame.

Maybe it’s from a fresh batch, but the beans, meat and gravy in no way coalesce.

Worse, that gravy tastes all tomato and no seasoning; no appreciable tang of salt, pepper, chilli, cumin, lemon or anything else.

My taco is of drab food court standard, while the salad is the best of my meal.

A couple of bottles of Jarritos soft drink have pushed our lunch-time bill out to the $60 mark.

And that seems quite a lot for a meal that will be hastily consigned to the most deeply buried files in the CTS memory bank.

Maybe we arrived with unrealistic expectations.

Check out the Montezuma’s website, including menu, here.

New taco joint? Sweet!

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Sugar Skulls, 185 Mount Alexander Road, Flemington.

Sugar Skulls is located on lower Mount Alexander Road, right opposite the fine cafe that is Phat Milk and in a premises that was formerly occupied by a beauty shop.

It’s been open about five weeks.

We arrive early and hopeful on a Friday night.

 

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At first there’s a little confusion about whether, upon being directed to wait our turn at the serving counter, we’re in the house for takeaway or eat-in.

That’s quickly sorted and we’re shown to a window table with the proviso we must be gone in 45 minutes.

No probs!

 

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Sugar Skulls is a compact and classy operation, with a concise menu (see below) that encompasses food and beer, wine and mixed drinks.

But there is a fast-food element to proceedings, so I’m not sure why they’re bothering with bookings – especially as there is no phone number provided on either their website or Facebook page (the website has a bookings facility through OpenTable).

And certainly we make the 45-minute deadline with time to spare – this is some of the quickest food delivery we’ve ever experienced.

That’s entirely appropriate for what is pretty much street food and we’re happy because we’re hungry.

We order about half the menu.

 

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From the list of “little things” – potato gems ($4), guacamole ($4) and corn chips and salsa ($6).

They’re all fine and very keenly priced – though I’m left wishing for a bit more spice and zing from the rather bland salsa.

 

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Much the same could be said of our tacos – we order two each of the chicken, pork and prawn at $6 a pop.

They’re lovely and fresh, and each has its own distinctive dressing and adornments.

We especially like the tempura-like vibe of the prawn outings.

But, yep, I wish for a bit more ooomph in the chilli/lime/lemon/salt department.

Mind you, there is a nice range of hot sauces on hand if that’s your wont.

We use a couple of them to slather on the extra serve of corn chips we order – both the chips and the tortillas come from nearby La Tortilleria.

That takes our bill for a satisfying, drinkless meal to a fine $54.

 

 

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Yarraville Mexican better

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Village Cantina, 30 Ballarat Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9689 8000

It’s been six months since Consider The Sauce’s first visit to the then newly opened Village Cantina in Yarraville.

I’m happy to return, especially as Bennie has yet to do so and it fits right in with our mid-week nothing-planned-for-dinner situation.

Without intending to make such a direct comparison to that first visit, we end up ordering two items had on that occasion – and it’s something of a revelation.

 

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First though we start with “street style chargrilled corn” with chipotle mayo, queso fresco and lime ($5).

Our single serve cut in two lasts all of about five seconds.

It’s yummy but oh-so-very small!

 

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Bennie’s beef burito ($14) is a big step up from the same item ordered by me on that initial visit.

This is much more deftly done with none of the solid if enjoyable stodginess I experienced.

The filling has very nice shredded beef and there’s salsa, sour cream and guacamole on the side.

 

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But the real eye-opener is the nachos ($13).

I’m not sure why I order this, as nachos can so often veer between acceptable bar/snack food for sharing and a gloopy, unappetising mess.

The new-look Village Cantina nachos has real good melted cheese, guacamole, black beans and salsa in great profusion atop a big mound of good corn chips.

But this nachos is lifted to a whole ‘nuther level by the fabulous strips of grilled chicken that have tremendous flavour and a bit of a cajun thing going on.

It’s the best nachos I’ve ever had.

There’s so much of it – and its tastes so good – I’m happy to fully share with Bennie once he’s done with his burrito.

Heck, it’d make a fine light meal for two!

 

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Village Cantina – excellente!

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Village Cantina, 30 Ballarat Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9689 8000

Barely a week after Village Cantina’s opening, Team CTS descends on the joint for a taste of what it has to offer.

It’s busy as all get out.

Wait time is prolonged but the staff do their best.

We recommend, while the place is so busy with folks checking it out for the first time, that the best times to visit are early or late.

The expectations and hopes of we three are quite finely calibrated.

We don’t expect the authenticity of La Tortilleria.

OTOH, we’re hoping for something better and more enticing than what is offered by the likes of Salsa’s or Guzman y Gomez.

Sometimes – like right now! – Mexican food through an American prism is just the ticket.

That’s exactly what we get.

But … it’s very good.

Much better than we expect!

 

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Jalapeno poppers ($6 for three) are wonderful, with gooey cheese centres and breadcrumb coatings.

They’re spicy, too. Much hotter, in fact, than any of the array of hot sauces at hand.

 

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We try them all just to make sure!

 

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Instead of fiddling around with a bunch of other entrees, we go for the nachos ($12), which is another winner.

That the beef is shredded and lovely, rather than merely ground, is testament to the fact that Village Cantina is staking out the high ground when it comes to this sort of food.

 

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My beef burrito ($13) is good, with the cheese shining out amid the other ingredients – rice, black beans, salsa and shredded beef.

It’s solid, satisafying and enjoyable.

 

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But I do look with envy at the selections chosen by my companions – they appear both more interesting and more refined.

The bloke who chose the pork quesadilla ($12) is very happy indeed.

 

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Fish and pork tacos ($6 each) also hit the spot, with their recipient telling me the former has good, crisp and solid chunks of fish.

Our dinner, including three Mexican soft drinks, has cost us precisely $65.

And that, we reckon as we very happily depart, is a bargain.

 

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Mexican in Yarraville – it’s open!

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Village Cantina, 30 Ballarat Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9689 8000

 

SEE REVIEW HERE.

 

By the time I discover Village Cantina in Ballarat Street is up and running, it’s too late – I’ve already had an at-home dinner!

(Nothing flash – sourdough ciabatta toast topped with tomato slices and sardines …)

So this post is more your newsy story to alert readers to the opening and the subsequent rise village diversity.

We’ll no doubt be taking the menu for a test drive very soon and will write about the food then.

 

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The place is done out in colourful cantina style with some nicely cool art works in place.

They’re busy even just an hour after opening.

The compact menu doesn’t get in the least bit adventurous or weird – here you’ll get grilled corn, tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos and churros.

On the other hand, the tortillas are being supplied by El Cielo of Port Melbourne, so the quality should be there.

(See menu below.)

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Out back, there’s a three-table funky garden for chilling out purposes.

For opening hours, check out the Village Cantina Facebook page.

 

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New tastes at a brilliant temple of boganism

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Flying Elephants and B&K Sarajevski Style Chevapi, Rubble & Riches Market, 8-18 Leakes Rd, Laverton

Mexican food at Lavo Market?

With a name like Flying Elephants?

I’m fully expecting a neo-hippie or utterly whitebread take on … someone’s idea of Mexican food.

What I find is quite different – a smallish operation staffed by a friendly crew of three, each and everyone of them boasting Thai ancestry.

How wonderfully westie is that?

In fact, Lavo Market is pretty much that way all round.

Anyone feeling gloomy about the prospects of the west being strangled by yuppifying gentrification should visit this weekend wonder – in its hardcore, unrepentant untrendiness, it will surely give your spirits a lift.

The Flying Elephants sell a compact range of burritos, flautas and tacos.

My chicken taco ($5) is a real nice surprise.

For starters, there’s two of them – bargain!

On to commercial but OK tortillas are piled good chicken, two kinds of cheese, some simple salsa and lettuce. There’s a variety of hot sauces to round things out.

This may not be up to the sort of standard set by La Tortilleria – but I’m not complaining.

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I haven’t been to this market since first writing about it, so I’m delighted to find the Flying Elephants are just one several new food enterprises up and running.

One of them will not be getting my custom or my money.

People with cameras are potential customers, too.

Stallholders not wishing photographs to be taken should erect signs saying just that.

Or simply saying something like, “Please don’t take photographs – but you’re very welcome to try our food” would do nicely.

Death stares and verbal abuse? No thanks.

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I fare much better at another newie – the bright red B&K Sarajevski Style Chevapi.

As with the Flying Elephants, the B&K team have gone that extra mile by providing some tables and chairs – something that can’t be said of many of the market’s food outlets.

They’re selling chevapi and souvlaki in a range of configurations both plated and stuffed in bread of one kind or another.

My plate of five chevapi, two salads and a bread roll is $6.50 – another bargain!

This a Croatian food, so – knowing the Croatian skill with spuds and cabbage – it’s the potato and cabbage salads I am most interested in.

I’m not disappointed.

While the salads have something rather monotone about them, they are both fresh, zingy and delicious.

The chevapi themselves are OK but need more seasoning.

 

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Pure delight on a Kensington back street

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La Tortilleria, 72 Stubbs St, Kensington. Phone: 9376 5577

Like so many other folks, we were knocked out to hear about a new Mexican joint in a Kensington back street, dedicated to churning out high-quality tortillas and serving lovely eat-in goodies, and doing both with wide smiles.

Knowing La Tortilleria was bound to be an immediate and surefire hit, we resolved to hold off doing a Consider The Sauce story on it until after the dust had settled.

Bennie and I visited for a nice, sunny Sunday lunch on the verandah soon after, but we – or, rather, I – blew it.

So intent were we on chowing down, we forgot about the all-important chilli sauces and salsa available inside.

So while we enjoyed our food, it’s true to say we found it rather rudimentary.

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Returning for a fab mid-week lunch and a somewhat overdue catch-up with very good CTS pal and neighbour Rob turns out to be a wonderful thing.

I enjoy the hell out of Rob’s evident surprise in finding such a brightly and funkily adorned establishment in such an unlikely setting.

It’s a fine but chilly day, so we’re rapt to snag one of the inside tables with no trouble at all, endowing us with a prime position to enjoy our lunch, its cooking and preparation, and the various other comings and goings.

For Rob, this is his first experience with the wonderful bubbles of Jarritos soft drinks.

He goes mandarin and is stoked; I go tamarind and wish I hadn’t.

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Consistency is vastly over-rated in my book.

So I’m delighted to report that our guacamole is both smoother and more lemony than the rendition Bennie and I had been served.

It’s delicious, though in this case I find the corn chips rather too gnarly and too much like hard work.

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The meatier side of our lunch is equally tasty.

A beef taco ($4.50) each, with the soft tortillas embracing simply beautiful beef still pink in the middle and topped with raw onion and coriander.

Loaded up with chilli sauce and salsa, they’re sublime.

To finish, a $6.50 gringas each.

These are sinfully sexy tortilla sandwiches of pork and gooey melted cheese.

Similarly dressed with the nearby condiments, these, too, get the big thumbs up from both of us.

Everything about La Tortilleria seems so right that we adore it without inhibition.

I’ve heard, though, of queues, so choosing your time to visit is worth some deliberation.

As far as we know, Ms Baklover scooped with the world with her Footscray Food Blog story about La Tortilletia – read it here.

 

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