Words by Craig J Selby
Photos by The Yum List (Monica Tindall)
*** Sadly, La Mexicana is now closed.
The closest I have ever come to Mexican food before was Tex-Mex, and I have to say, that the good ol’ Tex Mex comfort food does not come close to authentic Mexican food. In fact, it is such a distance apart, that I am ashamed that I ever put the two in the same category.
|Tamarind Margarita – Yum!|
Very recently, I was lucky enough to be invited to savour genuine Mexican cooking, prepared with love and thought by a very passionate lady, who clearly knows her food. Being Mexican obviously helps, but it the time-honoured tradition of preparing everything from scratch that really boosts the flavour profile of the scrumptious food that Chef Carmela prepared.
|Classic Margarita – Available two for one during Happy Hours!|
Nestled in a small enclave of restaurants just behind popular Hock Choon in Jalan Ampang, La Mexicana is a small restaurant, seating about 30 people comfortably. A world away from its bustling main road just in front, La Mexicana’s environment transports you out of KL into en entirely different world – brightly coloured Mexican decorations and art adord the walls and ceilings, and its gorgeous urban garden (complete with the cliché cactus – which looks awesome by the way) helps you to forget that you are really sitting in the heart of a bustling metropolitan.
So, other than Tex Mex, my only “Mexican” experience is Tequila. Liquid gold, strong, pungent, and ohhhh so delicious to drink. But even here, I was in for an experience, as our hosts stepped me through both Tequila and Mescal – but sorry guys, that’s a whole separate post, as now I’m focussed on the stunning dishes that were prepared. We were treated to a small selection of new dishes, fresh onto the La Mexicana menu – and boy, they were divine.
Starting out was Chilorio – basically Mexican pork spring rolls in my mind. Fresh tortilla wrap, stuffed with tender porl, hot sauce (did I say “hot”), served over rocket and fresh avocado. The orange and lime dressing for the salad added a nice compliment.
Certainly from this dish I understood what our host meant about “fresh flavours”. Each dish infused somehow into it, the freshest market ingredients to offer up flavour combinations that you know are fresh. The pork was pull apart, melt in your mouth style, and beautifully balanced by the pepperiness of the rocket and the citrus elements of the orange and lime.
|La Mexicana’s Own Garden|
And yes, this was subsequently followed by a tequila shot (well, two – I was thirsty). Interesting enough, tequila was served with lemon and salt as standard – but we were honoured with special worm salt – a delicacy – and believe me, what a flavour enhancer. Ignore the name – it genuinely is salt from a worm – but the flavour was so amazing that I completely forgot where it came from.
Mexican Pumpkin Soup with with Chorizo, Avocado and Tortilla was next. This soup was a mix of both creamy and crunchy – an unexpected combination, but one married together so well. The creamy pumpkin was broken up by the crunchiness of the pork chorizo texture, and the tortilla. It offered soft flavours, and was very inviting. The bowl was emptied way to fast – I could have easily sat all night just enjoying this (ok, so pumpkin is one of my favourites). I especially liked the avocado chunks – these added to the textural exploration, and really enabled an awesome flavour profile to be experienced. This was a light, but definitely hearty dish.
|Mexican Pumpkin Soup with with Chorizo, Avocado and Tortilla|
More tequila, need I elaborate.
The main was Mackerel baked in amaranth seed. Served with a distinctive (but delicious) tamarind sauce with dry chilli – the chilli is actually infused into the sauce. The mackerel had firm flesh, very fresh, and very tasty. Its baked seed crust was divine. Combined, the sauce offered an acidic balance to the fish, and the three elements together created a symphony of flavour and texture not previously experienced.
Following the mackerel was the Gorditas de Chicarrom Prensado – home-made corn dough stuffed with pork, onion and coriander. This dish showcased very complex flavours, with the heavy corn dough, yet spicy and soft ingredients – very nice.
|Gorditas de Chicarrom Prensado|
To finish, we enjoyed two distinctively different desserts. The first was a simple cheese and fruit jam dish – a thin slice of firm cheese, accompanied by a slice of dehydrated strawberry conserve. The cheese neutralised the sweetness of the conserve, but offered its own form of balance to this simple little dish. Unexpected as a combination, but it definitely works.
|Cheese and Dried Fruit|
We finished up with what is fondly referred to as bread of the dead (as we dined over Dia de Los Muertes – Mexico’s “Day of the Dead” celebration). A light, fluffy bread roll type of pastry, infused with orange blossom, and generous amounts of sugar crystals on top. A nice flavour, as it really did remind me of home-baked pastries, and was a flavour that would certainly transcend cultures.
|Pan de los Muertos|
My experience at La Mexicana was superb. The hosts and staff are friendly, and the hosts love chatting and sharing stories with their guests. The environment took you to Mexico, and added to the surprise elements of this gorgeous little restaurant. I will be back …
|Red Dragon Fruit Margarita|
Reason to visit: authentic Mexican cuisine, delicious cocktails, excellent choice of Tequilas and Mezcals
The Terrace at Hock Choon
Jalan Nibong (off Jalan Ampang)
Ampang, 50450 Kuala Lumpur
+6 03 425 35251