Buscando Buena Comida, Ese?

Buscando Buena Comida, Ese?

It's only recently that Mexican food has started to have a notable presence in Singapore, but it's not quite mainstream yet. Here's where to get your spicy Latin urges satisfied.
Russell Leong
Russell Leong

@tonito.singapore does a lot more than Mexican food, they showcase the best culinary creations that central & South America have to offer. I’m more than happy to broaden my culinary horizons while broadening my waistline, especially with Brazilian comfort classics like this here Picadillo ($28++).⠀

While picadillo is a dish common throughout countries with Hispanic heritage, Tonito’s version is Brazilian. The stew starts with a base of diced tomatoes in which a fair amount of minced beef is stewed in, and is bulked up by the addition of unidentifiable beans, diced tomatoes, corn, and finished with a smattering of tortilla tortilla strips & a sprinkling of crumbly cheese on top.⠀

Now, after consulting with the oracle known as google, I realised that this Brazilian stew is missing olives & capers. What is present though, is a thoroughly comforting & heartwarming dish. The tangy tomato sauce is more like a sapid soup, with enough liquidity to it to be sipped on. I’m almost certain it contains cinnamon & cloves besides the usual herb & spice mix of cumin, oregano and paprika, which explains its peculiarly warming qualities.⠀

The superbly savoury minced beef adds a gorgeous flavour to the tangy tomato stew base, while the beans supply the starchiness that make this dish incredibly satisfying for every appetite & hunger level. The tomatoes and corn are there to make sure you’re eating your veggies, and they are a nice injection of sweetness into the stew. While I do wish that there was some bread or toasted tortillas on the side to mop up every last drop of that stunningly sapid stew, I’m incredibly impressed with this stew. I do hope that Tonito make this a permanent menu fixture, because this was excitingly excellent.⠀

Mucho gracias for hosting me, @burpple & @tonito.singapore!⠀

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While you can’t guarantee that Mondays are going to start right, you can definitely start your meals at @tonito.singapore right with this scintillating seafood ceviche ($25++). Considering that it’s built from onion salsa, tomato leche (tomato cream?), mixed seafood, and shredded tortillas covering it all, it’s technically a salad. A seafood salad, yes, but still technically a salad.
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Details aside, this ceviche is a textbook example of a proper appetite whetting starter. The sour, sharp onion salsa & chunky tomato leche will send your salivary glands into overdrive, and the crunchiness will compel you to keep chomping away. The felicitously fresh & expertly cooked seafood mix of scallops, shrimps & squid provide that addictively bouncy texture and add their sweet briny flavours to the dish. The crisp tortilla strips soak up all the zesty juices of the ceviche real fast, so you’re gonna have to devour this ceviche as fast as possible.
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All the seafood & vegetables are bound together by a judicious application of lime juice and chilies, which makes this ceviche irresistibly spicy & sour. Perfect for getting you all fired up for the rest of what is almost guaranteed to be a magnificent meal.
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Mucho gracias for hosting me, @burpple & @tonito.singapore!

It’s #tacotuesday, and I wanna taco ‘bout how revolutionary these flippin’ fabulous fish tacos from @tonito.singapore are ($18++ for a ménage à trois). Fried fish tacos are a dime a dozen, but Tonito’s are so clear of the majority it’s not even fair to the other players anymore. The flour tortilla transporting everything is standard stuff, but like what your parents always used to say, it’s what’s inside that really matters. And the stuff inside these toasted flour tortillas are simply stellar. ⠀

Thick fingers of fish (probably dory) are brilliantly battered in the most ethereal encasement I have ever had the pleasure of biting into, and are deep fried to absolute perfection. The tremendously thin layer of batter is astonishingly airy, and is crispier than a freshly minted hundred dollar bill. That impossibly thin batter barely conceals the flaky, moist & meaty fish underneath.⠀

If these fried fish were to be taken on their own, it would merely be decent as opposed to spectacular. Thankfully for the fish, the accompanying pineapple salsa & tartar sauce are its ride or die homies who uplift the fried fish into another plane of palatability. The tangy & satisfyingly salty tartar sauce blesses the fish with it’s unctuous, savoury qualities while the peerless pineapple salsa provides sweetness & sourness to light up all the taste receptors simultaneously.⠀

The pineapple salsa is undoubtedly what led the tacos into flavour nirvana. The ripe diced pineapples were invitingly sweet, while the added diced tomato & a squeeze of lime juice turned up with a whole lot of extra zest. The saliva extracting sourness completely offset any negligible greasiness from the fried fish, while cohabiting with the salty & sweet elements exceptionally well for a perfect, piquant harmony of flavours that are utterly irresistible.⠀

Now, some of you are thinking that paying twenty bucks for a trio of tacos is extortionate, but that’s where #burpplebeyond comes in. Oh yeah, all tacos are one for one with Burpple Beyond! Get in there and smash these spec-taco-lar babies, stat!⠀

Truly appreciate the generosity, @tonito.singapore & @burpple!

The first entrée in the competently curated #burpplebeyond set menu at @tonito.singapore is this piquant pork quesadilla. It’s also available as an ala carte option at $18++, which is great because you’re definitely gonna want seconds & thirds of this astonishingly appetising dish.⠀

A healthy helping of chicharron is tucked in between two flour tortillas, along with a petite pile of pineapple salsa and a copious serving of cheddar cheese. As you would expected, the quesadilla is grilled until that cheddar achieves its well deserved #cheesepull status, and the tortillas sport a stunningly sexy sear.⠀

I initially assumed chicharron to be deep fried pork rind, but both that charmingly crunchy snack and deep fried pork belly are referred to as such. The chicharrones in this quesadilla are terrifically tender pork belly, seasoned and spiced to scintillating savouriness. The slender strips of pork belly offer the right resistance, just enough to elicit the satisfaction that can only be derived from biting into meat. Then, it yields in dramatic fashion, meekly surrendering to your gnashing teeth.⠀

That divine deep fried pork belly is covered in a deluge of cheddar, a smattering of loose lettuce leaves for a little crunch, and juxtaposed against the sweet & sour pineapple salsa for maximum palate pleasure. My god this pork quesadilla is truly breathtaking. So breathtaking I’m aching for another taking. ⠀

I truly appreciate the invite, @tonito.singapore & @burpple!

Most people know #burpplebeyond for having incredible one-for-one deals, but it hosts a variety of sumptuous set meals. Just like this fabulous five course set menu from @tonito.singapore, priced very affordably at $58++. Yep, it’s great for two, which works out to slightly over thirty bucks per person. I find it a little weird that the set menu has two starters as opposed to a starter and a soup, but Tonito do both appetisers well enough to earn a pass. ⠀

We’re off to a good start with elotes, the famous Mexican street food of grilled corn. Grilled corn is usually about as exciting as watching paint dry, but Tonito’s elotes are a cut above the rest. All it took was the addition of two extra elements: Mexican cotija cheese and smoked chili mayonnaise. The cheese adds a creamy & mildly salty cheesiness to the corn, but the real game changer is that magnificent mayo. Ravishingly rich, seductively spicy, sublimely savoury and splendidly smoky, the smoked chili mayo singlehandedly transformed the elote into something divine. There is one problem though. I desperately require MORE of that majestic mayo. I could happily eat spoonfuls of that if nobody restrained me, not gonna lie.

Mucho gracias for the hospitality, @tonito.singapore & @burpple!

@hardrockcafesingapore has been there before I was even born, but I’ve never thought to try it. Why, you ask? Well, if you’re born after 1990, there’s a general perception that Hard Rock Café is a watering hole for grouchy boomers to reminisce on the glory days gone by.⠀

So, I might be half wrong about that. Sure, it is a classic all-American bar with the decor to match, but the clientele is a couple of decades younger than I expected. The menu is definitely classic American, and it’s definitely timeless. Burgers, ribs, steaks & fajitas will never go out of style, and it doesn’t matter if you’re living in 3008 or two thousand & late.⠀

Hard Rock’s Famous Fajitas ($34.95++ for a two protein combo that’ll overfeed two hungry guys) were the menu item that caught my attention, and I was moderately eager to feast on these famous fajitas. Unfortunately, I may have hyped myself up a little too much, as the chicken & steak fajitas we had fell short of expectations. Still, it’s DIY Tex-Mex soft tacos, so it isn’t all awful. It could be a touch more refined & complete, though.⠀

The sliced up sirloin steak was fantastically fatty, tastefully tender and sports a sexy sear, but someone definitely forgot the salt. Sure, adding the soft, caramelised onions & bell peppers that were still sizzling away on the hotplate gives it a nice sweet flavour, but every steak needs salt like how a human needs water. Or how I need alcohol. As for the chicken, it was seasoned a little better, but it could definitely be a lot more dazzling, and it was noticeably dry. ⠀

Still, all is definitely not lost, as the steak simply needs to be salted, and the chicken could be sous vide to maintain moisture and jazzed up with the inclusion of a spicy Mexican marinade to really put the Mex in Tex-Mex. The ultra fresh house-made guacamole is a rich, creamy delight, while the sharp pico de gallo is a zesty, refreshing counterpart to the sweet onions & peppers, and the meats.⠀

Thanks for the invite, @hardrockcafesingapore & @burpple!

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As far as I’m aware, @beerbasketkatong is the outlet with tacos on the menu, while the Kovan outlet doesn’t serve tacos. Beer Basket is a decent enough place for a casual #thirstythursday watering hole, and #tacothursday is always a solid companion to frosty pints of beer. Just like many of the finer things in life, Beer Basket’s tacos come in pairs.⠀

The Baja Fish tacos ($12++) features strips of deep fried, beer battered haddock spiffed up with shredded lettuce, pico de gallo, and a meagre drizzle of chipotle mayonnaise. While the fish was fantastic, with the moist, flaky haddock encased in a charmingly crunchy & light batter, the taco as a whole could be improved. The common thread amongst all the tacos was that the tortillas should’ve been toasted for a lot longer, and they could’ve been a lot bolder with the application of the sauces.

Once again, thanks for having us @beerbasketkatong & @burpple!

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Finally, we’ve got the hearty Beef Cheek tacos ($16++). The maddeningly tender beef cheeks were slow cooked for four hours for maximum mouth melting, and these chunks of bovine were divine. Felicitously fatty, stunningly sapid, and ravishingly rich, the beef cheeks should star in their own solo show. I couldn’t taste the sambal mayo that’s supposedly applied to every beef cheek taco, so that was definitely a missteak there. Geddit? Beef? Steak? Mistake? Mis-STEAK? Oh I’m such a comedian!⠀

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The Grilled Korean Chicken tacos ($12++) are stuffed with chunks of chicken thigh marinated in what is probably gochujang. The deeply sapid, slightly spicy Korean bean paste empowers the taco with it’s superb savoury qualities, and is dressed with lettuce, kimchi & sriracha mayo. These were a little disappointing, as the tortillas masked a good deal of the umami gochujang, and it could’ve been made spicier for a truly lively taco.

As for the interesting sounding Mojito chicken, what really sold us on it was the promised addition of mango salsa on the side. Well, we’ve been tricked, we’ve been backstabbed and we’ve been quite possibly, bamboozled. Yep, the promised mango salsa was conspicuously absent. Still, the braised chicken thigh was moist, juicy and rather enjoyable despite its uninspiring aesthetics. The mojito sauce, which is actually a dark rum reduction, tasted a lot like mango concentrate at first. As wrong as it sounds, however, the sauce rapidly grew on me, and I quite enjoyed the sweet, fruity sauce with the tender thighs.

One universal problem that both dishes shared were the vegetables. I was actually rather pumped to find that @cubalibre.cq had put in a decent bit of effort & arrayed a marvellous medley of veg on the plate. There’s broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, asparagus, squash, cauliflowers & cucumbers coexisting on both plates, and that’s quite the rainbow of vegetables. Unfortunately, the effort ended up half baked, as the vegetables weren’t dressed at all. Heck, they weren’t even seasoned, unfortunately.

Still, despite unseasoned, undressed vegetables, Cuba Libre’s mains aren’t too shabby for the price of admission. Besides, Cuba Libre’s on #burpplebeyond, and two of these for the price of one? Consider me convinced!

Thanks for having us, @cubalibre.cq & @burpple!

Next up are the same same but different Crispy Cuban Roast Pork bites ($13++), which simply swap the beef for roasted pork belly. Now, calling it crispy roast pork is overselling it a fair bit, but it’s still a pleasant portion porcine to pig out on. The slow roasted pork belly doesn’t have the earth shattering rind we’ve come to expect from to our local roast pork (siobak), but the rind is instead charmingly chewy without getting frustrating. The fat has been very competently cooked, and a good deal of it has been rendered out, leaving behind just enough to lusciously lubricate the piquant pork.

Thanks for having us, Cuba Libre & Burpple!

This is the last tapas post, I swear. Yes, @cubalibre.sg really DOES have THAT many tapas options, and that’s a swell thing when you also have a $35++ all you can drink alcohol buffet going on from Mondays to Thursdays. It’s almost like they plan on everyone getting alcohol munchies...⠀

First up are the Ropa Vieja Bites ($15++), which is a traditional Cuban dish that’s been turned into a tantalising tapas by Head Chef Alex Moreno. Yep, it’s shredded, slow cooked beef. Chef Moreno is quite the bovine expert, and it is definitely evident with these beefy bites. The salty, sumptuous & tender beef is perched upon a decent dollop of guacamole, and the bedrock of this entire tasty tango is a deep fried plaintain.⠀

I like to call it the Caribbean banana, because that’s essentially what it is. It is actually kind of bland, which works here as it doesn’t obfuscate the savouriness of the pulled beef, and has a texture akin to a Chinese fish cracker that’s gotten slightly stale. It doesn’t sound that great, but the soft crunch just before it all falls apart is pretty pleasant. It works mainly because tapas is intended to be a one-biter, and these Ropa Vieja Bites fold in on themselves to make it more manageable to manoeuvre into your maw.

Chase one of these babies down with a glass of wine & thank me later.

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Alcohol may not be good for my body, but my body is good for alcohol.

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