La Tortilleria

72 Stubbs Street, Kensington, VIC

All Details
Roll up for tacos al pastor, quesadillas and fresh, hot tortillas at quirky La Tortilleria.
Roll up for tacos al pastor, quesadillas and fresh, hot tortillas at quirky La Tortilleria. Photo: Mal Fairclough

Nina Rousseau

Authenticity - it's a hard ask when the item in question was first created 25,000 kilometres away about 10,000BC. But hold on to your sombreros, because this sunny, two-month-old tortilleria is producing Melbourne's - if not Australia's - most bona fide tortilla.

Diana Hull, 26, and Mexican Gerardo Lopez, 34, are the fresh faces of La Tortilleria, a tortilla bakery that sells warm, paper-wrapped tortillas and no-frills street food typical of Mexican taco stands.

''A lot of the corns weren't quite right,'' says Hull, who searched for six months to find an exact Mexican match, finally striking gold with a farmer in Queensland. ''Australia does grow it, but most of it's not human grade; it's mainly used for stock feed.''

Sample the lot with La Tortilleria's Amigos Share Plate.
Sample the lot with La Tortilleria's Amigo's Platter. Photo: Mal Fairclough

The Aztecs were mad for corn and would soak the kernels in white lime (calcium hydroxide), a process called nixtamalisation that helped increase the availability of amino acids, calcium and niacin (B3) and prevent disease from vitamin deficiencies.

With a bit of mechanical assistance, La Tortilleria follows the same ancient processes, lime-soaking the grains, crushing the masa (dough) in a motorised stone grinder, flattening it in the pressing machine, and then - ta da! - soft, sandy-coloured, beautifully textured hot tortillas. Buy them fresh (from about 11.30am), or vac-packed to take home.

''We've had some Mexicans nearly in tears because they can buy authentic tortillas,'' Hull says. She says most of the eatery's phone calls begin with, ''Hablas Espanol?'' The answer? Yes, almost all the staff speak Spanish.

La Tortilleria is a cute, quirky little place, a beacon on its industrial strip. Look for the street art, Mexican flag and riot of sunny yellows, turquoises and oranges. The plates are plastic, the menu simple and short, and most of the food is cooked on the little grill. ''That's our taco stand,'' Hull says.

There's a sensational guacamole with chopped jalapeno and baked tortilla chips; load up with hot sauces at the salsa bar.

Choose from three quesadillas, the tortillas folded over ''chorizo'', which is actually tofu marinated in chorizo spices; or beans and soft white cheese; or a slightly greasy stringy cheese mix that I reckon needed more salt.

There are tacos. The Carne Asada holds free-range beef with Mexican herb epazote, which Hull grows in her garden. There's a visually unappealing, low-sodium mushroom-and-cheese number; and the signature Al Pastor, the rocking free-range, chilli-marinated pork cut from the trompo - a vertical spit spiked with a whole pineapple.

The chicken sopes are pretty good, the thick tortilla discs topped with beans, lettuce and free-range meat.

La Tortilleria isn't fancy and it's not trying to be, but it is sweet and cheerful and upbeat. Good luck to Hull and Lopez, whose excitement about their business is palpable.

Do … try the chilli tequila, once LT's licence is approved.
Don't … ask for pork tacos on Thursday or Friday lunch.
Dish … Amigos Share Plate.
Vibe … upbeat, sunny and low-key.
BYO (corkage $2 a head; licence pending)

Twitter: @ninarousseau, or email nrousseau@fairfaxmedia.com.au.

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72 Stubbs Street, Kensington, VIC

  • Cuisine - Mexican
  • Prices - Tacos, quesadillas and sopes $4.50-$6.50; take-home tortillas, $15 per kilo
  • Features - BYO
  • Cards accepted - AMEX, Visa, Mastercard, EFTPOS
  • Opening Hours - Thurs-Fri, noon-2.30pm; Thurs-Sun, 6-9.30pm; Sat-Sun, 11.30am-3.30pm
  • Author - Nina Rousseau
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5 comments so far

  • Oh La Tortilleria! When I saw that this place was opening 5 minutes away from our house, my partner and I were beside ourselves! We finally got a chance to sample the food on offer, after preemptively stalking the restaurant on Facebook, convinced that this would be the local, good quality, cheap eatery (apart from Laksa King) we'd been pining for. I can honestly say that we were shocked at how much food we got for our money. On top of that, our tacos and quesadillas were undeniably bland. We spent $50 and came away pretty hungry and unsatisfied. On a more positive note - the salsas, guacamole and sauces on offer were absolutely sublime, which is why I returned a number of times. Unfortunately, each time I just couldn't gauge any value for money considering the portions and the nature of the food on offer. I can understand the authenticity of a place like this and have a lot of respect for the people behind it making it happen - I just can't get my head around the price tag > $4.50 for a bland/dry taco the size of a child's palm< I've been to Michelin starred restaurants which charge less per square meter. That doesn't seem too authentic to me.It kind of reminds me of having a slice of processed cheese in a burger because that is 'authentic'. That's completely fine, but charge accordingly!!

    Commenter
    Joe
    Location
    Date and time
    May 21, 2013, 9:05PM
    • Thanks for the feedback Joe. We value all our locals that have supported us so much over the last 2 months and we’re glad you enjoy our guacamole and salsas! Please note that all our meat for the tacos is strictly free range and we strongly believe that in this day and age anything other than free range is unacceptable for animal welfare reasons. This does, however put the price up a bit. Also all our tortillas are made from scratch on the premises, which is quite a labour intensive process. We believe in paying our workers a fair wage and unfortunately can’t match the price of that of a mass-production factory. We are an ethical establishment which also uses clean energy generation in our premises. It is all these details that add up to the price and we hope our customers feel proud about the difference they are making when buying our products.

      Commenter
      La Tortilleria
      Location
      Date and time
      May 23, 2013, 10:52AM
  • So I cant ask for pork Thursday or Friday? Rightio Ill go somewhere else then.

    Commenter
    Richo
    Location
    Date and time
    May 22, 2013, 3:39PM
    • Hi Richo, Just letting you know La Tortilleria have changed the menu so pork is on at lunch. Yehar! cheers, Nina

      Commenter
      Nina Rousseau
      Location
      Date and time
      May 24, 2013, 12:33PM
  • phew, glad the beef is free range. sick of all those cows in cages.

    Commenter
    john
    Location
    melbourne
    Date and time
    May 23, 2013, 9:39AM

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