Photo: Eddie Jim
WHERE AND WHAT
So you think ''real'' Mexican food hit town only a year or two back? Think again. Los Amates has clung to the edges of Melbourne's Spanish district since 2003, plying its trade in authentic regional Mexican food with the occasional Tex-Mex flourish and a brief not to take itself too seriously. Owner Arturo Morales - yes, he's from Mexico - has decorated his Johnston Street digs in vibrant Day of the Dead Mexican pop art and staffed it with Mexican uni students who just want to have fun.
WHERE TO SIT
Like the Tardis, Los Amates presents a tidy face to the street that turns out to be deceptive - a single shop front with a bar that stretches back into a second dining room and then a large, covered courtyard strung with lights that is perfect for the parties the restaurant attracts. There's more room upstairs.
WHEN TO GO
Trading hours are Tuesday to Sunday, from 6pm.
Drinking is encouraged - from cocktails including mojitos and non-fishbowl margaritas to Mexican beers (try them the cheladas way, with fresh lime juice), aged tequila and a simple, cheap and unexciting list of Australian wines with a few South American examples thrown into the mix.
First, it has to be noted Los Amates is not an entirely ''authentic'' proposition, if such a place exists in Melbourne. You'll find nachos on the menu, for example, in the finest Tex-Mex tradition of melted cheese with salsa, guacamole and sour cream. Light and airy pork crackling with the very good house guacamole, liberally seasoned with lemon, makes a yin-and-yang proposition on the antojitos (starters) list, along with more-or-less familiar names such as taquitos and quesadillas. Tables of four or more ought to take a look at the platters. Three types of taco filling are brought to the table: seasoned potato and chorizo with salsa verde; braised ox tongue; or a warmly spiced pulled pork, braised Yucatan-style with achiote, to stuff into warm, soft, flour tortillas with a battalion of sides ordered separately. Proper mains include a chicken mole in a richly flavoured sauce informed by smoky chillies and bitter chocolate. It's good stuff but the specials board gets more interesting, where, if you get lucky, you might spy pozoles, a fragrant pork broth with hominy, the fluffy white corn kernels.
A festive 30-something crowd.
A worthy pioneer of old-wave Mexican.
Los Amates, 34 Johnston Street, Fitzroy, phone 9417 0441
- 03 9417 0441
- Cuisine - Mexican
- Prices - Entrees, $5.90-$9.50; mains $15.80-$25.50; desserts, $5.50-$7.50. Corkage: $6 a bottle.
- Features - BYO
- Cards accepted - Visa, EFTPOS, AMEX, Mastercard, Diners Club
- Opening Hours - Tuesday to Sunday, 6pm to late; Sunday, noon to 3pm
- Author - Larissa Dubecki