13 Carlisle St St Kilda, VIC 31829534 9990
|Opening hours||Tues-Sun 4pm-late|
|Payments||eftpos, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard|
11-13 Carlisle Street, St Kilda, 9534 9990
Licensed MC V eftpos
Nibbles $4-$12; tacos $6-$12; mains $14-$18; desserts $7-$10
Most of the cuisines that sweep through Melbourne emerge from waves of immigration. But Mexican? No, hombre.
The Mexican munching movement must be based on waves of tequila but, when the result is as winning as Radio Mexico, I'm all for it. Next to St Kilda's ever-sailing Galleon cafe and with some of the same owners, Radio Mexico doesn't rope itself to the mast of Mexican authenticity but the flavours are true, the menu is fun and varied and the price is nice. But, beware: no bookings!
Once you're in, what a sweet place. The main dining room is dim but colourful, with atmosphere-boosting trinkets, vintage radios and cactuses. A grill cubicle with taco-truck styling links the dining room to the deck. This outdoor room is reasonably sheltered and a fireplace and blankets increase the cosy quotient, but in winter you really do want to be indoors.
The restaurant hit the ground sprinting when it opened in April. Steady and experienced hands at the helm ensure the ride is pretty smooth, and service is attentive and friendly. The waiters' deeper understanding of all the menu items will come with time.
The food is fresh and tasty. I liked the warming, spicy roast tomato and chicken soup strewn with shredded tortilla chips, guacamole and fresh white cheese. The tiny dish of pickled jalapenos, carrot and onion was a highlight - it's a great nibble with a cleansing ale but also a neat palate-sharpening condiment throughout the meal. Along similar lines is the jicama salad: the crisp root vegetable is cut into batons and tossed with salt, chilli and lime. I loved the slow-cooked lamb taco scattered with purple cabbage and zesty salsa, and the hanger steak taco smothered with house-made soured and spiced cream.
My favourite dish was a larger sharing plate of camarones con pozole, a prawn and corn stew. Pozole is made with dried white corn that's softened until it has a firm texture, all the better for absorbing the butter and smoky chipotle chillis rounding out the dish.
The short dessert list includes a coconut ice-cream sundae layered with cajeta - the Mexican goat's milk version of dulce de leche (cooked, sweetened milk) - which is made on site over five hours of loving stirring. Otherwise, there's thick, chilli-spiked hot chocolate served in a tactile glazed cup. It's spicy and satisfying, and one more reason that tuning into Radio Mexico is rewarding.