11 Dempsey Road #01-19
+65 6471 3228
What is it, exactly, that has held Mexican food back from popular culinary acclaim? Is it simply that it lacks the fiddly yet welcome hauteur of French cooking or the olive-oil charm of Italian?
Perhaps it’s more to do with history. The mighty Aztec civilisation was renowned for mass human sacrifice; not a pursuit that lends itself naturally to establishing a national cuisine. Of what traditions there were, few survived the social upheaval of Hernán Cortes and his conquistadors’ bloody conquest, even if some, such as the chocolate-based sauce called mole, hung on as reminders of the indigenous food culture.
Geography might also play a part. Mexico shares a border with the world’s greatest cultural reference point, the USA. The lovechild of this shaky relationship is the bastard cuisine known as Tex-Mex. Often wrongly regarded outside of Mexico as being the country’s native food, the El Paso-stocked shelves of your local supermarket are evidence of the march of commercialism over taste.
There are a few brave souls flying the standard for traditional Mexican food; lone bastions of authenticity against the seething hordes of processed cheese, hard-shell tacos and canned chilli con carne. One such gastronomic crusader is Margarita’s, which perches like a rustic cantina atop Dempsey Hill.
The restaurant’s dedication to the cause extends to shipping in popular Mexican soft drink Jarritos Jamaica ($7.50), something like a hibiscus-flavoured iced tea. For those of a more alcoholic bent, Margarita’s also serves its eponymous cocktail in a variety of combinations; the fresh fruit ones, including mango and raspberry ($16.90), are dangerously delicious.
A lifetime of propping up bars has made me crave finger food with my refreshing beverage and the corn chips with salsa rojas, ($5.50), a spicy tomato-based dip, play the role to perfection. Pair them with a helping of guacamole ($13.90) for a creamy avocado taste explosion.
By now you should be well into your margaritas and requiring more substantial fare. Might I suggest a baked crab enchilada ($36), a hefty hunk of crustacean wedged into a tortilla and smothered in tomato sauce. If you still have room, try the carne asada tortillas ($48) and the snow-fish with anatto paste ($36). The latter is a char-grilled master-class of sweet, smoky and meaty flavours.
Having come this far on your quest for an original Mexican meal, it would be positively churlish to refuse dessert. While the pasilia chilli chocolate cake ($14) might not be the most traditional of dishes, any insistence on authenticity is likely to waver in the face of its decadent taste and texture.
Note: Prices stated are subject to change and may not include taxes and service charges.