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Fiesta Mexican Restaurant

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by Nadine Cresswell-Myatt (subscribe)
Freelance writer exploring Melbourne and beyond. If you enjoy the following article click on the Like button, Facebook it to your friends or subscribe. I'll update you with yummy and often free events. Like my photos? I instagram @redbagwilltravel
Published May 22nd 2014
It is even on the international tennis circuit
Gorgeous old English style facade one of the originals in South Yarra

You can just imagine the changing room chatter at the Australian Open. Lots of American tennis players, new in town and wondering where to eat. Hankering after some really good Mexican food.

Then the news gets around. "I know this little place, and it is just a short taxi ride away."

The place is Fiesta Mexican restaurant in nearby South Yarra. It has been around for 30 years or so and is quite well-known locally as well as somewhat of a legend on the international tennis circuit.

Serena and Venus Williams celebrated one of their Australian Open doubles titles at Fiesta with chicken fajitas, washed down with a "mega-margarita" (this drink is the size of small human head.)

Unbelievable Mexican drinks.

Andre Agassi started coming here over fifteen years ago. First with girlfriend Brooke Shields before turning his attention to Steffi Graf and then she too was treated to Mexican at Fiesta.

Agassi even designed a burrito with the chef. It has lots of healthy ingredients including, brown rice, skinless chicken, salad, avocado, coriander and fresh lemon juice.

Owner Bill Bilwani has also fed Rafael Nadal, Lleyton Hewitt ( he did his less public proposing to Bec at Fiesta) and Andy Murray. And that's just the tennis stars, the film stars are a whole new kettle of fish.

And that fish might well be barramundi. Did I mention Fiesta do great barrumundi tacos with cilantro, pico de gallo and a squeeze of lime?

You can also see some of the tennis players favourite dishes referred to on the menu. There's Lleyton's favourite now known as the Hewitt Burrito which is a large flour tortilla rolled with sliced chicken breast, lettuce, sour cream and cheddar cheese, served with brown rice. ($22.90)

One can understand why international tennis stars have made Fiesta their second home when in Melbourne. The food is incredibly fresh with lots of salads and vegetarian and gluten free options and some really unique dishes.

Take the chico dirria (slow cooked tender goat pieces cooked with tomatoes, cinnamon, apricot, dates and Aztec dry spices served with aromatic rice, mango salsa and cinnamon dusted yoghurt ($24.90) or the explosión de jalapeño (whole de-seeded jalapeno chillies filled with soft queso blanco and Californian walnuts in beer batter and served with a habanero dipping sauce.) ($12.00)

The chef, had been here for thirty years so has really become quite innovative and developed a range of dishes.

We agonised over entree choices seriously considering the wingettes (fiery red hot marinaded chicken wingettes with chipotle and adobe mix ($12.00) but instead deciding on the less exciting-sounding trio of dips. ($15.50)

Our reason being that guacamole is always the best test of a good Mexican restaurant.

I am pleased to say the guacamole passed muster. It was excellent still slightly chunky and the requisite green rather than the yellowy colour you can get at some places. The chilli con carne had a light hint of cumin and was also delicious but my favouite was the calabaza dip -- a whizz of roasted butternut pumpkin, garlic, fresh cilantro, basil, ginger in a softened local cream cheese. It had a wonderful consistency and was cool and pleasant on the tastebuds.

For mains my husband had the ensalada de camaron which was marinated chilled prawns with a mix of pine nuts, cranberries and crumbled fetta on a bed of rocket with sangria olive oil dressing ($18). This was not only tasty and wholesome but stunningly presented.

ensalada de camaron

I had the fiesta autentica ($24.90) the house specialty. It was a combination of beef, chicken, potatoes, tomatoes, serrano chilli and fresh cilantro served in a small ramekin. The rest of the plate was filled with soft fluffy flour tortillas, a second ramekin of arroz verde (green rice) and a leafy green salad.

I probably ordered outside my level of Mexican hotness so was delighted when the lovely waitress offered me a side of sour cream. For me that made it the perfect dish however diehard Mexican food lovers would not even flinch at the low heat level ( you can request the level of hotness you require)

We decided to share a dessert. Who could resist trying jalepeno ice cream? Like everything at Fiesta it was beautifully presented. A tower of ice cream in a long-stemmed glass, beside it a little container of chocolate and raisin sauce all served on a board with slithered strawberries. The taste was surprising. Certainly not overly hot as the cream in the ice cream counteracts the chilli. The taste if anything was quite delicate as one of the other ingredients was rose petals, but every now and again you had a burst of sweet spiciness from the tiny pieces of jalapeno. Then as the ice cream melted in your mouth you were left with crunchy crystals of brittle toffee. We added a serving of candied Californian walnuts with this dessert which made it even more memorable. ($15.50)

Fiesta doesn't just specialise in Mexican food but South American food in general. You can order special dishes in advance (two days notice). The chef will make you a paella Mexico which has all the colours and flavours of Mexico ($27) or a traditional pollo en mole (braised chicken with a blend of Californian walnuts, almonds
and chocolate ($25.00). Or wedding cake which are crunchy, crescent-moon shape delights with chopped almonds in them, coated with confectioner's sugar.

While such delights are on offer there is also the range of tacos, burritos, fajitas, quesadillas, enchiladas and fare usually associated with Mexican restaurants.

If you haven't been to Fiesta in awhile they have just had the whole restaurant redecorated. It seemed like a setting from a magic realist novel. On the wall downstairs are intricately lacy carved sheer white steer skulls and upstairs a number of hand painted murals including a prominent skull which is emblematic of Mexico's famous Day of the Dead Festival. .

There are a couple of party style rooms upstairs where you can clobber pinatas (fun at any age.) and banquets ranging from $27 to $60 a head. Some including drinks.

Even though we were there on a Wednesday night the place was full. So lets hope the tennis stars can get a seat next time they are in town. I guess we will move over and let them in.
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*Nadine Cresswell-Myatt was invited as a guest
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Why? Arguably Melbourne's best Mexican (South American) restaurant
When: Opening Hours: 5pm to late, 7 nights
Phone: Phone 61 3 9827 4593 Email
Where: 175 Toorak Road, South Yarra.
Cost: Well priced. Mains from around $18 to $30
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