A freelance writer living in Perth, and always on the search for something new, different and exciting.
Published June 12th 2011
The challenge: seven Perth Mexican restaurants, in seven days.
My love for chilli has taken me many places on the search for the ultimate marriage of heat and flavour. Hence, I have made it my personal mission to discover the best tasting Mexican in Perth, and I've given myself one week to find it.
Day one. I booked myself in at That Little Mexican Place in North Perth (kudos on the fantastically simple online booking system). I walk in with the vision of tacos, but that was quickly dispelled. This is not your typical nacho and salsa Mexican eatery. The menu is much more intricate and elaborate, showcasing dishes from Baja California on the Pacific Coast, to Oaxaca in the south. Sauteed cactus, banana chips, steamed Mexican stuffed bread, roasted poblano chilli - there are enough curious combinations to make your head explode, and they managed to make it taste as good as it sounds. That Little Mexican Place set the bar quite high, but the challenge must continue.
Day two brought me to Acapulco Annie's Mexican Restaurant and Cantina in Tuart Hill. There were some more recognizable dishes here, each with their own Acapulco twist. You can tell these people are fun and down to earth just from reading all the little quirky jokes and comments throughout the menu. I tried the gourmet tostada, extra extra hot. It was very tasty, but I left with my tongue in-tact (the chef could have gone heavier on the chilli, but it was still delish). All in all, Acapulco Annie's has the art of Mexican cuisine pretty well nailed.
It was day three, and I found myself browsing the menu at Mexican Kitchen in Fremantle. I'd already heard a lot of great things about this place, but just had to see for myself. The set-out of the restaurant is very unique. You can dine outside on the café strip, or choose an intimate table downstairs, where Mexican themed colours and paraphernalia adorn the walls. The menu has plenty of dished to tempt any die-hard Mexican food fan, and oh boy - whatever you order, take it with a side of hot sauce. I tried the mega-delicious taquito's, made even more mega-delicious with a side of their special hot sauce. It's like no other hot sauce I've ever tasted - sweet, smoky and just the right amount of burn. I highly recommend Mexican Kitchen for a fun Mexican meal out. They may even teach you some interesting facts, for example - the average Mexican family eats almost 1kg of tortillas each day.
Day four brought me to Sante Fe Restaurant and Tequila Lounge in Subiaco. Fortunately I was in time for the 6pm-7pm happy hour, a great way to start a great meal. Having been here before, I went straight for their famous Poppers - Jalapenos stuffed with a blend of cheeses, crumbed, deep fried, and served with a soothing ranch dipping sauce. With the perfect burst of flavour and burn, I wish I had ordered these for entre, main and dessert. If you like to dine on a budget, Sante Fe has great weekly specials including Margarita Mondays, $2 Taco Tuesdays and Wild Wednesdays. Service is fast and the food won't disappoint.
I hit Garcia's Mexican Restaurant in Hepburn Heights for day five of the challenge. The very relaxing and friendly ambience makes this the perfect venue for a get-together with friends or a celebration over nachos. The portions are generous, the food is tasty, and the cocktails are delicious. Although if you enjoy chilli as much as I do, I suggest sneaking in a few in your handbag to heat things up. Overall, Garcia's Mexican Restaurant is the ideal place to bring the family, catch up with friends, or grab a take-away meal on your way home.
Day six, and I'm at Zapata's Mexican/Latino Restaurante in Northbridge. Zapata's was named after the famous Mexican revolutionary 'Emiliano Zapata'. To this day, Zapata is a National hero in Mexico - just as I now consider Zapata's Restaurante the hero of great value Mexican food in Perth. With half price nachos with $6 tacos every Monday and Tuesday, it's easy get carried away and order way too much. Then again, undoing your belt at the end of a meal just proves you got your money worth. Most of the menu is the typical Mexican dishes you'd expect, with something to appeal to every taste. Once again, while the hot sauce could be hotter, it's a great place to meet up with friends for a casual dinner or before a night out.
Now after six days of Mexican, I have to admit I was struggling. Number 7 would have to deliver something truly special to pull me out of this self induced Mexi-slump. Fortunately, I had saved the best to last. Panchos Mexican Villa Restaurant. They bravely call themselves 'everyones favourite Mexican Restaurant', but with the food and service I experienced, they can definitely get away with it. I have never seen such fun, fast, attentive and friendly staff in action. They seemed to be there whenever you needed them, but they weren't all in-your-face like some other uppity class restaurants I've been to. There's a real fun and lively ambience to the place you won't find anywhere else. The menu will have you salivating before you even taste the food, and let's just say their chefs KNOW what they're doing. When I couldn't finish my meal because it was too hot (I asked for extra extra hot), I wept a single tear of joy. This is the first time a Chef has managed to truly challenge my tolerance for chilli. While next time I might just go for extra hot, words can't express how pleased I was to finally find a restaurant that knows how to make you burn. (Chilli avoiders don't panic - they only make it hot if you request it). Whether you're in a big group or sharing an intimate dinner for two, I give Panchos two thumbs and two big toes up as the best Mexican Restaurant in Perth. What's even more exciting - they're opening a second restaurant soon in Mount Lawley. You can also check out some great weekly deals and offers on their website.
So there you have it Amigos, seven Mexican Restaurants in seven days. As a great lover of Mexican food I am very impressed with the selection and standard of Mexican restaurants offered in Perth, and yes, I would do it all again in a heart-beat. While I could talk for hours about each of them, I think they are all worth experiencing first hand for yourself. If you can't do it all in 7 days, perhaps set yourself a 7 week or 7 month challenge instead. I've got all the details to get you started, so go forth - and happy eating.
That Little Mexican Place http://www.tlmp.com.au
382 Fitzgerald Street North Perth - (08) 9227 5755,
279 Albany Highway Victoria Park - (08) 9472 0767
By Old Account - senior reviewer Wednesday, 15th of June @ 08:01 am
Panchos is my favourite too. I aim to drink one of their "fishbowl cocktails" all by myself someday.
By Bernadette - senior reviewer Sunday, 19th of June @ 07:42 am
excellent article! Mexican Kitchen is one of my favourites, but i'll give another Mexican restaurant a try next time!
By Anneliese Sabitzer - senior reviewer Monday, 25th of July @ 03:29 am
Mexican Kitchen in Fremantle is a disappointment. Had to wait 30 minutes for entree of nachos. Waited another two hours for main course despite asking them if they had forgotten us. Too much noise from the kitchen and loudspeaker music and decor too hollywood kitsch. Food very average. Never going back there.