05 May Village Cantina, Yarraville
Village Cantina placed its roots down in cosy Yarraville in late 2014, with a vision to reintroduce authentic and fresh Mexican food to us. Many of the decorative knick-knacks on the shelves are from Mexico itself, and a large portrait of Danny Trejo make it pretty clear you’re here for true Mexican food. Our idea of Mexican tends to veer towards the Tex-Mex side of things; steer away from the Coronas and nachos and check out the authentic stuff like Mexican beer from Day of the Dead, or the tacos so you can sample more varieties.
First, cocktails. The Mangorita is a fruity combination of Tequila, mango nectar, Triple sec and Lime juice. There’s also a refreshing coconut magarita with Tequila, coconut cream, agave nectar, and lime juice topped with a healthy pile of toasted coconut.
Starters include the Tiras de chile pollo – spicy fried chicken strips, which are thankfully tender and not dry. Chilli cheese fries are made with a house made chilli, blended cheese, pico, and minced meat all piled on a basket of shoestring fries. Cheesy Jalapeno poppers are flavoured with herbs and lemon zest, and coated in a crispy bread crumb. The juicy Elote are chargrilled and topped with a delicious chipotle mayo, shavings of soft and springy queso fresco, and squirted with lime. Also ordered is a quinoa salad with chargrilled corn, radish, pickled onion, smoked almonds, cos, and a fresh and tasty lime and agave dressing.
Sauces and salads, like the pico de gallo and guacamole, are all made fresh daily. It’s a hard task for the kitchen, but the freshness is apparent. There are so many options to choose from the taco menu, all coming on 6″ tortillas from El Cielo in Port Melbourne. Though I didn’t try it, the salsa verde and ancho chilli & achiote flavouring of the chicken is a hit. One thing I notice is that the food at Village Cantina isn’t overladen with cheese, which means the flavours are kept light, fresh and vibrant. A huge selection of hot sauces are provided on the table, each with a slightly different list of ingredients and level of heat. For the brave, there is a special hot sauce kept behind the counter – be prepared for up to 2 hours of burning mouths that no amount of dairy can wash away.
Gambas comes with juicy, spicy grilled prawns, lettuce, red cabbage, and a mango coulis to add a sweet touch. Carnitas consists of pulled pibil pork, its preparation involving 10 hours of smoking. Grilled diced pineapple gives it a bit of a tropical flavour. One of the vegetarian options is the Pumpkin with crispy kale, avocado cream and pepitas, and its one of the favourites. The Pork Belly Taco is presented as a large slice of pork belly with an apple and beetroot slaw, then topped with crunchy crackling. Some pieces of the pork belly are a bit dry, but mine happens to be perfect.
It’s time for some sweets. The churros are crisp with moist and pillowy insides. The cinnamon sugar coating together with melted chocolate is always a great combination. Their twist on the Dulce de Leche is to bring back memories of Golden Gaytime – the golden caramel dessert is freshened up by a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, and is showered with shredded coconut and a drizzle of caramel sauce.
The space is cosy, warm and relaxed, and when the weather plays nice there’s some outdoors seating on the sidewalk, and an outdoors courtyard at the back. There are plenty of things to try at Village Cantina, and that 8-hour marinated shredded beef sounds very enticing.
Disclaimer: I was dined as a guest at Village Cantina, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by them in any way