Less food court, more food des­ti­na­tion, this Mexican ta­que­ria is a hub of

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - LOS VIDA: RE­VIEWED BY ME­GAN MILLER

Top-notch Mexican at Los Vida.

SHOP­PING cen­tre food courts have gone gourmet since the days of plas­tic forks, sad sal­ads and bain-maries.

At St Collins Lane, the re­tail cen­tre for­merly known as Aus­tralia on Collins, you’ll find Los Vida two floors up un­der an arty in­stal­la­tion of dan­gling green bot­tles. It’s the sole south-of-the-bor­der out­post of the Mexican ta­que­ria which al­ready has two Syd­ney out­lets.

With ta­ble ser­vice, 120 seats and a dra­matic gothic fit-out, this is more se­ri­ous restau­rant than re­tail pit­stop.

Opened in Jan­uary, Los Vida is Span­ish for “col­lec­tive of life” and the menu is a med­ley of tasty treats and good drink­ing to be en­joyed at the bar, in a booth or on the bal­cony.

Un­der the seafood ce­viche line-up, the prawn Aca­pulco ar­rives as a chipand-dip sit­u­a­tion, a pile of mor­eish corn chips to swipe through a pi­quant sauce of or­ange, tomato, onion and co­rian­der with two fat prawns on top.

Work your way through nine types of tacos, like the spicy tinga chicken with gua­camole, sour cream and ice­berg let­tuce, or the pulled pork tan­gled with roasted pineap­ple. Like it hot? Ask for Pablo’s Di­ablito, a sauce of jalapeno, ha­banero and crazy-hot ar­bol chillies.

The que­sadilla flies the flag for Mexican fare that’s a notch above your stan­dard Tex-mex. Get chicken, beef or mush­rooms with Mon­terey Jack and queso fresco cheeses and pico de gallo (salsa) pressed be­tween toasted tor­tillas.

There are also big­ger shar­ing plates, such as slow-braised lamb ribs with a chipo­tle and or­ange glaze.

A choice of three desserts in­cludes cho­co­late tequenos (pas­tries). Wash it all down with tempt­ing cock­tails such as the salted water­melon margarita.

Whether it’s lunch for one or a meal with your ami­gos, Los Vida hits the spot for lip-smack­ingly good Mexican fare, and not a plas­tic fork to be found.

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