Din­ers are lin­ing up for a taste of the fast, fun Mex­i­can/ Amer­i­can treats at this pint-sized cantina in the sub­urbs

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - COVER STORY -

IHATE queu­ing. It’s a con­di­tion that prob­a­bly goes back to a wasted day spent inch­ing closer to the gates at Wim­ble­don be­fore the rain in­ter­vened, or even longer ago to stand­ing for­lornly in line, des­per­ate to get in­side the lat­est cool club. In­vari­ably, all those height­ened ex­pec­ta­tions end in dis­ap­point­ment.

That goes a fair way to ex­plain­ing why it has taken me so long to get to Lucky Lupi­tas, de­spite the ex­cite­ment sur­round­ing its ex­u­ber­ant take on Mex­i­can food.

Un­less you’re very early, or very lucky, a wait of half-an-hour or more is part and par­cel of the ex­pe­ri­ence at this pint­sized cantina in an un­likely row of shops op­po­site the Flin­ders Med­i­cal Cen­tre.

Even on a Tues­day night, when we ar­rive be­fore 6pm with hun­gry kids in tow, it takes some good­will among other cus­tomers (thanks girls) and shift­ing of ta­bles to get four seats to­gether.

Within 10 min­utes, there is a group sit­ting on the bench out­side the door, no doubt thank­ful for the heaters and bags of pop­corn that are handed out.

So is it worth the wait? That all de­pends on what you are ex­pect­ing. A rig­or­ous trea­tise on Mex­ico’s culi­nary cul­ture this is not. Rather it’s a good-na­tured romp through some of the coun­try’s bet­ter­known street foods, as well as a few bigticket items from north of the bor­der, all pulled to­gether with re­spect and verve that el­e­vates it well above the to­ken Tex-Mex of the som­brero and san­gria crowd.

Co-owner/chef Greg­gory Hill has come from Amer­ica with an un­com­mon ap­pre­ci­a­tion for what this food can be, par­tic­u­larly through a kit­bag of chilli – poblano, an­cho, gua­jillo, pasilla – that pro­vides a sub­tle hum of smoky heat that un­der­pins many of the dishes (there’s also a bot­tle of hot sauce on the ta­ble for those want­ing a fiercer burn).

If you want to know more about these and other chill­ies, they are de­scribed in de­tail on a black­board near the cramped kitchen. An­other board has a glos­sary of in­gre­di­ents such as the cac­tus pads known as “nopales” and the “corn smut” fun­gus.

Other­wise the decor is rus­tic chic: a green fea­ture wall with framed blackand-white por­traits, cop­per pipes con­duit with bare bulbs, a plain con­crete floor (this doesn’t ap­ply to the de­crepit out­door toi­lets, not man­aged by the restau­rant).

The lit­tle room seats less than 30 and ta­bles are tight.

Start with the tacos that are distin­guished by the earth­i­ness and chew of the corn tor­tillas that Greg­gory sources in­ter­state. A fill­ing of braised duck, red cab­bage, or­ange and may­on­naise jumps with vi­brant flavours and crunch but is a messy busi­ness to eat in the hands. The meat-free com­bi­na­tion of potato, pumpkin, smoked corn and poblano is eas­ier to man­age and to­tally sat­is­fy­ing.

The “que­sadilla de hongo y fri­joles” is a Mex­i­can toastie, the tor­tilla nicely charred on the out­side and the fill­ing of mush­room, beans and spinach mixed with just enough cheese to make it scrump­tious, not overwhelmi­ng. I’d pre­fer my charred corn be­fore it was slathered in chipo­tle mayo and cheese, but can see why I might be in the mi­nor­ity.

The smoked beef rib is a pin-up piece of meat-on-bone, tarry and in­tensely flavoured on the out­side, volup­tuous and pink in the mid­dle, af­ter cook­ing for more than 10 hours (or so the menu says). It comes with rice and a jalapeño slaw that demon­strates again why smoked meat and cab­bage are made for one an­other wher­ever you are in the world.

The only dessert of­fered is a flan, Mex­ico’s take on crème caramel, the moulded ring of cus­tard a lit­tle firm but still se­duc­tive, though the chill hasn’t been taken from it com­pletely.

Lucky Lupi­tas is fast and great fun, more so I guess when the mar­gar­i­tas are flow­ing. Next time, I might even be pre­pared to wait in line. MUST TRY Smoked beef ribs with ar­roz a la mex­i­cana and jalapeño pep­per slaw ALSO CON­SIDER Maiz and Mez­cal, St Mor­ris; United Latino Cocina, city

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.