The giant burritos at Baja Fresh are lovingly smothered with a tangy tomato-chilli sauce and extra cheese | Photo: Sylvia Tan YL
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21 Mexican dishes to try in Singapore
For ceviche and pork ribs
With plaster cast statues popping out of the walls and eye-catching full height murals, Piedra Negra is a seriously buzzy bar and restaurant in equal measures in the Haji Lane district. Since 2010, it has spawned a second dining room as well as a Johor outpost – testimony to its recipe for casual, come-as-you-are fun and food. The rich pork ribs ($17.90) are a big hit, thickly marinated in tangy tamarind and herbs, in a hearty portion and accompanied by, er, French fries. Salmon ceviche ('cooking' via citrus marinade, $12.90) is unusual for its choice of fish, but the fruit-inspired cup is a lovely refreshing hit of lime, green apple, pineapple, mango and jalapeno chile.
Piedra Negra | Address: 241 Beach Road | Tel: 62911297 | Opening hours: Mon-Thu noon-11pm, Fri & Sat noon-2am
Opening on the same block as stalwart Margarita's in 2011, La Salsa nonetheless brings its own brand of late night fiesta and live music to the mix – Mexicans tend to have late dinners, starting 9pm or later. Evergreens and classics take the bandstage from Sundays to Thursdays, while rock 'n' roll dominate on late Friday and Saturday nights. The seating at the dramatically lit bar is our fave, where we noshed on chimichanga (from $24) – the crowd favourite is essentially a cheeky deep-fried burrito, with generous fillings such as grilled chicken leg and crispy roast pork. The tortillas take well to deep-frying, leaving no trace of grease, which makes every crackly bite a pleasure.
La Salsa | Address: #01-17, Block 11 Dempsey Road | Tel: 64756976 | Opening hours: Sun-Thu 4pm-1am, Fri & Sat 4pm-2am
CRITIC’S PICK Baja Fresh
For giant burritos
Baja (pronounced 'ba-ha') Fresh is a global franchise with a loyal following here for their range of casual cuisine. Since launching in 2012, their proprietary recipes means that important ingredients such as beans, jalapenos, spices and avocados are imported from The States. Director Anant Hada notes they do not use microwaves or freezers, so salsas and guacamole have to be prepared from scratch everyday. The giant burrito (12-inch, from $13.85 to $18.15), done Enchilado style (add $3.70) is a lovingly smothered tortilla wrap with choice of grilled chicken, pork, steak, shrimp or fish, baked in tangy tomato-chilli sauce and extra cheese, and served with tortilla chips. Great if you are picky about quality.
Baja Fresh | Address: 9 Bras Basah Road, #01-03 Rendezvous Gallery | Tel: 63377300 | Opening hours: Sun-Thu 11am-10pm, Fri & Sat 11am-11.30pm
CRITIC’S PICK Lucha Loco
For pork belly taco
A taqueria that’s elegant, modern and gourmet. Lucha Loco has the formula for dining and drinking just right, with small bites and inviting cocktails priced perfectly for the modelesque yuppie crowd at the corner of Duxton Hill. The three owners travelled to Mexico in 2012 for research, and came back with a taco de carnitas (pork belly taco, $10 each) to die for. The 12-hour slow braised palm-sized pork is firm yet yielding, contrasting with a crunchy chunk of jicama (pronounced 'he-ka-ma'; known as bengkuang locally) with the right amount of creamy garlic and cilantro sauce. Chef Mario Malvaez from Mexico City, and ex-Piedra Negra, collaborated with Chef Jason Jones from Mamasita in Melbourne to create the compact but powerful menu.
Lucha Loco | Address: 15 Duxton Hill | Tel: 62263938 | Opening hours: Tue-Sat 5pm-midnight
Fusion tacos for takeaway
Since January 2013, Pistola’s tiny premises has been thronged by night owls looking for "drunk food", as owner Min Chan winningly calls it. The sister outlet of Club Street Social serves only a takeaway menu, of which the tacos (two for $12) are most popular, alongside the burrito ($12) and quesadilla ($12). Surprise: the choice of five fillings are all Asian – and our favourite is the Korean kalbi-style steak, with sprightly kimchi, spring onion salad and Sriracha mayo dressing that brings the flavour level up to 11. So it’s not Mexican per se, but the toasty corn tortillas bring it halfway there. For what to drink at Pistola, check out our '17½ bars along Club Street and Ann Siang Hill' guide.
Pistola | Address: 93 Club Street | Tel: 64382185 | Opening hours: Mon-Sat 5pm-midnight
For pulled pork tacos
This addition to the 'fresh Mex' category opened in March 2013 and the queues haven’t stopped, with up to 140 covers at lunch for this teeny CBD bunker. Diners move along an assembly line to choose between baja-style tacos (three for $13), burritos ($13), salad bowl ($13) and nachos ($15), and a variety of pre-cooked fillings such as chargrilled chicken, cochinita pibil (Yucatan style pulled pork) and vegetables. The authentic and super tender cochinita pibil gets our vote for its banana leaf and spice flavours, while the chicken (skinless breast and thigh meat only) is surprisingly aromatic with lemon, paprika and spiced dry rub marinade. Chunky guacamole ($2) and shredded tasty cheese ($0.50) are charged separately.
Mex Out | Address: 39 Pekin Street, #01-01 Far East Square | Tel: 97707441 | Opening hours: Mon-Fri 11.30am-2.30pm, 5-10pm