My Mexican Cousin is a tiny little tapas place tucked away in the foyer of The Recital Centre. It's a popular spot for pre theatre diners and by the time Carly and I arrived just before 7 on a Saturday night, all the tables were taken.
There is a no booking policy but fortunately the friendly staff took pity on us and saved us from melting in the 35C heat by seating us at the bar for dinner.
The decor wasn't stereotypically 'Mexican'. There wasn't a cactus or sombrero in sight. We are in Melbourne, after all.
Similarly, the menu wasn't Mexican by way of Old El Paso (tacos, nachos and burritos). Don't get me wrong, I love a supermarket Mexican meal kit every once in a while but when you're a restaurant in the centre of the arts district, mainstream is not your design brief. My Mexican Cousin's menu draws from a range of cuisines - African, Caribbean and South American. Which was exciting for me because these are cultures I am shamefully ignorant of.
It went without saying that Carly and I both required a beverage before any serious food decisions could be made.
The chilled drinks did their thing and within minutes we were ready to order. Thankfully, the heat did little to dampen our appetites because we ordered freely from the menu based on how fabulous the dishes on surrounding tables looked. Most dishes are meant for sharing and it was just as well othewise serious food envy would have marred our night.
To begin, we had a spiced popcorn. Why isn't popcorn a more widely available bar snack? It's light and easy to eat. You can have a serious gossip between mouthfuls and because you don't have to concentrate on chewing much, there aren't big gaps in the chat as you digest your food. Just a thought for the hip bars around town.
|Just as we got to the last popped kernels, we realised we'd solved all the world's more pressing problems...|
Our second entree was the Acras de Morue ($12), which are salt cod fritters with seafood cream. They were crispy on the outside and deliciously gooey once you bit into them. The cream added just the right amount of zing to the fritters.
Dude food seems to be everywhere these days but I've been so far out of the food trend loop that this meal at My Mexican Cousin was the first time I'd had the chance to eat a Poboy sandwich.
MMC's Poboy ($7 entree, $14 main) contains a generous line of deep fried prawns and has a touch of creole seasoning to finish. Carly and I shared a main size. Being among friends we ate our halves the only way a PoBoy should be eaten - pulled apart with our hands and with zeal. I thoroughly enjoyed my induction into the world of dude food. I'm definitely ready for the special lunch at Ms G's that Mr SSG and I will be going to later this month.
Our second main was more sedate and screamed soul food. The cornbread crusted pulled pork ($27) arrives to the table on a skillet. The pork is cooked in a dark roux gravy and topped with a cornbread crust. Another first for me, I'd never eaten cornbread before and this version was lovely. Kind of like a short crust that soaked up the gravy at the bottom of the skillet.
We made a pact not to leave without eating dessert. It was a tough to choose which to try but we finally chose two to share.
The pecan pie was Carly's favourite. It was served with a sweet popcorn crumble. The pie itself wasn't sickly sweet. The short crust was buttery and the filling was dense and comforting, the way a good dessert pie always is.
I was in conniptions (thank you Urban Dictionary for telling me that the misspelling 'caniptions' is a miserable fail at trying to use more elaborate words) over the brownie. It was rich, dense and had pistachio nuts studded through it. There was also the taste of cheesecake to the batter. I like a brownie with complexity.
Here's to good friends and good food!