La auténtica cocina Mexicana!
Hola La Mexicana! It’s certainly been a long wait but lovers of Mexican cuisine can now taste authentic Mexican cuisine right smack in the heart of KL city.
Welcoming the latest Mexican restaurant in town, La Mexicana is the baby of Chef Carmela De Ponte and Stephen Dennison. Born in DF aka Mexico City, Chef Carmela followed her husband, who was in project, to Malaysia. Persuaded by His Excellency Jorge A. Lozoya, Mexican Ambassador of Malaysia, to open Malaysia’s eyes to the real McCoy of Mexican cuisine, Chef Carmela took on the challenge and La Mexicana was born.
Situated at The Terrace at Hock Choon, La Mexicana is barely one month when we visited. Structurally decorated differently from the norm, La Mexicana replicates a Mexican Casa. The restaurant has a choice of air conditioned or al fresco dining area while the kitchen is placed separately outside the restaurant in full view. A quaint fountain in a pool is strategically placed alongside and the patio beside is currently in thoughts for further extension for the restaurant. What added a nice ambience were the rows of cactus and chili plants added all over La Mexicana!
Stepping indoor, one is taken into a warmth and cozy Casa ala Mexican with walls of bright colors, hand painted furniture, pieces of Mexican décor and a gorgeous wall of hearts! With a full equipped bar of alcohols, especially imported Tequilas, diners would certainly be please at their list of drinks! Expect nothing but a jolly good time at La Mexicana with lots of Margaritas, Tequila shots, beers, cocktails and more…
We sampled Margarita (RM25) and Margarita La Mexicana (RM35) that night! Indeed a must, both are as good as it gets. Well balanced, I am impressed with Margarita La Mexicana. Featuring Tuna, a prickly pear fruit or cactus fruit, Margarita La Mexicana tasted smooth, citrusy, and delicious. This is certainly a must for Margarita lovers!
I confessed to being a great devotee of Mexican cuisine. Those days of patronizing small Mexican grocery stores while in college are certainly revoked as I enjoyed the experience so much. Armed with almost no sense of Spanish language, I remembered to resorting to finger pointing to other people’s dishes as I adventurously savored authentic Mexican dishes at those grocery stores that was only patronized by local Mexican farmers. With that experience, I was armed with a good benchmark for authentic Mexican food to a certain degree.
To get the real authentic flavors of Mexico, Chef Carmela has brought over a Mexican chef and imported most of their ingredients. La Mexicana’s menu showcased a decent spread of dishes with more appetizers than mains for the purpose of sharing and tasting. Starting off our Mexican gastronomic fare is a few Botanas or Antojito with some of my all-time classic favorites!
What once used to be a put off for me by its color has long been turned to my all-time favorite! Guacamole (RM20) served with homemade fried Corn Chips should be and must be the most famous Mexican snack in all Mexican restaurants. Ripe creamy avocados are ingeniously mashed with tomato and onions and limed up with jazz! Yes, some spiked it with jalapenos or garlic and even cilantro but some versions are left just as it is for a good bite.
The version here was served in a rustic Molcajete and an earthen colored dish! Crispy well fried corn chips are made fresh at the restaurant, another plus point to this snack. Creamy luscious avocados and corn chips makes an addictive starter as we all fought happily for the crispy creamy snack. I like how the corn chips are fairly medium thick and not salty plus it has a good aroma and taste of corns. If La Mexicana start selling their homemade corn chips in a bag, rest assured I would be happy to buy quite a few bags of it!
Sopes, a traditional dish from Culiacan Mexico, is a small thick tortilla with pinched sides to resemble a small plate to hold refried beans, cheese, sometimes meat and other ingredients. The Sopes is fried and fillings may vary depending on the origin of the regions of Mexico. La Mexicana serves up Sopes de Papa con Chorizo (RM18), 3 pieces of Sopes filled with refried beans, potato, homemade Chorizo, Queso (Cheese) and topped with Crema (Mexican Sour Cream) and Salsa Verde sauce.
Rendering flavors of corn, creamy mashed beans, potatos, bits of succulent chorizo, shredded lettuce, sour cream and salsa verde, the sopes was delicately yummy. I like the Salsa Verde very much with tangy flavors to pair up the flavors of the sopes. I believe the only thing that can make this street food even better is some spicy sauce to kick it up another notch!
When one talks of Ceviche, one automatically refers to the infamous Peruvian dish. However, Mexico is also famous for its version of Ceviche. Basically, ceviche is raw seafood marinated in citrus juice and spiced up to ‘cook’ it. Having had many version of ceviche, the dish maybe fairly simple but the right balance of sourness against the other flavors is quite difficult to achieve.
At La Mexicana, they served up a gorgeous Ceviche Acapulco (RM20)! Nothing but raved reviews from round the table that night, we did not even spared any sauce as we literally mopped up all of it with the corn chips. A sublime concoction of red snapper ‘cook’ in lime juice, tomato, olives, onions, cilantro and other good stuff, the ceviche is a burst of bold sour flavors with hints of creamy tomato. The cubed fish was firm and sweet with a good bite. Simply scoop up the piquant goodness with crispy corn chips for a refreshing crunch. Simply magnificent!!
Taco, a popular street food, is another favorite of mine when it’s done rustic and authentic. Despite it crossing over to the Tex-Mex cuisine border, I still prefer tacos to be as rustic as possible. It’s like our hawker food, savoring it street style is always the best way to get the best of its flavors. Taco simply denotes corn or flour tortilla rolled up with fillings. One can say taco is to Mexican like sandwich is to American. Eaten daily by everyone and available everywhere in Mexico, taco is the traditional dish of Mexico.
There are several taco flavors and we happen to try Tacos Campechanos (RM22). Three handmade corn tortillas are stuffed with pork Carnitas, pork Chicharrón, cilantro, onion and Molcajete red sauce. Absolutely a delightful swine affair, the tacos are divine because of the crispy pork crackling and rustic corn tortilla. A little red sauce and minced onion brought forth a scrumptious spicy sensation to the tacos. I am picky at times when it comes to tacos. To show rustic and authentic flavors, I insisted that the meat filing should be shredded for a good bite. I am so glad that the ones here are shredded, denoting again that the tacos are as authentic as the ones in the streets of Mexico!
Ever tried cactus before? According to the owner, there are over 200 species of cactus but only two are edible. Since the edible is not available here, La Mexicana imports their supply of Nopales or cactus from Mexico. Eating cactus takes some getting-use too for some of us. I guess it’s something one either likes it or don’t. If you are adventurous in your food, then I would say go ahead and try this!
Nopal Asado con Queso (RM30) is grilled cactus leaves served with grilled Panela cheese and sauced up with Salsa Verde. This is my second time savoring cactus but a first in this grilled method. I liked the smoky grilled aroma and the fairly light white cheese that contrasted with the firm cactus. Cactus also imparts a slight slimy gel similar to lady fingers so if one likes lady fingers, then one should be able to accept cactus. Served with the Salsa Verde, this appetizer truly showed off the essence of Mexican cuisine!
They do love their cheese! Queso Fundido simply translates to melted cheese. Here at La Mexicana, Queso Fundido con Chorizo (RM18) is served with flour tortilla and Salsa Verde.
The hot melted cheese is a whirlpool of stringy and salty cheese with homemade chorizo. Simply tear up pieces of tortilla and dip it in the pool of cheese to enjoy the flavors of the cheese. This one should win hearts of all ages of cheese lovers!
Heading over towards main course, we shared three signature dishes of La Mexicana after our satisfying starters.
Seafood is featured more popular in the regions of Mexico near to the coastal areas. Said to originate from the sea port of Veracruz, Mexico, Camarones Mojo de Ajo (RM55) is shrimps sautéed in a butter and garlic sauce. Here at the restaurant, an order of this features five big shrimps sautéed in butter, toasted garlic, spices and flambé with Tequila. Simple as it may look, the shrimp is fabulously buttery and juicy. Served alongside the shrimps are corn rice and cherry tomatoes. I can see why it’s a signature as the combination of succulent garlic butter shrimps and fluffy corn rice cooked in broth is amazing. The dish should be a favorite here since we love shrimps and rice… or at least I do!
More often popular in Tex-Mex cuisine, Fajitas is also a Mexican dish that is much beloved by many. Similar to taco except fajitas is served with non-fried tortilla and grilled meat or seafood. Fajitas Norteñas de Pollo (RM50) is grilled chicken with Poblano chili, bacon and onion. Accompanying the chicken fajitas is flour tortilla and salsa Verde. As one can see, the dish is rustic and showcased a home-style comfort food. A tad too salty for me, the chicken is also a bit dry. However, that can easily be pumped up with the lovely Salsa Verde for some juiciness. I adored the aroma and flavors of the Poblano chili heat from the fajitas together with the sweet caramelized onions. It’s a dish that denotes a home-style comfort food for Mexicans.
A very unique Mexican dish, Pescado al Pibil (RM60) is red snapper marinated in Achiote paste, a unique paste made with Annato seeds from the Achiote plant and other spices. Although the color of the fish is bright red, one is rest assured as the color of the fish comes from the natural pigment of the Achiote. The fish has a distinctive taste of a nutty and peppery note with the addition of the aroma of the banana leaves. Cooked till firm, the fish is served with corn rice and cherry tomatoes. This dish takes some getting-use too as the flavor kind of grew on me as I continue to savor it. It has a fairly delicate flavor with hints of tangy notes. I like it even better with the side of super potent spicy Habanero sauce!
I always never have much room for desserts when savoring Mexican cuisine. Probably because I am too stuffed from all the corn chips and tortillas! Dessert menu are limited as Mexican desserts are not on the popular list compared to others. They also tend to be on the sweeter note.
A rich nutty chocolate cake is spiced up with hints of Pasilla chili in Pastel La Mexicana (RM25). The cake is light in chocolate flavors with a sweet and nutty taste. I could barely taste the chili notes in the cake. Albeit it being a little on the dry end, the strawberry coulis and whipped cream added much moist notes to the cakes.
The second dessert has my favored vote compared to the first dessert. Crepes de Cajeta (RM20) features pieces of crepes drowned in Cajeta sauce, an ultra-sweet caramelized ‘burnt’ milk crème sauce. The crepes are quite dense while the sauce is very rich so this dessert is best shared among a few people as I doubt one can polish this sweet dessert on their own. Did I mention that this crepe is also flambéed in Tequila? It is delicious in its own way if it is taken in small portion!
La Mexicana is definitely as authentic as its get, especially in Kuala Lumpur! Their dishes are masterpieces of authentic flavors and textures from what I experienced similarly to those I ate in the small Mexican grocery stores. Yes, prices are on the steep end but one needs to take into consideration the imported ingredients and all the effort made to keep La Mexicana as real and rustic as it can be to echo Mexican cuisine and not the fusion Tex-Mex that we are accustomed to in Malaysia. La Mexicana is a beautiful restaurant to hang out and enjoy the authentic flavors of Mexican cuisine with family or friends. A great conversation piece, one is guaranteed an exciting journey down Mexico from the passionate efforts in the ambience and food made by Chef Carmela and her team!
I am hoping Chef Carmela would continue to add more Mexican favorites of mine like Tamale and Chile Relleno to the menu in time to come. Chef Carmela has also mentioned that she will be featuring more authentic dishes from various regions of Mexico in the coming months. Dishes noteworthy of orders are Ceviche Acapulco, Tacos Campechanos and Camarones Mojo de Ajo. I also spied Tacos de Cochinita Pibil and Filete Adobado La Mexicana that sounded Delicioso!!
*Psst… they are probably the first to serve pork Mexican dishes here in KL!
The Terrace at Hock Choon
Jalan Nibong (off Jalan Ampang)
50450 Ampang, Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 603 4253 5251
**More pictures at my Facebook @ChasingFoodDreams