When it comes to geniuses in the Perth food scene, the minds behind Cantina 663, newbie Ace Pizza and the fiesty el PÚBLICO come to mind straight away. That’s why Jeremy and I decided to head to the latter on Thursday night for a late dinner after watching Josh Thomas at the Octagon Theatre.
We had initially discussed going to Ace Pizza since he has been keen to try it after my delicious dinner there a couple weeks ago. But unfortunately with the wait for a table being around 45 minutes we decide to head down the road and try our luck at el PÚBLICO instead – and as luck would ave it, there’s one table available as we walk in. Must be fate!
While it might not have been our first choice, it definitely wasn’t a consolation prize because we love this place!
As we sit down to peruse the menu, our waiter gets us started with a serving of Guacamole ($9) which comes out quite quickly as a chunky serving of avocado, some tomato salsa and big fried tortilla crisps to scoop it up with.
I love avocado so much, so I am definitely in my element chomping away. There’s not enough salt from my perspective (salt enhances avocado so much in my own personal opinion) but the tomato salsa offers some sweetness that works well with the creaminess of the avocado. I love the crunch of those tortilla crisps.
As we place our orders for more food, our drinks arrive. Jeremy opts for a pear cider, while I ask our ever-attentive waiter for a recommended cocktail. He answers immediately with the ‘Dutch Backhand’ which I promptly pick as my drink. And thankfully it didn’t disappoint! A gender friendly cocktail made up of hazelnut, creme de cacao, lime, honey, basil and passionfruit. It went down smooth and had a great combination of different flavours that worked in utter harmony.
My favourite dish of the night was one that came out quite early – Cuttlefish, Jalapeno, Corn and Parsley ($17 from memory). It’s a delicious concoction of the most tender and melt in your mouth cuttlefish that has been cooked perfectly, sweet corn, fresh parsley, onion, jalapenos, radish and fried tortilla. We grab the knife on hand and smash the ingredients together with gusto, tossing them around on the plate until they make the perfect salad.
There’s so much right about this dish it makes me want to sing with happiness! There’s flavour (yes), texture (yes) and wonderful ingredients (oh hell yes). It’s a definite standout and one that I will be thinking about with great relish. Simple, fresh and delicious.
Our next dish out is the Black Bean Quesadillas ($16) which come out golden brown and stuffed to the brim with chunks of velvety smooth black bean and cheese, and topped with a nice heaping of salsa verde. It tastes great, though it definitely sticks to my sides as I swallow. If you’re looking to get full quick here, this is the dish for you!
I have to admit, out of the four pieces delivered, I could only eat one of them. It was like a meal in itself! But a yummy one at least. I loved spreading some of the guacamole on top to give it some added creaminess and flavour. After all, avocado makes everything better!
Since everything here comes with tortillas, it doesn’t take many dishes before you start to feel on the full side. Thankfully we were smart enough to recognise this when ordering so we finish off with a selection of tacos – three – to share between the two of us.
The first one to come out is the Adobo Chicken Taco with Pickled Onion and Peanut Salsa ($7). The chicken is extremely succulent and juicy – so much so that when I bite into the taco, the juices run down my hands and make a mess. But that’s part of the fun of eating with your hands! I hand it over to Jeremy to share and he marvels at the sweetness of the onion and the moorish quality of the salsa. Since chicken is not one of my go to meats, I have to admit I’m surprised by how much I like this.
The other tacos we’ve ordered come out together, and both are completely overflowing with ingredients. Jeremy tackles the Fish Taco with Cabbage, Mayo & Lime ($7.50) first, saving me a small bite at the end (it’s all I can manage I’m so full!).
The fish is soft and flaky, and extremely flavoursome. I love that they’ve included some fried bits on top for some added crunch and there’s a decent amount of mayonnaise present. Squeezing the lime over the top gives the dish a nice zing and lifts each bite.
The Lamb Belly Taco ($7) comes out simple with some parsley and ‘Aunty G’s sauce’. I don’t try this one given my stuffed state, but Jeremy tells me that it’s an intense flavour – the meat is smokey and charcoaled, the sauce rich but not overwhelming. It’s a different way to enjoy lamb and a great way to finish off the meal in his opinion.
While I had been extremely keen to revisit that incredible peanut butter parfait dessert from last time (peanut butter = yes but add on dulce de leche and I’m in heaven!), my stomach was protesting too much to do it on this occasion. So we took that as a cue to make a move, dragging ourselves to our feet while trying not to sink back and have a siesta before making the trip home. We’ve eaten more before, but on this night we had reached an unfamiliar level of fullness!
Like our first trip to el PÚBLICO, this one was full of wonderful flavours and ingredients. I love how this Mexican joint offers something so much different to what everyone else is doing. It’s fun, sassy and oh so enjoyable. A definite winner in my eyes.