Thursday, 18 April 2013

Restaurant Review: Acland St. Cantina

Location: 2 Acland Street,  St Kilda
Phone: (03) 9536 1175
Cuisine: Mexican
Overall Impression: 9/10

With so many budding restaurateurs jumping on the Mexican bandwagon, the prospect of one that is actually worth raving about is exciting! 
We first experienced Acland St. Cantina (ASC) during the restaurant's launch party. We were impressed then, but experience has shown us that great food at a launch party doesn’t necessarily translate when you move to a sit down dinner. Thankfully, in this case, it did. The food was fabulous.
ASC occupies the space next door to Circa. The restaurant is part taco/takeaway joint (open until 3am), part sleek tequila bar and part funky restaurant. 
Clever partitions create distinctly different areas with their own unique feel. 
The menu is a European/South American take on Mexican cuisine. It is obvious from both the thought behind the dishes, and the quality of execution, that chef Paul Wilson (holder of 2 hats for Circa) certainly knows what he is doing. 
Tasting plate of 3 moles
Red mole with tallabrook goat, green mole with pork barbecua, black mole with duck 

Holy Mole(y)! This dish was simply delicious. While all three moles were moreish, the slow-braised goat impressed us the most. The pulled goat meat was tender and delicious with the perfect hint of heat. All three were slathered with different, but equally rich moles — a chilli-chocolate sauce. The hint of sweetness from the moles was cut beautifully by the parsley and radish salad, and the ancient grains brought the whole dish together. 
Pollo Al Horno
Wood bbq chilli chicken with tomatillo verde 

The pollo al horno was fiery. A beautiful wood fired smokiness permeated the chicken pieces, which were perfectly cooked and packed full of flavour. Whilst delicious, the chilli hit makes this dish not for the faint hearted. 
Huitlacoche tamales with green rice 

Known as the Mexican truffle, the Huitlacoche beautifully seasoned the cornmeal dough which had been baked in corn husks. It was absolutely wonderful, with an earthy flavour delivered courtesy of the Huitlacoche. 
The service at ASC is brilliant - the staff are friendly, efficient and always available to explain the menu (for those who are understandably unfamiliar with some of the dishes on offer). 
Drunken quince and goat's queso ice cream cheesecake flautas 

The night ended on a sweet high with a unique and perfectly constructed take on the traditional cheesecake. The ice cream cheesecake centre had the distinctive gamey notes of goats milk but was not overpowering. The crispy, sweet tuile was skilfully thin and the slices of quince were perfectly poached with a delicate hint of cinnamon. The quince paste had a lovely acidity which balanced the creaminess and sweetness of the cheesecake. It was well thought out and executed. 
After attending the launch of ASC, we commented "Far from being just another new Mexican eatery serving average fare and cashing in on the trend, Acland St Cantina is the real deal." We were not mistaken. ASC is the real deal and we look forward to returning again, and again, and again.

Check out our Friday nights @ Acland Street Cantina review here!
Acland St. Cantina on Urbanspoon

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