REVIEW: PopTaco

4/42 Currumbin Creek Road, Currumbin Waters
Phone 0405 932 262

Sydneysiders may be tiring of the Mexican wave, but it’s really only hit the Gold Coast this year. Let’s face it, who even knew what a taqueria was until recently? Yet in the last few months we’ve seen the opening of a handful of taquerias, a trend which looks set to continue!

We’re not talking Mexican as we’ve known it until now; not refried beans and dodgy mince, packet corn chips and tomato rice smothered in melted cheese. No! This is smarter, with fresh light flavours, more suited to the modern palate.

Beginning as a mobile honeymoon camper, PopTaco has morphed into a dual personality: a travelling taqueria as well as a permanent popup operating from an industrial warehouse space with dining in the carpark. That’s where we’re dining tonight, at simple picnic tables overlooked by a radiant Virgin of Guadeloupe and assorted pots of succulents.

There’s honesty to such an unpretentious venue which brings it closer to Mexican street food, just as its owner, Kristal Smith, intended. After spending the best part of four years in Mexico, Kristal returned to Australia as Mexican cuisine was about to take off. So is this typical of Mexican food? I pose the question.

“This is a fair representation of the tacquerias of Mexico City and Central Mexico, but Mexican food is so diverse…this is just one aspect of it. It ranges from street food to fine dining in really upmarket restaurants.”

It’s a cool night as we dine at PopTaco, but the welcome is warm and the food tasty and well-priced. We start with Totopos, tortilla chips with house guacamole, Frijoles Refritos (refried beans) and Pico de Gallo. Translated Heat of the Rooster this is a mildly spicy salsa of tomato, jalapeno, lime and onion.

As the name implies, tacos are one of the main menu items. Not the hard crunchy variety, these are soft double tortillas loaded up with fresh tasty ingredients: Carnitas (beef with chipotle salsa), Picadillo Pollo (chicken cooked in tomatillo with olives, sultanas and red slaw), Hongos (spicy mushrooms with corn salsa) and Cochinita Verde (pulled pork with pineapple salsa and salsa verde). It’s labour intensive, slow-cooked interesting food. Running through the dishes are chilli, coriander and lime, flavours familiar to us through Thai cuisine, yet they’re balanced by more complex spices, some less familiar and more exciting to us (such as smoky chipotle chilli, the gooseberry flavours of green tomatillo, and the complexity of tamarind).

But let’s not stop at tortillas! Special of the night is chargrilled corn on the cob sprinkled with chilli spices, queso fresco (freshly made cheese) with a squeeze of the ubiquitous lime, or grilled quesadilla, and that’s just the start… Kristal has plans to diversify her menu even further!

The food’s bursting with freshness and flavour, yet not too spicy. It flows from our mouths over our fingers, each drip licked up to catch the flavours. There’s murmuring from table to table, some chatter about the flavours, but mostly we’re just tucking in, hands reaching in, sharing and enjoying this great street food.

Mexican food is fun! It ticks all our casual dining boxes: shared plates, big on flavour, tasty, fresh and healthy yet filling food. It’s also gluten-free! If your budget’s a bit tight, this is some of the best value food you’ll find, plus BYO!

This is just the beginning of the Mexican wave. Bring on the tamales and molé, guys! Judging by other states, we’re likely to see a lot more development in this cuisine in the near future!

Read more of Marj’s reviews on Good Food Gold Coast http://www.foodgoldcoast.com.au

 

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