While Singapore (or more specifically our Tourism Board) likes to lay claim to having one of the world’s most diverse culinary scenes, one food that has always been hard to find here is good, authentic Mexican. Note that I say both “good” and “authentic”, because while we do have a fair share of places that purport to serve Mexican cuisine, most only offer mildy passable Tex-Mex, which is a far cry from what you’ll find if you actually travel around this North American country. I have to admit that when I first went down to Mexico in the mid-1990s, I was astounded by the food; it was fresh, delicious, complex and nothing at all like the slop I’d eaten most of my life before that trip. A week there and I had an all new opinion and respect (which honestly I hadn’t had before) for Mexican food. Here in Singapore, only one restaurant that I’ve visited comes close to serving anything that comes close to what I’d consider real and good Mexican food.
Margarita’s, started by Andy Yap, has three branches in town. Over the years, my family has enjoyed many enjoyable Sunday lunches at the branch on Faber Drive. The newest and biggest Margarita’s is in the uber-trendy and ridiculously crowded Dempsey Road area (by the way, in my opinion, whoever came up with the name Tanglin Village should be smacked upside the head!). Last weekend, my wife S and I decided to grab a late lunch there. It’s a darned good thing we made reservations. The place was packed. And by 215pm, the restaurant had to turn away all walk-ins and late arrivals; they had (at least according to them) run out of food! Despite the crowds, the service was polite and efficient, and the food was excellent.
S and I had a relatively small meal (for us). We shared a jug of “agua fresca de fruta”, a peach and honey flavored drink, and ordered three mains to share. We started with Margarita’s signature “enchiladas de jaibas al horno”, a baked crab enchilada. After that, we shared a “pollo de Margarita’s con adobadidas”, a grilled tequila lime chicken with chipotle cream sauce, and a “pescado almendrado”, fish in almond sauce. My brother — who is a bigger fan of Mexican food than I am — loves the tequila lime chicken. While it was really tasty, I wasn’t thrilled that the chicken pieces were only breast meat, which I always find a tad dry. I did, however, love the fish in almond sauce. It was mild and cheesy and utterly delicious. It’s the kind of thing I could happily eat weekly. And after just a few bites, I knew it’s something I wanted to learn how to make. The menu says that the recipe comes from a restaurant called Pipo’s in Alcapulco. After a quick Intenet search, I’ve found the below recipe on www.epicurean.com. I haven’t had the time to test it yet, but from what I can tell, it sounds pretty accurate. I’ll definitely be trying it out in the next couple of weeks.
Margarita’s is a great place for a good meal. It’s very, very popular, especially with families. So, don’t go expecting a quiet intimate experience. Go if you don’t mind screaming kids but want some good food and great drinks.
108 Faber Drive, Tel: 6777 1782
404 East Coast Road, Tel: 6440 8030
Blk 11 Dempsey Road, #01-19, Tel: 6471 3228
(Fish in Almond Sauce)
Recipe from www.epicurean.com
8 red snapper or sea bass fillets, about 4 oz.(125g)each
juice of 2 limes
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 cups (16 fl oz/500 ml) thick cream (or creme fraiche)
1 cup (5 oz/155 g) blanched almonds
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup (2 oz/60 g) butter
1 cup (4 oz/125 g) grated queso Chihuahua (or Monterey Jack or medium-sharp Cheddar cheese)
8 small slices pickled chiles jalepenos (optional)
toasted slivered almonds for garnish (optional)
Marinate the fillets in the lime juice, salt, and pepper for 1 hour in the refrigerator.
Meanwhile, in a blender, puree the cream, almonds, and Parmesan cheese. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F(190 C). Melt the butter in a large skillet, add the fillets and saute lightly on both sides. Transfer to a greased baking dish and cover with the almond sauce. Sprinkle with the queso Chihuahua and bake for about 15 minutes or until the cheese melts.
Garnish with sliced chiles and slivered almonds.