Towards the end of last year Mexican cuisine arrived in Hawke’s Bay with three Mexican restaurants opening within months of each
other – Fajitas Mexican Bar and Grill, Main Road, Clive, Mamacita, Havelock Road, Havelock North and Mexi Mama on West Quay in Ahuriri, Napier which is where we are meeting JR’s daughter and her partner and eating tonight.
From the split skull on the double front doors you get the feeling this place is going to be fun and interesting at the very least and maybe just a little Mexican!
Having got through the front door we are then greeted by this kind chap, however, we hardly have time to make his acquaintance
before we are welcomed by a flesh and blood person.
Even those with just a passing knowledge of Mexican culture are probably aware that Latin American’s have many rituals and rites
associated with death and the afterlife with Mexican images often reflecting this. The theme here at Mexi Mama certainly reflects this, but not in a gloomy or morbid way.
Another very Mexican feature is the shrine to St Therese of Lisieux at which candles are lit each night at eight.
Now time to look at the menu and as you would expect at a Mexican restaurant in addition to vino and beer there is also a selection of Margaritas, Sangria, a variety of tequilas, mescal, cocteles (cocktails) and beer cocteles (beer cocktails).
We all, however, stick with vino of which there is a fair selection available by the glass for between $9 and $11.50 or beer which ranges from Amstel Light, the least expensive, at $7 a bottle and the others including Corona at $9 to $10.
To start, we order to share: Guacamole con Totopos ($12 single/$17 double) which the menu tells us is ‘Made-to-order guac w/fresh avo, tomato, onion, coriander & sesame seeds accompanied by corn chips’ – the menu description is right on the mark; Salsa de
Molcajete ($10), this salsa of charred tomato, garlic, onion and
seasonal fresh chilli sauce has a good kick to it, tastes light and fresh and is accompanied by corn chips; our third starter, crab dip consists of shredded crab meat mixed into a Colby, feta, Parmesan and cream cheese dipping sauce seasoned with Mexican spices and horseradish and is served warm with corn chips.
These came to the table together, it was a great way to start the meal while we caught up and decided on our mains. Yes, there do
appear to be a lot of corn chips, but they are pretty sumptuous, there are plenty of dips and there are none left at the end!
There are many good looking dishes on the menu which is laid out in dish types: tostaditas – 4 per board, 2.5 inch crispy tortilla chips with toppings; quesadilla; tacos – 2 per serving, soft corn tortillas (7 inch) with fillings; taco party – for four people, build your own tacos; side sauces; acompañamientos (sides); and postres – something sweet as.
In addition the menu clearly states when dishes are vegetarian,
gluten-or dairy-free and mainly includes whether the dish is mild, medium or hot with most seeming to fall into the middle range.
After much discussion we decide on our mains and I go for the aguachile de pescado ($12) which is one of the tostadita choices. Served cold, it is ceviche-style fresh market fish, thinly sliced and tossed in a lime, coriander and jalapeño chilli emulsion, piled on
tortilla chips, topped with red capsicum, sea salt and pickled
onions and is light, refreshing and satisfying.
The guys ordered the quesadillas – one the Mayan and one the chicken (both $15) – these were the most substantial of the dishes we ordered.
The Mayan quesadilla is spicy pulled pork with melted cheese on a flour tortilla with coleslaw and is topped with a coriander
vinaigrette, while the chicken quesadilla is slow-cooked shredded chicken in a chorizo, chipotle, onion and tomato sauce with melted cheese and the same coleslaw as for the Mayan.
Both men say their quesadillas are great and I am able to nab a tiny piece of JR’s chicken quesadilla and it certainly has plenty of
Mexican spiciness and flavour without being overly hot.
The final choice is the tacos dorados de pollo ($16) – three hard shell rolled chicken tacos topped with salsa, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, avocado dressing and queso fresco – and proclaimed by JR’s daughter to be excellent.
We also ordered a side of frijoles ($6), this homemade black bean dish was spiced with a hint of cumin and topped with sour cream, cheese, tomato and coriander. I love frijoles and these certainly did not disappoint and reminded me I haven’t made them in a long time.
We felt we had had our fill, so didn’t have dessert, but there was a choice of: arroz con leche – rice pudding topped with fresh ground cinnamon and caramelised prune; flan de café – coffee crème
caramel flan; and bunuelos – crispy sweet cinnamon wafer with whipped cream and seasonal fruit. As with the rest of the menu the desserts are reasonably priced at $10.
At the end of the evening we all agreed that it had been a fun dining experience and that we wouldn’t hesitate to return.
58 W Quay, Ahuriri, Napier
Ph: 021 100 5174
Open: Tuesday to Saturday from 6pm
Happy cooking and eating.
This meal was independently paid for.
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