Radio Mexico St Kilda, which opened in April 2012, is one of the most popular of the new wave of “authentic” Mexican restaurants to open in Melbourne. Ever since Mamamsita opened in Melbourne’s CBD in late 2010, the Mexican trend in this city has only intensified, with many new ventures offering their take on “authentic” Mexican. Some have hit the right note with Melbourne diners while others have come and gone. I was in St Kilda so decided to see if the hype around Radio Mexico was justified.
Radio Mexico is very well located – close to the corner of Carlisle Street and Acland Street in St Kilda. This, combined with their popularity and no bookings policy can often mean there is a wait for a table. Thankfully, Radio Mexico will take your name and phone number, which allows you to have a drink at one of the nearby bars or a walk along the beach while waiting for your table. Just under an hour after putting down my name, I received a call and my friends and I headed back to the restaurant to have some dinner.
When you arrive, there is an open kitchen in view, where the tacos are made. The kitchen styled as a caravan is a great touch. To the left is an outdoor courtyard with some tables and the left are the tables on the inside.
The fit-out is suitably on trend. A bit rustic, with liberal use of coloured decorations and some day of the dead artwork and paraphernalia to match. The obligatory cactus is also present. It’s a great space, and while not particularly original, it works well.
Service was great – our drink orders were taken quickly, followed by our food orders, and everything came out very fast.
“Guacamole” Guacamole with hand cut corn chips and pico de gallo ($8.00)
The hand cut corn chips were very tasty – light, not greasy and unsalted. In lieu of the corn chips not being salted, the guacamole itself was saltier than usual – a few of us thought that the salt levels were ok, a few thought that there was too much salt – it really comes down to personal preference. The pico de gallo was fresh and flavoursome.
“Escabeche” Pickled jalepenos, onion & carrot ($4.00)
The escabeche really hit the spot. Crispy and refreshing. A great palette cleanser.
“Elotes” Corn on the cob street style ($3.00 per serve)
Something that all of the new Mexican restaurants do is roasted corn on the cob sprinkled with finely grated, partially melted cheese. Radio Mexico’s version is brilliant, sweet corn with just the right amount of cheese and level of roasting.
A small selection of mains are offered at Radio Mexico, however the most popular items are the tacos, which are all $6.00 per taco.
“Al Pastor” Otway free range pork carnitas with pickeld jalepenos and charred pineapple ($6.00 each)
The tortillas were excellent, and the freshness and quality of the ingredients was excellent. While tasty, we all agreed that the pork was quite dry.
“Barbacoa” Slow cooked organic saltbush lamb,red cabbage and salsa ($6.00 each)
The lamb tacos were much better than the pork ones. The lamb was very juicy and tender.
“Pollo” BBQ chicken, lettuce, quacamole and salsa ($6.00 each)
The texture of the chicken tacos was spot on, however they were somewhat bland. The option of some hot sauce was exactly what was needed here.
“Carne Asada” BBQ hanger steak with home made crema, lettuce and salsa ($6.00 each)
These were very tasty, the steak was nicely charred ad the crema added that extra bit of flavour to finish them off.
“Baja” Beer battered fish, pico de gallo and slaw ($6.00 each)
Along with the lamb tacos, the fish tacos were the other highlight. The flavour was spot on, and the batter was very light, with the fish itself melting in your mouth as soon as you bit through the batter.
“Coconut Ice-Cream Sundae” With cajeta caramel and roasted coconut ($10.00)
This was very tasty. The ice-cream had a dense yet creamy texture, and was not sweet at all – the caramel was where the sweetness came from and the balance of flavours, along with the crunch of the roasted coconut worked very well.
“Fresas” Macerated strawberries with home made creama, merangue and coconut sugar ($10.00)
The friend of mine who ordered this desert very much enjoyed it. We all tried some of the strawberries and they were very tasty.
“Chocolate Caliente” Piquin chili spiced hot chocolate served with shortbread ($10.00)
My friend really enjoyed the consistency of the hot chocolate, which was light and not at all thick, and the lack of sweetness was spot on. The spice levels were very low though. I had a sip and could barely pick up any spice at all.
Overall, it’s easy to see why Radio Mexico is popular. My main criticisms would be the dryness of the pork tacos, blandness of the chicken tacos and the general lack of spice in almost every dish. I’m not a huge spice thrill-seeker – in fact compared to many I’m somewhat of a wimp when it comes to spicy food. Despite this, even I thought that the spice levels really were too low.
I can understand not making the food too spicy to cater for those who don’t like spice, however it was odd that there was not a selection of hot sauces on the table to allow people to both adjust the spice levels to their liking, and to provide some moisture to some of the drier dishes.
Would I go back to Radio Mexico if I was in the area? Definitely. The quality of the food and ingredients is very good, the service and vibe is great, there is a decent selection of Mexican drinks on offer, and you can have a very filling meal for under $30.
The criticisms that I did have are all things that can be easily rectified, and if these were to be addressed, I think that Radio Mexico would go from being very good to being excellent.
11-13 Carlisle Street
Telephone: (03) 9534 9990
Email: [email protected]
Mon – Fri: 4:00pm to late
Sat – Sun: 12:00pm to late