Tasting Dinner @ Viva Mexico

It's been a while since Dim Sum Dolly, Nibble & Scribble, Skinny Epicurean and I met for a meal as we'd all been so busy. We were thrilled to be invited by Hsian Ming of Sixth Sense Communications for a tasting at Viva Mexico, an authentic Mexican restaurant at Cuppage Terrace.Buenas tardes, chicas! [Good evening, girls!]

Cute Doggy Stone Holder for the Salsa

I love dogs (as pets) so I was thrilled at the 3-legged stone lava stone bowl that had a doggy face painted on it. The stone bowl is known as a molcajete, which is traditionally used as a mortar & pestle to grind spices and make sauces or as a hot sizzling serving bowl (similar to the hot stone bowl used in Korean food's Dolsot Bi Bim Bap).

I love mortar & pestles because of the aromas that waft to the nostrils as one pounds the ingredients. It's hard work but mortar & pestle ground spices always taste better than those ground in food processors due to oils being released in the pounding process.

Red Salsa Red Salsa
The molcajete was used to hold our bowl of Red Salsa which was made with red tomatoes & red chilis. It had a strong flavour of tomatoes and a hint of spiciness.

Green Salsa & Tortilla Chips Green Salsa & Tortilla Chips

I've never really been a huge fan of Red Salsa as I generally prefer Green Salsa and Guacamole (a rich and buttery dip of mashed avocadoes, chili, lime & herbs).

The Green Salsa was made with Tomatillos (referred to as green tomatoes) and Green Chilis. I loved the tartness and spiciness of the Green Salsa.

I am not an expert neither am I a purist when it comes to Mexican cuisine (there is apparently a great divide between true-blue Mexican and Tex-Mex) but the Green Salsa is worth a try.

Colourful tiles at the bar counter

The distinctively Mexican colour scheme used in the restaurant was enlivening, especially the mosaic tiles that decorated the bar counter. I thought the tile bearing a painting of a cactus was especially cute as many people tend to associate Mexico with cacti and Tequila (both the song & drink).
Blackberry Margarita Blackberry Margarita @ S$13 per glass / S$60 per jug other flavours: Strawberry, Mango, Tamarind & Guava
Speaking of Tequila, how can any visit to a Mexican restaurant be complete without partaking of any Tequila/Tequila-based drinks like Margaritas? I don't drink much but I love my Frozen Strawberry Margaritas. I have never tried a Blackberry Margarita so I decided to give it a shot. It was pretty interesting except that I found the blackberry flavour to be a little too chemical-ly for my taste. The Tamarind flavoured version was much better.

Tasting Menu Tasting Menu

We got a little worried when we saw the number of items listed on the menu. Thankfully, they had arranged for sharing portions for the evening.

Acapulco Cocktail Acapulco Cocktail @ S$14 Cocktail of shrimp, fish, octopus & squid marinated in a mix of sauces, lemon, coriander & onion

We started the meal with an Acapulco Cocktail, which was essentially a Mexican Ceviche. I am not a massive fan of seafood but I love Avocados so the slice that adorned the side of the Martini glass was most enticing. The seafood used was very fresh and the octopus, shrimp and squid were delightfully crunchy while the fish was firm. The marinade was a little too sweet for my liking and I wished that it had a little more lemon juice but nonetheless, it was a decent start to the meal. This is definitely worth a try!

Chile Relleno de Jaiba Chile Relleno de Jaiba @ S$16 Jalapeno chillies stuffed with seasoned crab meat

Next we had some deep-fried Jalapeno chillies stuffed with seasoned crab meat. This dish set the other girls' tongues on fire. I'm the resident Chili Freak (given my affinity for spicy food especially Sichuan cuisine), so I was tasked with finishing the leftovers.

Cross-Section of Chile Relleno de Jaiba

Here's a cross-section of the "innocent" looking croquette of Jalapeno with sweet, seasoned crab meat. The capsaicin in the Jalapeno coated my tongue and lips, creating a warm, burning sensation with the added benefit of redder and poutier lips! Ha ha! Ok, I know I have a slightly sadomasochistic tendency when it comes to chili. This is worth a try for the S&M factor!

If you're a little worried about the spice level, you'll be pleased to know that the heavy cream dip (a little too heavy for my liking) that accompanies the dish helps to alleviate the spice burn (like how Sichuan foodies drink soy bean milk to soothe a spice-burnt tongue).

Tamales Larranzair Tamales Larranzair @ S$12 Southern Mexican delicacy: Steamed corn dough filled with chicken, raisins & mole

Our 3rd starter was Tamales, which arrived wrapped in plantain and corn husks. This method of cooking (wrapping the food in leaves & then cooking them) reminded me of Chinese Rice Dumplings, Vietnamese Nems and South East Asian Otah.

Tamales Larranzair Unwrapped

Unwrapping the leaves, a sweet fragrance greeted the nostrils. I have never been a huge fan of Mole, a traditional Mexican sauce made with chocolate and spices. I generally like chocolate and spices (one of my favourite hot chocolate concoctions is with chili) but strangely, the combination never really appealed to me in a mole. Perhaps, its because the sauce is usually a little too grainy and too sweet for my liking.

Chilli Poblano Soup Chile Poblano Soup @ S$8 Cream of Chile Poblano: A delicacy normally served at Mexican weddings & grand events

Next up was a Chile Poblano Soup that got the other girls worried about the heat factor. Hsian Ming assured us that it was safe for consumption. The chili freak in me was curious so I tried it and told the others that it was delicious and not spicy at all. The soup was like a light Cream of Garden Peas Soup with a hint of chili. I loved it! This is a Must-Try!

Chili & Lime Al Presidente! (front) & Tamarind Margarita (back) Chili & Lime Al Presidente! (front) @ S$16 per glass & Tamarind Margarita (back)

The next drink I tried was a Chili & Lime Al Presidente! (shaken Margarita available in other flavours: Apple, Ginger, Kiwi & Soursop). It was delicious though the Tamarind Margarita was definitely the more interesting one of the two.

Tacos Doradosde Tacos Doradosde @ S$15 (potato) / S$18 (chicken) Tacos filled with potatoes/chicken, served with lettuce, tomato, cream, cheese & refried beans

The first of our mains was Tacos, probably one of the most popular Mexican dishes. Tacos Dorados mean Golden Tacos. They are deep-fried tacos that are also known as Flautas (for the flute shape) or Taquitos (meaning: little Taco).

My portion of Tacos Doradosde with Refried Beans

We had the potato version. They were delicious but my favourite tortilla dish is Enchiladas. I resolved to return for an Enchilada fix. Skinny Epicurean and I were thrilled to note that the dish was served with Refried Beans (cooked & mashed beans). The other 2 girls weren't too keen on it so we ate most of the beans. The beans were not as savoury as I would have liked it but were nonetheless smokily fulfilling.

Shrimps Diabla Shrimps Diabla @ S$29 A very spicy dish of shrimps with tomato, chipotle chili & guajillo chili, served with rice Diabla means Devil

After reading the description, the girls and I braced ourselves for another palate burning experience but were surprised to discover that it was not spicy at all. Gee...did the chef forget to add the chili? The prospect of 2 types of chili in this dish was thrilling for me but I realised later that they were both mild chilis. What an anti-climax! The prawns were firm and fresh but the sauce was (you guessed it) too sweet for my liking. The rice that came with it looked like a bland version of pilaf but was deceptively tasty. I would have had more rice except I was already starting to feel like a stuffed Thanksgiving Turkey.

Beef Filet Filled with Cuitlacoche

Beef Filet stuffed with Cuitlacoche @ S$26 Beef filet stuffed with Cuitlacoche Mushrooms, topped with Mexican Oaxaca Cheese Sauce
I was ready to wave the white flag after the shrimps but when the beef arrived, I had to make room for more food. I love beef and mushrooms! The first thing that struck me about this dish was the interestingly named mushroom, Cuitlacoche. Apparently, its a fungus that grows on ears of corn. It is a Mexican delicacy that has been referred to as Mexican Truffle although it is essentially a maize disease that is known as Corn Smut. It's Mexican name, Cuitlacoche is sometimes spelt as Huitlacoche (apparently a Nahuatl name that means "raven's excrement)". Hmm...thankfully, I didn't know what it meant before.
Cross-Section of Beef Filet filled with Cuitlacoche
Raven poop aside, this dish was awesome! The Rib-Eye was imported from Brazil, cooked to perfection (check out how red it is inside) and had an amazingly rich and beefy taste. The nutty flavour of the mushrooms and the buttery flavour of the cheese only made the experience so much more divine. I'm wondering if I can down both the beef and enchiladas with refried beans during my next visit. This is definitely a MUST-TRY!

Pumpkin en Tacha Pumpkin en Tacha @ S$9 Fresh pumpkin slice stewed with piloncillo, cinnamon, cloves, pepper & guava

Dessert was a pumpkin dish made using a secret family recipe. Piloncillo is a Mexican unrefined cane sugar, similar to the palm sugar used in South East Asian cuisine. Though apparently, some vinegar was added to balance the sweetness, it was still a little too sweet for most of us. Folks with a sweet tooth will dig this because the caramel-like smoky quality of the syrup was quite pleasant.

Latte @ Viva Mexico

I countered the sweetness of the dessert with a cup of Latte.
Viva Mexico (part of the Palate Vine Group - Ras the Essence of India, The Tent & Vintage India) 23 Cuppage Road, Cuppage Terrace, Singapore 229453 Tel: +65 6235-0440 Email: vivamexico@palatevine.com.sg

PS: Pardon the quality of the pictures taken as the extremely dim lighting posed a major challenge to our cameras.