While holidaying in Perth recently I joined friends at La Cholita, Perth’s new modern Mexican bar restaurant, which is similar to Mamasita. It’s also similar to Taqueria in London, as all exemplify one of the current world food trends – taking Mexican street food into a new environment. It also has an extensive tequila list in the way that Kumo Izakaya has an extensive sake list.
I’m curious about about such trends and how we as customers engage with the experience. La Cholita has the current design trends in evidence too – lights hanging from their cords, bare floors and their corresponding deafening loudness in the room, the tattooed staff and expensive food and drinks.
I’ve eaten twice at Mamasita and enjoyed it, but I question the value, and I did the same at La Cholita. I began with an entree of grilled octopus and potato (below, $10). Potatoes are cheap, and there’s not much octopus in there for $10.
Next I had a pork, pineapple and onion taco (below, $5). The tacos are $5-6 and are palm sized, just as they are at Mamasita and Taqueria. The same pork, pineapple and onion taco is the same $5 at Mamasita. At Notting Hill in London, however, you get three similarly sized tacos with the same ingredients for £5.60, or $8.75 at the current exchange rate. How can London be better value than Melbourne and Perth?
Then I tried the crab and avocado tostadas (below, $6), which come in a serve of three. Delicious, and better value than the tacos.
Dessert was a substantial serve of a sweet version of chimichanga (below, $12), a deep fried flour tortilla filled with dulce de leche icecream and served with chocolate sauce. An American friend of mine describes chimichanga as Tex-Mex, not ‘authentically’ Mexican. I suppose a dessert made from this concept is even less authentic, but it was yummy.
Other reviews of La Cholita are mixed to positive, and they note the inconsistent service: Juji chews, Good Perth hunting and Wack sauce. I think I chose poorly with the cocktail I ordered, which tasted like tequila with lemon solo, but my friends enjoyed their chilli chocolate ones. Given how busy it was when my group of five was there, I thought the service was reasonable.
I would possibly go again with a group of friends if it suited a particular occasion, but just as I have not returned to Mamasita I can’t see myself being overly keen to go again purely for the food, which occupies a very small space in the menu. Compared to Mamasita though, this is definitely more bar than restaurant.
While the food is good, I can’t see good value in it. I think Australian diners are being asked to pay too much for this upmarket Mexican street food experience. As with Kumo Izakaya, when the the experience seems more important than the food, I feel like I’m not dining as well as I could be.