My Mexican Cousin
Corner Sturt Street and Southbank Boulevard, Southbank (in the Melbourne Recital Centre building)
I’d seen a lot of mentions of My Mexican Cousin pop up on twitter in the last couple of weeks. The new collaboration between people behind institutions such as St Ali, St Jeromes and Saint Peter’s (I’m seeing a pattern here…) had been getting some positive and some not so positive buzz. I wasn’t super encouraged by the lack of food authenticity rant by Burger Mary here, but I’m not generally bothered by how authentic something is as long as it’s delicious so went in with an open mind.
We found the restaurant pretty hard to find, the lack of street number
(or any other information at all) on the website didn’t help (Gerard: It’s not mobile friendly). On the way there we realised that 7ish on a Saturday is probably the worst time to try and eat in an arts centre/theatre adjacent restaurant. Luckily once we got through the rain and inside we managed to get a table without a wait.
The fit out is nice, lots of wood and metal and dim lighting (maybe a little too dim). I really liked the openness of it, with an open kitchen at one end of the room and a large opening to the foyer of the recital centre at the other there’s a lot of opportunity for people watching. The menus also looked great, pinned into green manilla folders and typed like scripts they were quirky and fun (and very location appropriate).
Before I get to the blow-by-blow of what we ate I should explain that My Mexican Cousin, confusingly, does not serve mexican food. The specialty of My Mexican Cousin is creole (apparently the a term that covers a range of cusines but in this case seems largely Louisiana-based which – according to both wikipedia and the eerily similar/identical explanaotry note in the menu – is a mix of French, Spanish, Portugese, Italian, Greek, Asian Indian, Native American and African influences). That’s fine in itself, but I struggled to understand the name. Is it a cheap grab on the current popularity of mexican food in Melbourne? Is it just trying to obtusely imply that it’s related to mexican food? To be honest I still can’t quite figure it out.
The food itself was fine, but it just didn’t quite live up to expectations. I felt like it was missing something. It’s what some people probably refer to as the X-factor but my friends and I like to refer to as the John Goodman factor. One day my best friend and I were watching the commentary to Coyote Ugly (yes, the one about girls dancing on bars and pretending to write LeAnn Rimes songs) and found that in test screenings the overwhelming response was that the movie was just missing something. According to test audiences the ‘something’ was more John Goodman. Cue extra filming and a re-cut of the whole movie to give more screen time to a man best known as Roseanne’s TV husband. Point of the story is that the food here is just missing something and may need a bit of a re-edit to really impress. Oh, and more John Goodman. Everyone loves John Goodman.
After reading tweet after delicious tweet during the week, I was excited about going to My Mexican Cousin. The build up was almost a text book reference on how to launch a new restaurant using social media. I didn’t care how long we had to wait, we were going on Saturday, that’s how excited I was.
Despite the location being as car unfriendly as a bike courier, we finally found the restauraunt. It’s nestled on the side of the MRC foyer, something that’s not obviously apparent on the website. Also what’s not apparent is the actual entrance. We went through one of the labelled doors, and then awkwardly stood around in a little group like kids waiting to be selected for a footy side during lunch, until one of the wait staff noticed us and begrudgingly offered us a table. I’m not precious about these kinds of things, and I know it was opening week so take this comment with a grain of salt, but the service was very average. The menus were slow to arrive, the drinks were slow to arrive and the food was even slower: I was almost going to gnaw my arm off.
When the menu did finally arrive, it was beautifully presented, as you can see in the photos. It came in a little mamilla folder like a script, which was a nice little homage to the location. It even came with a creoli-pedia which introduced the dinner to the cuisine and the terminology. A very nice touch. Unfortunately this is where the smiles ended.
The attention to detail present in the media campaign, the restauraunt decor and the physical menu, was absent in the actual food. I was expecting something spicy, something adventurous, but yet what we got was, although technically very good, just wasn’t exciting.
The dinner menu is made up of a series of share plates that cover a range of entree, side and main-esque dishes.
There were 4 of us and we started with 3 entree-ish dishes and two side-ish choices. My best friend’s boyfriend is currently leaning more towards vegetarian and struggled a little with the menu. It’s lucky that he’s eating fish at the moment because there was only one dish on the menu that didn’t have any meat or fish.
First up, the chicken drumsticks with chien sauce ($4 each). These were pretty good, Gerard’s favourite dish.
We also had two whole poboys – sandwich with crumbed prawn, spicy mayo and cos lettuce ($7 for a half, $14 a whole). The poboy was good, this was probably my favourite dish. I wouldn’t say it’s great value for what it is though.
The creole rice with lentils, rice, bacon and roast onions ($9.50). The rice was fine.
We also had the sole proper vegetarian option, the quinoa with roasted corn and herbs ($9.50). We were told when we ordered that the kitchen was out of corn so the quinoa would just be with herbs. My best friend jokingly asked whether that meant we would be charged less for it given the price of yellow fruit and vegetables these days. The quinoa mysteriously appeared at the table with the out of stock corn. We were charged full price.
We had three of the more ‘main’ style dishes, although as you’ll see below the sizes aren’t necessarily main-worthy. The first that we had was the creole style chicken stew with ginger ($12). The chicken itself was well cooked with a good texture but the stew didn’t have a lot of flavour.
Next up we had the twice cooked beef short rib with spice mix and sweet potato pickle ($12 per rib which in our case was 4 pieces of meat). Gerard can’t go past a rib on a menu but was quite disappointed by this. The meat was tender but didn’t have a lot of flavour, we generally feel that a rib benefits from a sauce of some description.
Finally we had a half serve of the Bershire pork with a maple clove glaze and lentils ($13, $25 for a full serve). This was… small. I know that we ordered a half serve, but it was less than I was expecting. The pork itself was tasty but the lentils weren’t adding a lot of value.
We also tried to order the fig tarte tatin with honey and vanilla ice cream ($10) but they were sold out. All other desserts were available.
In the end
We were excited about My Mexican Cousin. Unfortunately while the food was fine, it was a little underwhelming. Maybe our expectations were too high but on the whole the food was just missing something in the flavour and size departments. I saw on twitter yesterday that they’re looking at introducing a new menu, hopefully with time the food will be as exciting as the idea.