Los Amates Mexican Kitchen - Packs a punch for your peso

Los Amates Mexican Kitchen - 34 Johnston St, Fitzroy.

Possibly one of the happiest moments of my solid food eating life was after I'd finished losing weight (to run the Melbourne (half) Marathon) and started carb loading. It was a Friday night, we'd just flown from Adelaide to Melbourne and we were meeting friends for dinner. Not just any dinner though, the biggest, carb-heavy dinner I could imagine.

We settled on Los Amates for a couple of reasons; it has an extensive vegan-friendly menu (at least 2 choices in each menu category) and it is listed as one of the top five Mexican Culinary Embassies in the world. Basically, in 2012, Mexican magazine 'Buena Mesa' conducted a survey to find the best Mexican eating experiences across the globe - this is one of them.

Los Amates - Fitzroy,  Melbourne
Look up through the power lines and construction to see the overhanging sign.

We walked to the restaurant and turning down Johnston St, you immediately feel a change in the environment, it's like being transported to the back streets of Spain, or just a less affluent part of Melbourne, as the case may be. Entering the restaurant is like entering most Mexican restaurants, if there's some Mexican paraphernalia that can be adhered to any surface or perched on a shelf, it's there. We followed the host, weaving between tables and through three small dining rooms until we got to the back of the restaurant which is more like a lean-to addition with occasional furniture but still in keeping with the theme.

Los Amates - Fitzroy,  Melbourne

At this point, I'm going to rave about our server and I promise I won't harp on about her for long. She is Spanish, super smiley and knowledgable. She knows the menu inside out and is more than forthcoming with recommendations. When I let her know I'm vegan, she was all over it like an Asian student on a maths exam and the recommendations flowed. She held conversation with us for long enough that she became part of our dining experience but didn't overstay her welcome or interrupt our conversation. We dine out a lot and I'd give her ten out of ten for service - faultless!

First up, we ordered Guacamole con totopos (large because I'm carb loading, remember?). We shared it between two of us and we love to scoop up all the dip on each corn chip so we ran out of guac but were happy to munch on the remaining corn chips. The guac was chunky and had a nice spice to it without being overpowering, I would've liked the corn chips to be warm and perhaps something other than store bought but for $12.50, I was happy with it.

Los Amates, Fitzroy - Guacamole con totopos
Guacamole con totopos

Next up, following our waitstaff's recommendation, we ordered the vegan Street food platter for two ($25 p/guest, minimum 2 guests). The chef had run out of quesadillas fritas but they were replaced by another two soft tacos with a different filling to the two already included. For the first time, I've been able to identify each item on my plate in a Mexican restaurant. When I've eaten at Mexican places in Adelaide, all I seem to see coming out of the kitchen is refried beans with an unidentified meat, topped with cheese on a bed of rice. This place is totally different.

The soft tacos (front, right of the pic) were filled with a chunky, spicy jalapeno mix and the tacos themselves were amazingly fresh - I'm pretty sure they're made in-house! The taquitos dorados (front left of the pic) were crispy on the outside and filled with refried beans on the inside - it sounds bland and a bit yuk but they were pretty good. The addition of lettuce and a small side salad added a much needed freshness to the plate. The sopes were probably the item that let the plate down. The base was a little too doughy and the filling lacked flavour but was still quite spicy, the salsa and salsa verde didn't contribute much to the flavour. The grilled corn was sweet and juicy, it was cooked to perfection and I could've easily gone the whole cob had it been served.

Los Amates, Fitzroy - Street food platter (vegan)
Street food platter (vegan)

The five other people I dined with ordered three or four jugs of lime margaritas (stirred) while I sat on water. As expected, there's an extensive list of Mexican beers and tequilas in addition to a mediocre wine list.

Reading other review sites, the main complaint is about the food not being as good as you can get in Mexico and the prices being too high for what it is. I haven't been to Mexico so I can't comment on the flavour but I'd remind anyone who decides to dine here that you're in Melbourne, not Mexico and between six of us, we paid $360 + $30 tip for a great night with sensational service and good food.

Ambiance:  4/5 - Stereotypical Mexican restaurant. Next time, I'll request a table in the main dining room
Service:  5/5 - I couldn't fault it.
Food: 7/10 - It was good but not great - the non-vegans were more wowed than I was though.

In total. Tom gives Los Amates 16/20 chops on The Chopping Board.

Los Amates on Urbanspoon

2 comments:

  1. Sounds lovely, will have to check it out next time i'm down that way. Just wondering, why are you paying a tip? These people earn a decent minimum wage.

    - AnonymousGlen

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    Replies
    1. Hi AnonymousGlen, Thanks for your comment, definitely check it out next time you're down that way, I doubt you'll regret it!

      We often leave a tip when the food exceeds our expectations and the wait staff go above and beyond. Of course, that's all subjective but I believe the staff are paid to do their job, when they go beyond that, I think it's nice to reward it and therefore, encourage it.

      Cheers,
      Tom

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