Friday, July 25, 2014

United Latino Cocina, Adelaide (SA) by Big Fil

Hmm.  I always seem to be very much in two minds about food in Adelaide.  It's somewhere I lived for nearly 30 years and that I visit at least twice a year, so I have had the chance to see the food scene develop here.  My own view is that until maybe 2 or 3 years ago it was very much in the doldrums, particularly in the low and mid-range end which I usually frequented as an impoverished student or funds restricted visitor.  Recently though it has made a definite resurgence, and is much improved both in range and quality.  One example of this resurgence is United Latino Cocina, a nice newish Mexican restaurant which demonstrates that there is more to Mexican food than crisp shelled tacos and soggy burritos.

Located down a side alley on the southern side of the mall, United Latino is a sister restaurant for Lucky Lupitas.  It's a bit of a bold statement having dined at each once only, but of the two I thought the food was better here. 

Amongst the smaller dishes Hungry Pete was impressed with the Elote, grilled corn with chipotle mayonesa, lime and dry cheese.  If all you have tried before is the usual grilled corn with salt or butter it's likely to be a bit of a revelation but I thought it was ok rather than great, and could have used a more powerful punch in the flavours.

Similarly I liked both of the tacos we ordered, without being overwhelmed.  To me the better of the two was the carne asada, a soft corn tortilla filled with grilled beef, onion, guajillo puree, lettuce, cabbage slaw, crema and salsa verde.  Generously filled with nice tasty tender beef and salad, in what seems an unusual criticism if anything the filling was too generous and would have been better spread over a second taco.  Having quite so much filling made it a bit messy and difficult to eat.

Same issue with the fish taco.  Once you combine a generous serving of snapper, pineapple salsa, mayonnaise, slaw and shredded lettuce it became too large to comfortably eat wrapped up in a tortilla, and resulted in a case of excess liquid which if you weren't careful would just run down your arm.  I mean it's definitely good quality but it could have used a second tortilla, or next time I'd try to eat some of the filling before wrapping it all up.

Where I thought the food shone though was in the mains.  The Arroz con Pollo, a chicken thigh with cumin, black beans, rice, some salad and lemon yoghurt was beautifully cooked, and for me was better off from having used the thigh meat rather than the breast (the thigh has a stronger, more robust flavor than the breast which I prefer).  The cumin was used generously without being overpowering, the rice was light and delicate.  The pineapple and tomato adds a zing which lightens up what could otherwise be a heavily flavoured dish.  Generous in proportion as well.

My favourite though was the Costilla de Res Ahumada, a smoked and slow cooked beef rib with rice, pepper slaw and chipotle bbq sauce.  To me the best cuts of meat are those still on the bone and when you slow cook it you end up with a ridiculously tender, delicious piece of meat.  When dividing the rib for sharing with Hungry Pete it wasn't necessary to cut the meat with the knife, which was used to simply hold everything in place while I used the fork to pull the meat off the bone.  Without a doubt the dish of the day and what I would immediately order on a return visit.

Combining some good to very good food with a minimalist industrialist fit out and respectable service, it's no wonder that United Latino Cocina is popular with the lunchtime city crowd.  Arriving for a late lunch we were in fact lucky to grab a seat at the communal table, and it was only around 2 that other tables started to become more freely available.  Given the pricing it's starting to edge up more to the mid-range than cheap eats end of the market, but definitely a good and interesting addition to the Adelaide dining scene.

Food - 8
Ambience - 7.5
Service - 7
Price - 7

14-16 Francis Street
Adelaide SA 5000
Tel: (08) 8232 0674

United Latino Cocina on Urbanspoon

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