Sunday, December 5, 2010

Los Latinos, Maidstone by Big Fil

Los Latinos is a fairly non-descript looking Latin American café/restaurant located in Maidstone. Recently reviewed by The Age, it was Ironman's venue of choice to celebrate his birthday and a chance to try and explore what is generally a large whole in Melbourne culinary offerings - food from South and Central America.

The menu is limited to around ten entrees and mains, with a maximum of one or two from a particular Latin American country. It also includes a number of South American drinks, including Inca Kola which I'd heard of but never seen before. Originating in Peru (even if my can was imported from New Jersey), apparently it's more popular there than either Coca-Cola or Pepsi. Inca Kola doesn't actually taste like any cola I've had before. Certainly very different to coke, to me it was closer in flavour to a creamy soda. Pleasant but a bit sweeter than I like my soft drinks.

When it came to entrees Ms Counting her Calories was particularly keen to try the pupusas. These are comprised of a thick corn tortilla filled with cheese, chicken, pork or beans. I think the general consensus view was that the beans were the best of the four but to me the best part was the tortilla rather than the fillings. Slightly chewy and flavoursome, it's like an antidote to all the texture and tasteless white processed bread available from supermarkets and chain bakeries.

I also ordered the Arepas de Masorca as an entrée for everyone to share. These were similar to the pupusas but smaller with cheese, grilled chirizo and sour cream served on top rather than within the arepa. These were the popular dish of the day, an earthy corn flavour combined with a delicious chirizo. Spicy but not hot, I suspect the chirizo was homemade.

For mains both Ironman and I went for the Carne Asada ala Guanaco. This comprised a soft shell tortilla with a thin, chargrilled scotch fillet, chorizo, refried beans, cheese sauce and a touch of salad. While the serve could have been a little larger the fillet was soft and I think we'd both consider ordering it again.

Snooze went for the Tacos de Carne, soft tortilla with steak, chirrimol, guacamole, salsa roja and chipotle. The meat was tender and flavoursome (not bad really) but I think I probably preferred the Carne Asala ala Guanaco.

Ms Counting her Calories went for the other dish I was considering ordering, the Pastel de Choclo, a Chilean hot pot with chicken and beef mince, boiled egg and topped with yellow cream corn. When it came out someone commented (Snooze or Ms Calories I think) that it looked like Sheppard's Pie. I think I liked this least of the mains finding it a bit too sweet.

Finally, Ms L went for the Complete Chileno, a poached salchicha (sausage) in a hot dog bun with guacamole, mustard, mayonnaise and tomato sauce. While I didn't try this it looked like a large, tasty hot dog.

I found the food at Los Latinos good but not spectacularly so. It is more along the lines of what I could imagine being served at a local street eatery or casual birthday party rather than a mid or up market restaurant, comforting and tasty rather than ground breaking and exciting.

While the food comes out a little slowly and the décor is pretty basic the service is very helpful and friendly and the prices reasonable. Another place I would visit regularly if near me as it's everyday sort of food but given the travel time to get there it will probably be a while before I return, and then I'd time it to visit the South American bakery next door.

Food - 7.5
Ambience - 6.5
Service - 6.5
Price - 7

128 Mitchell St
Maidstone VIC 3012
Tel: (03) 9318 5289

Los Latinos on Urbanspoon

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