Panda Peeks – La Mexicana
It is said that a recipe in itself has no soul, and it is the chef who brings the soul to the dish. This rings especially true in La Mexicana, an authentic Mexican restaurant serving up quintessential, traditional dishes crafted with heart and soul by Chef Carmela. A well decorated chef, Chef Carmela is equipped with an in-depth knowledge of Mexican cuisine and has a passion for food and entertainment.
This combination has given her the opportunity to be the unofficial ambassador for Mexican cuisine in Malaysia, and has had the chance to cook in events including the UNESCO representative dinner at the Mexican Embassy and the launch of Patron Tequila. Her husband Stephen, who is front-of-house, was lovely enough to show us around and have a chat with us about La Mexicana.
Beautifully decorated, La Mexicana had a lovely quirk to it: from its brightly coloured walls to the hand-woven tapestry hanging from the ceiling to the charms that decorated the walls and pillars, it was easy to fall in love with a place with so much culture like this. Stephen mentioned that all the decorations including the lighting and furniture were picked out by Chef Carmela and brought back from Mexico to really give La Mexicana that authentic feel. We were already impressed with the decor, and couldn’t wait to try the food!
We were first served some yummy quintessential Mexican drinks. Agua De Jamaica is made with roselle flowers and has a nice, sweet, almost berry-like flavour to it. Agua De Limon Con Chia is a sweetened lemon juice concoction topped with chia seeds: very zesty and very appetizing! Agua De Tamarindo is a tamarind drink that’s typically served throughout Latin America. It would taste as you’d imagine it: sweet, slightly sour with a tangy flavour. Our favorite was the Horchata. This drink is actually made with rice milk that has been sweetened and sprinkled with cinnamon on the top. Very refreshing, delicious, and surprisingly addictive.
To start us off was a plate of nachos and guacamole. These handmade nachos are crisp and lightly salted, and was great with the freshly made guacamole. A classic! Stephen explained that the tortillas they use for their tacos, nachos and other dishes are freshly made in the kitchen itself, using fresh ingredients and grilled over the flame. We were lucky enough to get a chance to see how they’re made!
La Mexicana makes about 400 fresh tortillas a day from scratch. Stephen mentioned that Mexican food relies heavily on great ingredients and flavours, not on extensive preparations. Chef Carmela is very invested in the food that she makes, and actually goes around Mexico and talks to the locals to learn about traditional recipes for her menu.
To say that this dish had us intrigued would be an understatement. “Nopal” Asado Con Queso is essentially a slice of grilled cactus, yes you heard that right, CACTUS! Said slice of grilled cactus is served with panela cheese (which they also make in-house) atop some Salsa Verde. The texture of the cactus was reminiscent of aloe vera: kinda chewy with a slightly slimy sap, and it had a really delightfully green taste that went perfectly with the smooth, fresh panela cheese and tangy Salsa Verde sauce. Stephen said that it was a dish that either customers loved or hated, but this was something that my team and I all quite enjoyed. Definitely an interesting dish worth trying at least once in your life!
These lightly toasted tacos are stuffed with chicken shreds cooked in an almond nut and Morita chili pepper sauce. It’s got a really nice savory flavour to it, and the almonds in the sauce lend a delicious creaminess that goes really well with the avocado slice on top. The spicy red salsa served on the side had a yummy smokey taste to it which went really well with this dish, and totally pleased the Malaysian in us by appealing to our spice-loving tastebuds.
The next dish was tacos stuffed with pork slices cooked in a traditional mix of Mexican herbs and spices, topped with sweet pineapple, onions and served with Salsa Verde on the side. This dish was full of robust flavours that complimented each other beautifully. The pineapple really added something a little extra to the dish, and the Salsa Verde really brought it all together.
Mmm, look at that delicious piece of meat! This fillet steak is marinated with a mix of spices as well as some orange juice and honey to really give it a tender texture and just a hint of sweetness. It was served on top of tortillas and a mix of chili chipotle and tomatillo verdes with freshly sliced tomatoes and avocadoes on the side. Yum, oh yum! The steak was cooked till medium and was still tender, juicy and perfectly pink in the middle. The sauce that came with this dish was deliciously savory and went great with the steak. This one’s more luxurious and is great for those with hearty appetites.
Last but certainly not least is this plate of “Pescado Sarandeado”. The star of this plate is a piece of red snapper fillet that’s been marinated Mexican style in a sauce before being char grilled to perfection. The succulent, flakey wonder was served with guacamole, rice with sweetcorn, salsa verde and of course, some fresh tortillas on the side. This dish was a hit with the team and even made me, an avid fish avoider, go back for seconds and thirds!
La Mexicana was a place where I really fell in love with Mexican food. Chef Carmela and Stephen have really done well with not only their food, but their attention to detail in the decor as well to keep the passion and love for Mexican cuisine alive. The authentic, traditional flavours that burst with rich culinary culture every time I took a bite will definitely keep me coming back for more!
Address: 241-B Lorong Nibong off Jalan Ampang, 50450 Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: Tues-Fri 12pm – 3pm & 5pm – 11pm; Sat-Sun 12pm – 11pm
Click here to order online.
Sydney is a thoroughbred foodie, who loves researching recipes and experimenting with flavours. In her free time, she is either writing about food or beauty or she’s out seeing the world!