The original Touche Hombre in Australia transports the Latino street culture of LA to a Melbourne shophouse brimming with ‘80s pop-culture references: neon signs, West Coast hip-hop, arcade games. Compared to its streetwise sister, this follow-up feels almost like fine dining.
While the two story, semi-alfresco Mexican restaurant swaps the usual gaudily painted walls, sombreros and pinatas for black-and-white collages, maroon banquettes and a pinball machine, the food lays to bed any fears about legitimacy. Chilis and other fancy ingredients are flown in from Mexico, but it’s the house-made tortillas that almost steal the show, whether wheat or corn, soft or hard shell.
The tacos (from B225/2 pieces) don’t only stand out for the perfectly soft corn tortillas but also fillings that go beyond carnitas and refried beans to the likes of octopus and chorizo (B325), and roast duck and seared foie gras (B350). The latter is a delicious coming together of textures and flavors, elevated by a touch of orange and rich mole (a thick, chocolate-tinged sauce).
Seafood dishes tend to let the fresh produce speak for itself, as in the the tuna tostada (B310/3 pieces), a powerful hit of semi-raw fish, avocado, mango and a vicious habanero salsa atop a crisp, fried corn tortilla. Heck, even glorified grilled corn on the cob (elotes callejeros, B150) comes coated in the mind-blowing salty-sharpness of cotija (a dry Mexican cheese not unlike feta).
Desserts play around with the familiar, such as the tres leches (“three milk cake,” B195), whose cinnamon-dusted horchata ice cream disguises the slight dryness of the cake.
Claiming to stock Thailand’s largest collection of agave spirits, the bar’s tequila and mezcal cocktails often mirror the complexity of the food. A twist on the Manhattan, La Condesa (B295) is a spirit-forward mix of mezcal with oak barrel-aged tequila, Mancino vermouth, Cynar artichoke liqueur and grenadine that goes down far too easily.
Thanks to its slick, cocktail-bar atmosphere, refined food and the best views in 72 Courtyard, Touche Hombre is hipster appropriation done right.