La Monita Urban Cantina

This sleek new mall branch of the much-loved Mexican joint aims to elevate people's expectations of the cuisine.

Average: 3 (1 vote)
This sleek new mall branch of the much-loved Mexican joint La Monita Taqueria goes well beyond regular Tex-Mex by adding creative and seasonal ingredients to Mexican classics; think braised beef tongue tacos, duck carnitas quesadillas (and guacamole made with pineapple or mango. There’s also a nod to Peruvian-Japanese cuisine (why not?) with the Ceviche Nikkei (yellow fin tuna cured in wasabi-soy leche de tigre). There's also a well-stocked bar serving Mexican cocktails like margarita as well as other modern classics.

We love the original La Monita, which opened in Mahatun Plaza in 2009. With bench seating, food dumped into plastic baskets lined in brown paper and rough-around-the-edges service, it evokes a thickset auntie that lets her cooking do the talking. And what cooking! La Monita singlehandedly and forever raised the bar for Mexican food in Bangkok.

Now, that auntie has a sister, La Monita Urban Cantina. She hangs out at EmQuartier’s Helix, a mall that’s all spiralling walkways and vertical gardens; and with her trendy location comes an upgraded menu that sees forays into equally trendy Peruvian options alongside Mexican dishes meant to wane us off the idea the country’s national cuisine is best enjoyed from the side of a food truck.

Moreover, Mall Monita no longer serves such low-brow offerings as super-sized 12” options or jugs of margarita. You’ll have to get sloshed exclusively by the glass (from B290 for an excellent Margarita). It all sounds tres chic except you’re still in an open-space mall-restaurant, overlooking some rather dark buildings and backlots, subject to the occasional playground screams of kids OD’ing on ice cream and rubbing knees with tourists in shorts. Not that fancy after all.

We do approve of Urban Cantina’s new, more sophisticated dishes nonetheless. The Peruvian-Japanese ceviche Nikkei’s yellow fin tuna cured in a wasabi-soy leche de tigre and topped with salmon roe (B340) stands out for its fresh produce and clever balance of bright flavors. The grilled steak salad (B250) is another zingy treat, a winning combination of beef, fresh salsa and queso blanco (white cheese) dressing.

Of course, you could still order that one taco (B145), a 10” steak quesadilla (B390), chilequeso (grilled green guacamole, B180, now also available with mango, B220 or pineapple, B195), or the Chile Fries (Mexican chili and garlic fries with chipotle aoili dip, B155). They’re all bursting with flavor. We just don’t really see the point of having them here. Maybe it’s just that we’ve never experienced a braised beef tongue taco (B165) craving mid-Dior shopping spree. For those of you caught in such a conundrum, you can finally tuck into house-made Longanisa pork sausage (B420) while sipping a delicious, grown-up cocktail without ever leaving the safety of your favorite mall. Corkage B500

This review took place in October 2015 and is based on a visit to the restaurant without the restaurant's knowledge. For more on BK's review policy, click here.

Venue Details
Address: La Monita Urban Cantina, 7/F, The Helix Quartier, Emquartier, Sukhumvit Rd., Bangkok, Thailand
Phone: 02-003- 6238
Area: Phrom Phong
Cuisine: Mexican
Price Range: BB - BBB
Open since: April, 2015
Opening hours: daily 9am-9pm
Parking available
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