Mamasita´s Cantina, Hong Kong: Walls come tumbling down


  27.02.17    Hong Kong


Take your pick from pearls including ´man-baby´, ´short-fingered vulgarian´or my favourite (from a US state senator no less) of ´fascist, loofa-faced, shit-gibbon´ because there are no shortage of ways to describe the current inhabitant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, D.C.

His farcical alleged construction of a ´great wall´between Mexico and the US has already seen real ramifications for the millions of hard working Latin Americans who have risked everything for the chance of a better life up north. Many of them, of course, work directly or indirectly in food, picking the oranges, tomatoes and more in low-paid, backbreaking jobs that most Americans would never touch in a million years. They also underpin literally hundreds of thousands of restaurants across the country, as the sage Tony Bourdain explained to Eater:

“I walked into restaurants and always, the person who had been there the longest, who took the time to show me how it was done, was always Mexican or Central American. The backbone of the industry – meaning most of the people in my experience cooking, preparing your food.”

So aside from the massive cultural and economic enrichment that these people already offer the United States, they also provide and inspire much of the country´s very best food.

All of which serves as a vaguely tangental intro to a Mexican chef in Hong Kong who is leading by example and showing exactly what joys the simple cuisine of his home country – and that of the wider Latin American region – can bring.

The location in question is Lyndhurst Terrace, luckily now the former home of you-know-who. If you can get past the name which slightly jars, Mamasita´s Cantina, then you have some incredibly tasty food from a born and bred native of Mexico City, Chef Edgar Navarro.  Navarro worked at Moma Restaurant in New York City before stints around the United States and Europe, when he returned to his Mexican roots and landed his first post as Executive Chef at Zi, in Zihuatanejo. He then achieved another milestone in 2014, when he opened his first Mexican restaurant in Whistler B.C Canada, which was nominated as “Best Restaurant” by Vancouver Magazine.

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In Hong Kong he knocks it out the park, as they say. Strangely the one dish not firing on all cylinders was the guacamole ($88). Maybe I was spoilt by time in Tulum in December, maybe it was the white truffle oil which didn´t add much. Still good eating, just not at the level of what was to come:

Mamasita´s Cantina Hong Kong

Thereafter the hits just kept coming. At just $88, the Sol beer battered fish taco are one of those dishes you would cross the city for. Take that creamy avocado, crunchy red onion and cabbage, jicama, habañero mayo and pile it on on a genuine flour tortilla made with Mexican corn dough and you have, for my money, the best tortilla or taco in Hong Kong. Maybe Chino have added new numbers since my last visit, but this bad boy tops them all;

Mamasita´s Cantina Hong Kong

Did someone say Pork Carnitas? At $78? The pork is cooked confit so it´s incredibly soft under coriander, onion, radish, pineapple jam and sparky green tomatillo sauce. ´Tremendous´, as Trump probably wouldn´t say. He´s a man, incidentally, who likes his steak served well done – with ketchup. Words fail me.

Mamasita´s Cantina Hong Kong

Token veg made an appearance in the form of corn esquites ($78) slathered in mayo, chilli, lime juice and cotija cheese;

Mamasita´s Cantina Hong Kong

Beef cheek sope was crafted from slow-cooked adobo beef cheek served with black bean puree, more cotija cheese, sour cream, and Chili de Arbol salsa in a crispy corn tart ($88). Try saying that and not smiling. I double dare you.

Mamasita´s Cantina Hong Kong

By now royally-replete, the flag was almost waved until the arrival of the free range chicken with a sensational mojo cubano, that intoxicating Cuban mix of garlic, lime juice, olive oil, seasoning and cumin.

Mamasita´s Cantina Hong Kong

Such was the triumph of lunch, my main hombre (a good one, not a bad one, and generous provider of these photos) headed back there sharpish with his better half for dinner, proclaiming it just as good if not better than lunch. He won´t be the only one returning sooner rather than later.