Mexican has hit Joburg in a big way. David Smale, owner of Baha Taco together with his wife, opened the restaurant in 2015. A former restaurateur who has lived in California, he hopes it’s more than just a craze, “I’ve loved Mexican food for more than 20 years and understand its providence.” Smale is a strong believer in product purity and using the best quality local, organic produce. Tortillas are hand pressed using non GM corn using stone ground flour.

Christina Jakoby, a partner in Perron says, “Living in London and New York, we fell in love with the amazing burrito joints, taquerias, Mexican food trucks, tequila bars… the taste explosions, the more-ishness of it all. The communal eating experience —-sharing tables and tapas, food and life  are indelibly intertwined.” 

Mexican food is about a lot more than just Tex Mex and nachos dripping with melted cheese. It’s also, despite perceptions, a healthy cuisine with many vegetarian options. And, it’s never a dull eating experience.

Smale says, “There’s a freshness and a vibrancy— chilli, lime, lemon, coriander and smoky notes all with their own nuances.” There’s the play off between the creaminess of the cheese, acidity of  lemon, heat of the chilli, crunch of the taco and the tenderness of the beef. Jakoby adds,  “We use many imported chillies for complexity of flavour and pay sufficient homage to the integrity of the ingredients by not stifling them with too much cheese and grease.”

However, is the Mexican food offered here the real deal or are many just jumping on the trend bandwagon? Smale, who is an expert in the unique techniques used to prepare this fare, says, “Perhaps certain genuine Mexican food is too authentic for some… I offer a bit of  what’s expected to keep customers happy but it’s a very complex food when done properly.”

Perron is as authentic as they are able to be without  certain cheeses and other ingredients which are expensive to import.  Jakoby explains, “We also use cumin in our food —more a Tex-Mex addition. We’re constantly inventing new dishes. On Taco Tuesdays we play around with inspired cuisine combinations.”

Jakoby believes that there’ll always be space for a fast food burrito joints and Mexican food trucks. “It’s a niche market and needs to be handled authentically to have legs,” she says.  However, a stereotypical gimmicky Mexican restaurant may not have much longevity in a society continually looking for new experiences and cultures to explore.“Hopefully now that there’s much excitement about Mexican food we can raise the game even more,” concludes Smale.


RESTAURANT RUNDOWN

HOT

Baha Taco
Very authentic cantina. All meat is free range and hormone-free. The fish tacos and seafood chowder fantastically flavoured.

Margarita Rating: ***** also La Leone tequila distilled locally

Norwood, 076 694 7400


Perron
Party vibes. Large portions. Thompadre— chargrilled strips of steak with chipotle and the chargrilled corn on the cob were highlights. Decadent churros, a Mexican donut. 

Margarita rating: ***** tangerine ginger margarita

Cnr Oxford and Corlett Drive, Illovo,011 880 7296
Hobart Centre, Bryanston 011 706 7841


MEDIUM

Sushi Burrito & Co
Mexican Japanese Asian mash-up. The most Mexican-like dish is the tostados which are crispy taco shells topped with sashimi or yakitori chicken.

Margarita rating: ***

10 Crescent Drive, Melrose Arch,  064 928 1031 


Mama Mexicana
Straight up traditional Mexican fare in a hip spot. The  chilli poppers, enchilada chicken, stuffed peppers and beef chimichanga were winners.

Margarita rating: *****  The mango is heavenly and delicious. Try the Mexican beer too.

264 Fox Street, Maboneng Precinct, 011 334 1982 


MILD

Mexican Fresh
Casual Tex Mex diner. Fresh and generous portions but the chilli con carne lacked flavour. Bar One burrito was heavenly.

Margarita rating: ***

Cnr Conrad Drive and Hillcrest Ave, Blairgowrie, 11 326 2276, four other branches


Salsa Mexican Grill
A basic build-your-own menu set on the festive Parkhurst strip. Bland chicken tacos. It had just opened so perhaps it’s improved now.

Margarita rating : ***

38 4th Avenue, Parkhurst, 011 027 2572, other branches

Cafe Mexicho
A pleasant Melville landmark offering Mexican food for gringos—the quesadilla sincronizada is a firm favourite. Big portions and good value for money.

Margarita rating: * bland and not enough alcohol


La Rosa Mexican Grill and Taqueria
Edible modern Mexican with all the favourites—burritos, enchiladas, fajitas and more. Service not great.

Margarita rating *** Pineapple coconut margarita

Honeydew Village Centre, Roodepoort, 011 675 2544

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