Every now and then we attend an event so dazzling we are knocked off our feet. And, on this occasion, it took us a little while to come back to earth. This post is well overdue, and we thank you for your patience.
Richard Ampudia’s time at Touché Hombre was short and fiery, but it most definitely deserves a mention – if only to make our foodie followers as green with envy as a pineapple juice and coriander-infused shot of verdita.
Heading to Melbourne to showcase his all-round brilliance, Touché Hombre’s gritty next- door dining room (concrete floors, shimmering candlelight illuminating graffitied walls) provided a suitable ‘street’ backdrop to Richard’s cooking – now, these are some bold flavours with no unnecessary fussiness.
On the night we visited, during the infamous Melbourne heatwave, it was sweltering hot. But I guess this added to the authentic feel. It did, however, mean we knocked back a few too many refreshing jam jars of beery Bloody Marys.
So, the food:
Guacamole – toasted pepitas, pomegranate, queso fresco. Fresh and lively, the pepitas added a lovely bite, the pomegranate a lovely pop of juice.
Almejas al natural – Cloudy Bay clams done two ways – these zesty, chilli toppings didn’t mask the delicate seafood-ness of the clams and were so good I reckon I could say goodbye to oysters for good.
Atun chinaloa – yellowfin tuna, peanuts, orange zest. This might be the one dish that didn’t quite reach the highs that the others managed to achieve. The generous serve of tuna was just a little lost amid the others ingredients, and that might be a texture thing as much as a balance of flavours thing.
Tostados de aguachile – prawn, chipotle aioli, aguachile. Oh my, take heed please Melbourne’s other Mexican eateries – this is how to do a tostados, and I could say the same thing about the following taco dish, too.
Tacos campechanos de puerco – pork belly, pineapple habanero salsa. Fresh and tasty tacos with chunks of pork and a great zing of pineapple.
Mejillones al chipotle – Bar Bruno’s mussels, chipotle, cilantro, Spanish chorizo. Ok, we are starting to get really hot and sweaty by this point and the meaty mussels combined with the spicy chorizo have sexily dabbing at our foreheads with napkins. (It wasn’t sexy by the way, it was actually a bit embarrassing.) We run to the toilets (about 15 degrees cooler) and regroup before moving onto the mother of all courses.
Tacos de rib eye – grilled rib-eye, haloumi, cactus, bull fighter chillies. So huge and hearty, serving it on a think wooden board is the only answer. Beautifully cooked meat and succulent chunks of cactus were assembled at the table and garnished with a choice of four salsas. I wish I could remember the names of them, but I do know the green one was especially good.
Crema cocida – Mexican panna cotta, poached pineapple, star anise. I worry when I see this kind of fusion stuff going on, but the flavours all worked brilliantly in this Italian cooked cream – I think there should be more star anise in cooking in general. There, I’ve said it.
And so it came to an end, and we stumbled out into the balmy night to nurse our Mexican food babies on the tram home.
Richard’s visit coincided with the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, but was an independent venture that could easily rival the program of events – it’s sheer inventiveness, multi-course deliciousness, drink-matching, opportunity to talk to the chef and atmospheric setting really set it apart from the rest of the pack.
Don’t be sad – you might have missed Mr Ampudia – but any restaurant that prides itself on pitting Melbourne street culture against Mexican taco culture is worth checking out and, since opening in March 2012, Touché Hombre has consistently won us over with their vibrant menu and communal dining vibe. We also love the rooster-decorated jugs. And with plans to expand into the next-door dining room for private functions, there will soon be even more space for street food.
corner of Tattersalls Lane and Lonsdale Street (03) 9663 0811