What’s your idea of Mexican cuisine?
Are you thinking burritos, chimichangas, chili con carne, fajitas and nachos? If you are, you’re in for a revelation because these dishes aren’t exactly Mexican. They’re American. Specifically, Southwestern US, or Tex-Mex cuisine. It’s a fusion of sorts between Southern cooking and some Mexican ingredients, and is defined by its heavy use of shredded cheese, meats, beans, spices and tortillas (see how it all comes together to create nachos and burritos as you know it?). However, Tex-Mex cuisine is often abbreviated as “Mexican”, probably due in part to typical American ignorance and widespread American pop culture fueling the stereotype.
So, how did Australia, and Australian-based taqueria, Guzman y Gomez, come into the equation? One word: trend. “Mexican” has become popular down under, some say, spurred on by Americans living in Australia.
Like Australian fast-food chain, Charlie & Co. – named in honor of Charlie Nagreen, one of the many American claimants to the title of inventor of the hamburger – Guzman y Gomez (“y” means “and” in Spanish, and is pronounced a short “e’) is named after the people who allegedly introduced “Mexican food” and “Latin culture” to Australia. The taqueria has expanded into a nationwide chain, with branches spanning mainland Australia and centred around the states of New South Wales and Queensland…erm…I meant, Sydney and Brisbane. Answering the call of the Australian government(s) to embrace “the Asia century”, Guzman y Gomez has joined Cotton On, Factorie, Lend Lease Group, Charlie & Co. Lucha Loco amongst many others in their march into the Far East.
I was advised by Darren that as part of its official opening, Guzman y Gomez (GYG) would be giving out free burritos for free at is inaugural store at Asia Square. I’m not a fervent believer in the Singaporean kiasu mentality, but I just couldn’t resist a free lunch, and Mexican or not, I was dying for, at the very least, a halfway decent burrito. Maybe I’m just not looking in the right places, but it’s so difficult to find a good taco and burrito in Singapore. You know, the Tex-Mex style ones with nachos, shredded meat, shredded tomatoes, and loads of cheese? I’ve had authentic (allegedly, back when I was still working in the media, I was persuaded by the media public relations host that Singapore’s Mexican expatriate population swears by Senor Taco…don’t know if that’s bulls**t) Mexican Mexican at Senor Taco, and while I enjoyed that, there’s something very alluring about the Tex-Mex style shredded and melted cheeses that’s so simple, comforting and sinful.
As GYG is located in the rather posh Asia Square food court (it’s posh if most of your fellow stalls are “fast food” offshoots of top middle-ranged restaurants like Ippudo, Soup Stock Tokyo and Imperial Treasure), the menu’s a lot more condensed than what the website displays. Fortunately, the pricing is also simplified. And that means, regardless of your filling, be it a Chicken Guerrero, Grilled Steak, Barramundi or Pulled Pork, it’s the same price – you pay less for a mini, same for a burrito bowl (which is essentially an unwrapped burrito), more if you want to add guacamole, or switch to brown rice (not available yet). I went for the regular Spicy Chicken burrito which would typically cost SGD 10.90 (SGD 7.90 for the mini), and in the spirit of it all, ordered a Jarritos Orange, which is the Mexican equivalent of Fanta.
In all honesty, I liked it, and would gladly come back if I’m in the area. The spices and flavors were very distinct and pronounced, ingredients fresh, and the Jarritos Orange went well against the fire of the spicy chicken. Undoubtedly, it’s a one-stop balanced solution, and understandably carbohydrate heavy, and for that reason, I could see why GYG targeted a CBD opening. Just a nitpick, but my biggest problem with the burrito was that there was far too much rice for my liking, not that it was proportioned badly, but I don’t want to have rice at all in my burrito – the tortilla will suffice. I just don’t need that much carbohydrate.
BTW, kudos to the GYG team who rushed out burritos on order with such gusto, and to those who kept the queue interactive and engaging. It was a flawless debut, although I cannot say the same for other restaurants like Tim Ho Wan and Jamie’s Italian which stumbled not only on the first day, but for several weeks.