Sunday, July 18, 2010

Singapore Taco Bars: A Shootout

A couple of years ago, I gave up on trying to find good Mexican food in Singapore. There were some places that were nearly bearable, but being spoiled by food from back home, I figured it'd be better to just wait until my next run there. Still, a number of taco bars have been popping up around here lately, so I've been giving them a try in the hopes of finding something worthwhile.

Tacos al Pastor and Quesadilla From Señor Taco

The first one I went to was Señor Taco at Clarke Quay Block 3D #01-12. Encouragingly, they used small corn tortillas and even had tacos al pastor rotating away on a spit. I wasn't too happy with the pineapple garnish they used, but it was easy to ignore that when doused with their chipotle sauce and a squeeze of lime, and in the end, it was a lot better than I thought it would be. It might come in handy after a night of heavy drinking out at Clarke Quay, which I'm sure was this shop's intention anyway.

Lengua and Carnitas Tacos from Spruce Taqueria

Then I heard that Spruce, an American restaurant that I'm rather fond of, opened up a taquería little further up the street. This one was much more impressive, with the availability of lengua as well as radish wedges being very good signs. Loaded up with tons of guacamole, they reminded me a bit more of Torchy's Tacos rather than a more minimalist Mexican version. Either way, they were good enough to easily be the best I've had out here so far, even if something about those smooth corn tortillas disturbed me.

Beef Tacos from the Mexican Taco Bar in Singapore

And finally, there was the 24 hour Mexican Taco Bar, occupying a stall at the Kopitiam food court of Plaza by the Park on Bras Basah Road. On paper, this one seemed like it had the most potential, with the website bragging about a Mexican chef with CIA credentials that spent time with the Mexican embassy and even Cafe Iguana down at Riverside Point. But I was totally let down. The flour tortillas alone should have been a big enough clue, but to make it worse, they topped these with sour cream, a huge pet peeve of mine. Ugh.

My verdict? Spruce Taquería by a long margin. And yes, it's good enough that I'd go there proactively without having to wait for a trip back home. The only drawback was that they are only open weekdays from 12-3 PM, which not only means going back to the office with heavy dragon breath, but also eliminating the possibility of going there for a post-drinking snack.


Ernst said...

Nice work - I myself just completed testing out the Singapore taco trio (was hard to get to Spruce on a weekday) and agree with your assessment. There is still little hope for good Mexican food... but the Chili Colorado at Tequila Blue (all the way out in Changi Village) and a few dishes at Viva Mexico is as close as one can currently get in Singapore.

Anonymous said...

Great post Hungryboy :)

With your permission, I will contribute to it with these comments:

Very nice reivews of mexican food in Singapore. Many of our customers have asked that there are not so many options in Singapore, but in fact, there are!

A new one, is Casa Latina, in Waterloo Street, being myself mexican I recommend.

With respect to the pineapple toppings we use in the Tacos al Pastor, is because that's the original way they're served in Mexico.

Many people have not eaten the 100%mexican food, but are more acustomed to tex-mex food, which is equally delicious but different.

Thanks for visiting us.

Senor Taco at Clarke Quay.

Anonymous said...

I quite enjoy Cha Cha Cha at Holland Village (Lor Mambong). But I'm dying to try Casa Latina. Anyways, great posts as usual!

Pete said...

You're spot on as always. I absolutely agree about the dearth of good Mexican places in S'pore. Worse are the so-called "Cuban" places - Nueva Cuba at the Customs House, for e.g., served Tex-Mex with not a single Cuban dish in sight!

Marc said...

I tried Spruce Taqueria today on your recommendation (and the blogosphere hype in general). Unfortunately, I was less than impressed by the grilled snapper taco set that I ordered. The corn tortillas were unheated and totally bland. The salsa had a disconcerting creamy texture (very similar to the guacamole!) and a dense flavor that completely overpowered the grilled fish. IMHO, a good salsa should complement and add complexity to the food. The watermelon-lime agua fresca was watery and warm-ish. Service was typical for Singapore--inefficient and unfriendly. Sadly, it seems there still is no authentic and really tasty Mexican food in Singapore....

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm said...

Torchy's? What??? I'm an Austinite, new to Singapore, and somehow stumbled across your blog. I almost fell out of my chair with your mention of Torchy's, which I consider to be the ultimate, holy grail of taco stands/restaurants.

I'm not expecting anything close to Torchy's outside of Texas, really, but nice to see there are some semi-decent Mexican offerings in Singapore. I'll be here a while, so good to know where to go.