I’m not one to want to slag off restaurants for no reason. I can garner how difficult it must be to get a restaurant off the ground and into high profit margin territory. That said, a restaurant that rides the Mexican trend wave, and is popular based on that, is another issue altogether.
Chingon, or at least my experience of it, teeters dangerously close to falling into this category.
These guys got me offside from the beginning when they told me they were so busy that me and my fellow diners would have to be out of the restaurant by 8pm. Apparently this is standard for a lot of restaurants, but I don’t take kindly to paying for food and then being tossed out like yesterday’s chilli con carne. What’s the point? Might as well make tacos at home.
When we arrived at the Burnley restaurant I felt rushed from the beginning, with a menu shoved in my hand before I’d barely sat myself down. An apparent upside revealed itself at this point: the menu boasted a three-tacos-for-$15 deal. Cheap!
The waiter listed the pork, fish and steak tacos as the best three. For some reason, he pretentiously listed them off in Spanish. The closest anyone gets to Spanish in our dining sextet is Polish, so we didn’t have a clue what he was saying. Once confusion dissipated and we received our tacos, further disappointment ensued. They were TINY, each about the size of a drink coaster. The super cheap 3-for-$15 deal started to make sense. I was still prepared to give these guys the benefit of the doubt, if these tiny morsels of taco were any good.
They weren’t. When a place markets itself as a charming and authentic little Mexican eatery (like so many restaurants in Melbourne are these days) then I want burst-of-flavour-and-texture-combo perfection when I bite into my taco. The fish, steak and pork in these tacos was dry and tasteless, with a bit of cottage cheese as an accompaniment and some generic chilli sauce. Where is the fresh coriander, chilli and lime trifecta that makes Mexican street food so appealing; the tender, flavoursome morsels of meat that my spoilt palate has come to expect from these Mexican cantina establishments? They were nowhere to be found at Chingon.
At 8.55pm, the waiters were casting poorly-hidden, anxious looks in our direction, despite the two empty tables opposite us that still weren’t full as we were abruptly showed the door at our designated departure time. I’ve heard that this restaurant is great – but sorry, Chingon fans, the arrogant service and the necessary Quarter Pounder following this dining experience sealed its fate in my books.