By Trevor Pepys
Trevor Pepys reviews The Mexican Joint
Having spent far too much time in California and not nearly enough in Mexico, Trevor is always in a quandary about what to make of our western world interpretations of the cuisine of this amazing country.
California, which used to be part of Mexico, started the rot when its obsession with consumerism turned the humble but often excellent street food staple of the tortilla into yet another bland fast food to munch between rides at Disneyland or Magic Mountain. Trev well remembers from early trips the difference between a taco in San Diego and a tortilla in Tijuana.
Of course, good Mex has survived in the barrios of East LA or in diners in San Clemente, but it’s not quite the same as a crab quesadilla at Bistro del Mar on the beach in Zihuatanejo, or a sunset supper in one of the excellent rooftop cantinas of Oaxaca City. The situation is similar here, in that we have many establishments throwing a bucket of melted cheese over a packed of processed corn chips and calling it Mexican, and a few who actually get it, and strive to at least marry the traditional flavours with the blandness we have come to expect.
In Noosa, after years of the cheese bucket, we are finally getting somewhere, with the established The Mexican Joint in Thomas Street and a couple of newer ones developing strong followings, which Trev will get to in the fullness of time. But first, The Joint.
We could have picked a better night. Trev, the missus and the Northern Beaches lockdown refugee had barely sat down and ordered a round of classic margaritas ($16) to be going on with when the thunder cracked and the heavens opened. While part of the Mex Joint’s charm is its funky, down-home street frontage, in a downpour it becomes part of the problem. Host Cameron was somewhat distracted while tables were rearranged and soggy corn chips replaced, but he kept his cool and his charm, and as if by magic, Trev’s table remained a dry island of tranquillity, celebrated with another round of margies while we ordered.
A shared platter of corn chips with a trio of tasty dips ($15) kept the wolf from the door while we selected some share plates from the small but interesting menu. The refugee chose a couple of tacos ($8), prawn with chipotle sauce, red cabbage slaw and grilled corn, and chicken achiote. The missus opted for the chicken quesadilla ($16) while Trev chose a chilli con carne ($16), requesting added spice so that the womenfolk would leave most of it for him. There is an art to sharing, and Trev is all over it.
To wash it all down, the house pinot gris ($37) more or less selected itself, and proved to be a perfectly acceptable Villa Maria from an unnamed part of New Zealand which is not Otago.
The rain eased to a pleasantly heavy drizzle, Trev’s table remained dry and Cameron started telling jokes. Now we were having fun, and the food offerings matched the mood. Prawn taco, excellent, chicken taco, not so much. Quesadilla very tasty but a little too cheesy for Trev’s taste. Chilli con carne, steaming hot, extra spicy and excellent.
Nothing to write home about, but we didn’t order with that expectation.The verdict: Eating Mexican should be about having fun with family and friends, and that’s delivered here in spades, regardless of the weather. The price and the vibe is right, and Cam and his kitchen staff are striving for a level of authenticity that is admirable. Trevor will return!