Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Senoritas - 180 About Face (40 Days and 40 Nights)

It is strange thinking that it has been 40 days and 40 nights since I made a post on this blog. I re-read some of my previous posts and wondered why I was writing about some of the boring experiences as if they were putting me to sleep, I can imagine the public not being too bothered. I vowed to myself that if I started posting again, as I was a bit turned off of dining out in general after a run of bad experiences, that I would actually write about the negative - a theme that I have shied away from in the recent past.

How time flies in the world of hospitality. Before I write my thoughts on my recent trip to Senoritas, here is a wrap-up of what you may have missed:
  • Giuseppe, Arnaldo & Sons, the Italian restaurant in Crown that a few years ago actually had an Age Good Food Guide chefs hat closed a few weeks ago. I ate in there once and thought the service was generally bad and the food was poor. In the spirit of not speaking ill of the dead, I will just say that this place will not be missed and I hope that it is transformed into something that will do Crown justice,
  • Mercy Bar & Eatery, which is what Virginia Plain morphed into two months ago also shut its doors. This is a shame as I was a fan of Andy Harmer's work along with Mat Bayer's humour and general outlook on service. I am sure they will pop up again somewhere soon as Melbourne needs these blokes active in the industry,
  • YAR, the Korean/Japanese confused restaurant at Freshwater Place on the Southbank Promenade closed. No big loss as the food was dull. It is currently being renovated and TGI Fridays will be opening in its place soon.
  • Meat and Wine Co. also at Freshwater Place on Southbank Promenade, undertook a renovation and the place looks much nicer not only from the outside but also the inside. I had lunch there a few weeks ago and I was bemused as they were still renovating the restaurant whilst attempting lunch service. A relaxing lunch turned into a quick one mainly because it took ages for anyone to bring me my first Kosciuszko pale ale, but also its replacement. They did apologise for shoddy service and claimed the restaurant was poorly staffed at that time. If I wanted to eat at a construction site, I would have walked over to Prima Pearl or even the Grocon Myer site.
  • Alberts Wine Bar at Southgate closed. I spent many relaxing days that turned into nights at this place and am sorry to see it go.
  • Shed 5 at South Wharf closed its doors some time ago. A sign posted on the door states that they plan on relaunching as something else at some point but there hasn't been any sort of activity at the site for months. It really comes as no surprise to me that they shut and if you keep track of my weighted rankings, you will understand why.
Now for Senoritas.

I originally wrote about Senoritas on Meyers Place almost a year ago to the day, so it is fitting that I became motivated to write again after visiting this Mexican place, which I have previously evangelised as the "Best Mexican" in Melbourne and made no secret about this when musing about other Mexican themed restaurants in person or on Twitter. Much like how the hospitality scene can change on a whim, using the above restaurants as an example in a mere forty days, Senoritas has gone from being my favourite to being one of my least liked very quickly.

After seeing the spectacle that is King Kong, the epicurean emo and I presented ourselves at Senoritas without a booking. We were told to sit wherever we wanted so we went straight for the bar. We were then advised to sit anywhere besides the bar, partly because other diners in tables were oddly all seated very close to the bar and sitting on a high stool there would have been in turn awkward for all parties, but the staff was using the bar as a convenient place to temporarily (I hope) store rubbish and cartons. In the past, the bar had been a convenient place to dine mainly because there was effectively no wait for alcoholic beverages.

Without looking at the drinks menu, I ordered a Dos Equis beer and was advised that they do not stock that. Pacifico was offered as an alternative, which I happily ordered. The food menu changed since my previous vist and when service came to take our order I quizzed her as to whether the "Tostada de Pollo a la Diabla" can be served as tacos - a special that Senoritas had on offer when I dined there in the past. I was told that it wasn't possible which really vexed me. It really isn't hard to put spicy chicken in a soft corn shell and serve it as a taco, but I suppose like with everything there is a process and without it utter chaos can be expected to transpire if you don't follow a formula. We instead ordered "Pescado a la Parrilla" which essentially was the fish of the day in a taco, the Panuchos de Cochinita Pibil, the slow roasted pork shoulder tacos and the Crustaceos Enchilados, the spicy Moreton bay bugs. The server looked at us with a horrified look and claimed that was a fair amount of food to order. Four tacos and a half of a bug per person I thought was reasonable. We also decided to have the Salsa del Dia, the salsa of the day as a starter since it was nearly 10:00 PM and we were very hungry. The salsa was dark and very sweet. It was a strange taste that I personally did not like and after enjoying the trio of freshly made salsas at Senoritas in the past, which were not only really good but provided an array of flavours ranging from mild to hot, I was disappointed.

The fish tacos arrived and I immediately understood why the server looked shocked when we placed our order. These were not classic tacos that I expected, not only from my history of dining at Senoritas, but also taking into consideration the "street food" concept. There was a huge mound of corn salsa that blanketed the fish and extended nearly to the edge of the soft shell. It was nearly impossible to eat with your hands, a mess was ultimately made and I could not taste the fish which was marlin. A 40ml serve of Ilegal Mezcal Anejo tequilla was required to take the edge off along with a refill of beer, before taking on the next round of tacos.

Slow roasted pork shoulder tacos with cinnamon, orange, thyme, beans and pickled red onion followed. Not only visually unappealing, the sweet taste of the pickled red onion put me off. I scraped it off and tried the blob of beans and pork, which looked completely out of place on a soft taco shell, and once again, there was so much product on the soft shell, it was nearly impossible once again to eat with your hands and I made another mess in the process. The lack of flavour and general dissatisfaction caused us to send our dishes back to the kitchen. The host quizzed me as to why I did not like this dish, so I told him my thoughts. I also asked if the chef had changed in the restaurant as the recipes and influence had changed drastically and I was told that the head chef had indeed changed which explained why the tastes had made a very distinctive 180 degree turn.

The Moreton bay bugs cooked in lime and achiote butter was grandfathered partially from the previous menu and head chef however it was previously served with a dash of habanero pepper. I asked if the hot pepper was an option and I was given a side of habanero chili which really added the kick that I wanted. Although the bug was fine, I was reminded why I stopped dining out as frequently as I once did. I started thinking I could have made much better Mexican inspired food at home (including purchasing fresh seafood which would have been fun to grill) for much less than my share of the $183 food and drinks bill at Senoritas.

The simple yet authentic tastes that I learned to love and expect at Senoritas is now just a fond memory much like their tequila tasting nights. Although I do like the dark yet colourful brooding fit-out, it is not a substitute to return for this menu or the current interpretation of Mexican food.

16 Meyers Place  Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9639 7437
Current Rating: 12/20 (-3.5 change)
Service: 3/5 (-1 change)
Ambiance: 3.5/5 (nil change)
Quality: 2.5/5 (-1.5 change)
Value For Money: 3/5 (-1 change)

Twitter: @epicurean3006
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com

When I first reviewed Senoritas on 23/08/13 , 62% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon liked the restaurant. One year on, at the time of this blog post, 72% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon like it.

Señoritas on Urbanspoon