Mexican cuisine doesn't feature regularly in my diet because, cilantro (urghh pukes), BUT I've recently developed a taste for all things taco, tortilla, and guacamole. (This current hankering is, in no small part, due to those awesomesauce fish tacos at El Mero Mero.)
So we were recently in the Dempsey Hill enclave and in need of sustenance, late late late at night, when we noticed Margarita's. Most of the restaurants in its immediate vicinity were either shuttered by then, or had already taken last orders. Notwithstanding the default option, I was quite happy to have dinner at Margarita's. I wanted tacos and as this is one of Singapore's oldest Mexican restaurants, it has to be up to snuff to have survived decades in the brutal local F&B landscape, right?
Service was mostly gracious but the kitchen was, at best, inept. My instructions to hold off all cilantro or to put whatever is cilantro-laced to the side, was all but forgotten. I sent back the fajitas because there was no way to scrape the cilantro off on my own, but it returned still laced with cilantro, but to a lesser extent. It was quickly evident that the kitchen had simply attempted to scrape off whatever cilantro they could see, reheated the damn dish, and sent it back to my table. That was just plain lazy. And smacked of a piss-poor attitude. I get that the kitchen wanted to close up and go home, but it's your screw-up, so you jolly-well fix it, even if it means clearing up a little later. It wasn't as though it was already closing time. In fact, there was still half an hour to closing time when we were served our dishes, so the kitchen had no excuse that they couldn't whip up another fajita sans cilantro. That said, our server was profusely apologetic, which was quite the appeasement.
Food-wise, Margarita's isn't the best or the most authentic (it purports to serve Mexican fare, but it's really more Tex-Mex), but it was more than decent, and generally passed muster.
The highlight of the Nachos ($18), a towering confection of crunchy chips, shredded lettuce, sour cream, pickled jalapeno, melty cheese, cilantro-laced salsa, and cilantro-laced guacamole, was the refried black beans, which was, thankfully, clear of cilantro. But unfortunately the black beans were right underneath that pile. Good thing I'm really skilled at Jenga, so it wasn't too much trouble to pick out the cilantro-free nachos and beans at the bottom.
The Mexicana Soft Taco with Shrimp ($26), was delicioso in its simplicity. Grilled sweet shrimp flecked with julienned carrots and caramelised onions, enveloped in a lightly toasted taco, sided by fresh vegetables, a spicy chipotle cream, sour cream, and just sweep away the cilantro-ruined salsa. One of the more memorable dishes here.
Save for the robust tomato sauce that was equal parts piquant and sweet, the Rolled Flour Vegetable Taco ($22) topped with salsa rojas, guacomole, and sour cream was middling and forgettable.
The Beef Chimichanga ($20), a massive fried tortilla roll stuffed with pulled beef and cheese, was rich and sumptuous. A definite must-try.
The Beef & Chicken Fajitas ($36) was a mixed bag. The chicken was punchy and breast-cut luscious and tender, but the beef, while tender, was gamey. That said, we loved the aromatics, beautiful caramelization of the garlic and onions. We polished those off, and left half of the beef uneaten.
Margarita's Restaurante @ Dempsey
Blk 11 Dempsey Road #01-19
Tel: 6471 3228
Open Sundays to Thursdays from 11.30am to 11pm;
Fridays & Saturdays from 11.30am to 12midnight