Disclosure: I dined courtesy of Touche Hombre.
The Melbourne craze for Mexican food continues full steam ahead, with Touché Hombre being one of the latest to open in the past month or so. The team behind it, Maison Davis, have obviously had a bit of fun putting the restaurant together. There’s many tongue in cheek references to be found: from the tag line “héroes de medio caparazón” (heroes in a half shell), to the arcade games at the entrance, to the “who ya gonna call?” neon sign, and the big cheery chicken jugs that pour cocktails out of the beak, just to name a few.
Aside from all the light hearted touches, Touche Hombre taps into that whole cool, casual Melbourne restaurant thing that this city seems to do so well: exposed brick walls, distressed wooden tables, an open warehouse style room with high ceilings, drinks served in all kinds of vessels except for glasses, and a mostly no booking policy (as far as I’m aware). It’s a good thing they don’t take themselves too seriously, or the place would be far too hip.
I dined with a group of other bloggers, and we were seated at the back of the restaurant on the “wrestling ring” table (which I believe can be booked). The table was under dim red lighting – a very challenging lighting situation for food photography.
We started off the evening with a drink, and it was only right that the first cocktail we tried was a margarita. Touche Hombre make a damn fine one using Espolon Reposado tequila, Agava Sec liqueur, and fresh pressed lemon and lime ($15.50 / $55 for supersize). They were served in old style metal mugs that had salt crusted on the side, and were very easy to drink.
If you’re one of those weird people who don’t like margaritas, there are other cocktails. We also tried a blood orange Madagascar, made with Casco Viejo Reposado tequila, blood orange and Orange Colombo liqueur, and served on the rocks with vanilla sugar drops and vanilla scented straws ($15.50 / $62 supersize). One for vanilla citrus fans.
Did you know that the paloma is the most popular tequila cocktail in Mexico? Touche Hombre do a version called La Paloma, which is made from Tromba Blanco tequila, fresh pink grapefruit, organic agave nectar, a Mexican pinch of salt and toronja soda ($17.50 / $68 supersize). I’m presuming that a Mexican pinch of salt is a rather generous pinch, because it was definitely distinctly salty. I’m not really a fan of grapefruit, but I still enjoyed it.
Oh, and have you noticed that this was the only cocktail that we received in a glass?
Finally, we also tried the Mexican beer cocktail ($9). These came served in a jar with Tecante Mexican lager, Touche’s salsa and Hombre’s chipotle puree with fresh lime, ice and a salted rim. This was spicy and beery all in one – definitely worth a try.
But what about the food? Between us we managed to sample a fair amount of the menu. The chicken tostaditos ($12 for 3) was a nice little bite – the corn chip was piled high with a generous amount of spiced chicken, mango jam, and toasted sesame and chipotle mayo. They are fairly small though.
The elotes callegjeros – grilled corn with coriander, smoked paprika, butter and grated Egmont cheese ($6) were also nice, but flavourwise could’ve been pushed further – more charring, more cheese, more spice.
I really enjoyed the ceviche ($12) made with diced fish, mussels, coriander, chilli, red onion, tomato and guacamole with tortilla chips. The ceviche was on the sour side and the chips were thicker than normal, both of which I quite liked.
Now if you saw a menu item called fatty lamb ribs ($8), would you order it? If you say yes: you’re my kind of eater. Because these are awesome – fatty yes, but not too much. Crispy on the outside and coated with honey, they were fantastic with a squeeze of the provided lemon.
Taco time! Touche has a list of eight different tacos, plus an additional secret squirrel taco that changes each day. Apparently the waiters won’t tell you what the secret taco is until AFTER you’ve eaten it, possibly because it’s likely that the filling may include offal. Our first taco was the soft shell crab, with corn cream, pea shoots, lime and mint ($7). I liked the battered soft shell crab and I liked the soft tortilla, but I feel it could’ve used a touch more lime to cut through the batter and corn cream.
I much preferred the breakfast taco ($6.50) which contained omelette, salchichas, Egmont cheese, beans, avocado, salsa, fried onions and habanero cream. It was even better after I added a few dashes of hot sauce. 😀
The chicken taco was filled with chargrilled chicken, chimichurri and toasted pepitas, and it was a slight anticlimax after the breakfast one. It was pleasant but flavourwise it wasn’t as exciting – I should’ve added some of the hot sauce.
If I had ordered my own tacos, top of my list would have been the de carnitas – spiced pork, apple, sage, chicharrones and habanero cream, or the de morcilla – blood pudding, piquillo peppers, pico de gallo and soft egg aioli.
After tacos we refreshed our palates (ahem) by sipping a small glass of the house tequila.
Palates suitably refreshed (hah) we turned to dessert. They have three ice cream sangas (sandwiches) on offer. My favourite one was the chocolate and chilli peanut cookie ($7) – the crumbly chocolate cookie had a definite spicy kick and was filled with peanut ice cream.
The second was the dulce de leche ($7) which had a slightly tangy strawberry parfait, chopped pistachios and a sliver of dulce de leche.
And lastly, there was a rice pudding and cinnamon sanga ($7) – a caramel parfait, rice pudding and cinnamon sugar. By the way, if you can’t decide on which sanga you’d like, you can get a selection of all three for $18.
Overall, I thought our meal at Touche Hombre was pretty good. However, I must mention one thing in particular that I didn’t like: water was served in disposable cups, cutlery was disposable, and food arrived in cardboard boxes with paper liners. I know it goes with the whole casual theme of the restaurant, but there’s casual and then there’s “I’m paying Melbourne restaurant prices but feel like I’m at a damn picnic” casual. I hope they recycle at least.
Our visit was on a Tuesday night and they were packed, and this after only being open for a month. It’s easy to see why. While I do think they could push the flavours in the food a bit more – more zing, more freshness, more spiciness – the food was mostly pretty good and there was a fun vibe in the place. It’s early days, but there is a lot of potential.
For more on Touche Hombre, check out:
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233 Lonsdale Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone: 03 9663 0811