Last Updated: February 21, 2018
It’s been awhile since I’ve heard of a promising Latin American restaurant opening, till now. Casa Poncho‘s interior reflects its vibrant food and drinks, which highlights a variety of mezcal cocktails, savoury churros and refreshing ceviche.
Started by the same team behind 13% Gastro Wine, this newcomer is anything but dull. Bright colourful murals are splashed across the wall, with dining areas, spread across different sections. You can choose to sit close to the bar (and admire this dashing piece of art).
Alternatively, you can choose a spot in the main dining area, and be surrounded by traditional Latin American artefacts that show off the rich traditions and culture of its region.
I decided on a spot outside that has only two high tables, because, well, I’ll take my privacy when I can.
To start, my dining partners and I dove right into drinks, and like any good drinking hole, we were given recommendations based on our preferred taste — be it sweet, floral, spicy, sour, you name it.
All cocktails are priced at $18, and one of them was the Passionfruit Tomojits. Made with Tequila Blanco, passionfruit, mint leaves, agave syrup and soda water, this cooling thirst quencher will make you forget you ordered an alcoholic beverage (read: smooth AF).
We also had the La Margarita del Poncho, a slightly heavy rendition of this Mexican classic, made with Mezcal Alipus Blanco, Grand Marnier, yuzu and agave syrup. This is one drink you’ll want to nurse for a little while, not because of its potency, but because you’ll want to savour the rich flavours and enjoy it with your meal.
We also had mocktail, the Bruneti Poncho Mocktail ($12), made with red cranberry, orange juice, cucumber, yuzu, syrup and ginger. The ginger was barely detectable, along with the near-absent acidity of the red cranberry, which could possibly be due to the great balance from the yuzu and cucumber. I have no complaints about that; it was such a delight to gulp down on a balmy evening.
For starters, we knew we had to have the Guacam…Ole! ($12), a unique take on your regular guac and chips with the addition of pomegranate, fried shallots and coriander. It’s served with baked wheat and blue tortilla chips which are imported and baked in Casa Poncho’s kitchen.
I must say, the pomegranate seeds added a dewy touch to the luscious and chunky smashed avocados, while the fried shallots brought a savoury profile to a rudimentary dip. I must also highlight, the tortilla chips were so crisp, they were good enough to be eaten on their own.
By recommendation, we ordered the Cangrejo con Morita ($26), a chilled appetiser that features Alaskan king crab in Morita chili salsa avocado, served (again) with crispy tortilla chips.
To the naked eye, it may not be enticing, but the crab meat was insanely sweet and paired beautifully with the homemade salsa. The heat from the salsa wasn’t overpowering but had enough of a kick to make you sit up and take notice of this humble dish.
When I was browsing through the menu, my eyes were drawn to this menu item, the Dedos de Poncho ($9). These aren’t your run-of-the-mill churros, they are jalapeño chilli cheese churros.
I had hyped myself up so much to munch on these mildly spicy, cheesy sticks, but sadly, I couldn’t taste much.
They were very crunchy on the outside, with a doughy centre that made me feel full quite quickly. I had to resort to using this deep-fried to test out their homemade sauces.
In typical me fashion, I went in straight for the spiciest of the lot, the Habanero. There is some evident heat, but nothing that’ll match up to our local chilli padi, that’s for sure.
The Salsa Verde is a tad acidic and has a sour-saltier edge of the three. The least threatening Chipotle Salsa can easily be used as an introduction to spicy foods, for the less adventurous.
Octopus lovers have to order this next dish — the Pulpo Ranchero ($28), grilled octopus with salsa “ranchera”, pumpkin seeds and scallion oil. Afraid this will be too chewy or rubbery? You won’t have to worry about that here. The octopus leg is sous vide before being thrown on the grill for a nice char, so the result is a bouncy yet firm tentacle that is contrasted in texture by the crunchy pumpkin seeds.
This dish was gone in mere minutes, and trust me when I say, you’ll want to mop up every last drop of the smoky salsa.
Our last main was the Crispy Chili Con Carne ($13) a chilli spring roll with minced beef, sour cream foam, chilli, lime, coriander and garlic. There’s really nothing to complain about when it comes to deep-fried food, especially when it’s stuffed with meat. However, in comparison to the previous plates we’d enjoyed, this one fell flat in its flavours.
Moving on to sweet endings, we got a bit greedy and ordered not one, but three desserts. The first was the Tentacion de Chocolate Chilli ($14) with chocolate, egg custard and paprika sour cream.
Looking much like a mousse, its texture was smooth yet thick. The sprinkling of dehydrated raspberry adds a nice touch of acidity and the chilli in the chocolate grows on the palate the more you eat it.
Of the three, this one was an absolute favourite. Poncho’s Flan ($14) with horchata, mango, mint and fresh berries features a rice milk flan mixed in with cinnamon, eggs and almond-infused cream. The crumble, which also has cinnamon, is such a delightful contrast to the milky flan, while the mango puree adds natural sweetness to the dish.
Lastly, we couldn’t end the evening without trying the Churros ($10). The fried choux pastry sticks are served with two dips of chilli chocolate and cinnamon cream, and if I had to pick one, I’d have to say the cinnamon cream came out tops. It reminded me of a cookies and cream mix, more than one with cinnamon, but at least it was delicious enough for me to want more of it.
The chilli chocolate dip was a letdown because I could barely detect any notes of spiciness in the decadent bowl of melted dark cocoa.
If you’re looking for a solid option for Latin American cuisine and want worth-it cocktails (for $18 a pop, these drinks are decently strong), Casa Poncho should be a serious consideration on your next night out. You’ll feel right at home, and are more than welcome to ask about all things Latin American if you’re truly keen to learn more about the culture.
It is here that they truly live up to the phrase, “Mi casa es su casa” (my house is your house).
Expected damage: $15 – $50 per pax