Bigger may not always be better, as Papi’s Tacos on Seah Street proves with its 16-seater bar top Mexican dining. Vibrant and fun, this taqueria brings to mind food trucks and back-alley eateries.
Venturing into the intimate joint, I was greeted with vintage Mexican film posters on the wall, opposite a bar top that overlooks the kitchen. Yes, that means I got to sit right in front of all the slicing and dicing action.
What I liked the most was that this meant I could chat with Executive Chef Mauricio “Papi” Espinoza.
Formerly cooking up a storm at Employees Only, Mauricio brings a taste of Mexican street food to us, drawing on his roots from Tlaxcala in central Mexico.
He’s an all-round swell guy, happy to crack jokes and chit-chat while preparing his signature tacos and other Mexican grub.
Any good Mexican joint will have nacho chips to whet your appetite. If you can’t decide between Chips & Guac (S$8) and Chips & Pico De Gallo (S$4), go for The Holy Trinity (S$11) which comes with both guacamole and pico de gallo (a chunkier version of salsa).
The nacho chips were satisfyingly crispy, with each bite resulting in a resounding crunch. The dip was also absolutely fresh and amazing, consisting of avocado, onions and tomatoes which were well-seasoned with lime and salt.
At Papi’s Tacos, the tacos come in bite-sized portions — all the better for you to sample different fillings.
We tried the Tacos De Pescado (S$13 for two, S$19 for three), which had grilled white dory nestled in fresh purple cabbage and smoked chipotle aioli.
I really enjoyed the blend of textures and flavours in this taco. The crunchy cabbage complemented the soft chunks of dory, and the sauce added a slight spicy bite too.
For something that’s a little juicier, try the Tacos De Camaron (S$13 for two, S$19 for three). Each bite of the pan-seared baby shrimps was bursting with flavour from all the Mexican spices. Squirt on some spicy salsa for an added kick!
Needless to say, I popped these tacos into my mouth and scarfed them down really quickly.
If you want something a little more filling, the Mushroom Quesadilla (S$12) is a good choice. This comforting combination of melted cheese and juicy mushrooms simply had me raving about it.
Fresh and fragrant bursts of juicy mushroom flavour and oozing melted cheese filled my mouth with each bite. Who knew a meatless meal could be so delicious and satisfying?
And for those with carnivorous appetites, the Burrito De Asada (S$16) will hit the spot. The marinated steak chunks, Mexican rice, black beans and shredded cheese burst at the tortilla’s seams, making for a salty, creamy and tangy flavour combination that’s to-die-for.
Eat with your hands, because even though it can get a little messy, it’s so worth it.
Of course, I couldn’t leave without trying any margaritas! Papi’s Margarita (S$15/shaken, S$18/frozen) was a zesty lime cocktail that packed a hefty alcoholic punch and left me with a slight brain freeze from gulping it down too quickly.
If you want a little more fruity flavour, the Flavour Of The Day (S$18/shaken, S$21/frozen) is also available. I tried the Strawberry and Spicy Mango when I was there.
My favourite of the evening was definitely the sweet Strawberry version. Not overly saccharine but with enough sweetness to mask the sharp alcoholic taste, this frozen margarita is one of those easy-to-drink cocktails.
I liked how refreshing it was, which spelt trouble because one just wasn’t enough! Watch those sips, because it’s still a pretty strong drink.
The Spicy Mango sounded like an odd flavour, but actually worked out pretty well. The initial tangy taste gave way to the alcoholic warmth, and finished with a tingling spicy heat.
My advice? Stick to safer flavours like Original and Strawberry if ‘exotic’ isn’t your thing.
If you’re looking for no-frills, authentic Mexican grub, head over to Papi’s Tacos. You’ll get exactly what you’re craving for, because you know what they say: Papi knows best.
Expected Damage: S$15 – S$40 per pax