When it comes to Mexican cuisine, dishes such as tacos, guacamole, quesadilla and burritos usually come to mind. Hearty and colourful, they never fail to satisfy one’s taste buds while being a feast for the eyes.
However, these dishes form merely the tip of the iceberg that Mexican cuisine is, according to Alejandro Blanco.
Hailing all the way from Monterrey, Mexico, the 46-year-old is the owner of Senor Taco, a taqueria at CHIJMES.
Alejandro established Senor Taco in 2009 at Clarke Quay where his flagship outlet is. Today, he oversees a total of three outlets, the latest of which is at CHIJMES.
This outlet boasts a colourful and vibrant outdoor dining area. The furniture pieces are bright and in coordinating colours, making for an uplifting and relaxing al fresco dining experience.
Legal Counsel Turned Restaurant Owner
To our utter surprise, Alejandro wasn’t originally a chef by trade. In fact, he was a legal counsel for a cement company in Mexico.
In 2004, Alejandro moved from Mexico to Singapore following an overseas posting. But it didn’t take the foodie in him long to realise that our city-state was lacking in late-night dining options.
In particular, there were very little Mexican choices available. This was a stark contrast to his hometown, where tacos are a supper favourite.
In a twist of fate, five years later in 2009, the Singapore outpost Alejandro was working at closed. But instead of returning to Mexico, he made a life-changing decision—to quit his longtime job of 13 years.
Seeing that there was a market opportunity for Mexican fare in Singapore, Alejandro decided to seize it. He remained in Singapore, determined to introduce the authentic Mexican street cuisine which he grew up with to Singaporeans.
After months of intense planning, Senor Taco opened for business in September 2009. However, things got off to a slow start as Singaporeans weren’t very familiar with Mexican cuisine then.
Alejandro recalled that a customer got upset on the first day of operations because his taco shells were soft; he thought Alejandro’s food was unauthentic and untraditional. However, as it turns out, hardshell tacos aren’t actually native to Mexico!
Not only that, but restaurants in Mexico also traditionally do not serve nachos, Alejandro revealed. There are actually a lot of misconceptions Singaporeans have about Mexican food.
“Little Mexico” In Singapore
Nevertheless, Alejandro persevered and popularity for his taco kiosk eventually grew. He went on to open two more full-fledged Senor Taco restaurants.
In 2014, Alejandro introduced a new concept, El Mero Mero, an upscale Mexican restaurant that’s also located at CHIJMES.
Next to the restaurant is a mini Mexican grocery store, La Mexicana.
You can expect to find a multitude of Mexico-imported products, but that’s not all.
Items freshly made from Alejandro’s recipes and from the local tortilla factory are also available for purchase.
So if you’d like to give Mexican cooking a try, you know where to go!
With three establishments nestled within a single area, Alejandro proudly and affectionately calls this a “Little Mexico”.
True Mexican Delights
To start off for botanas, or appetisers, Alejandro recommended the Mexican Sweet & Spicy Pork Ribs (S$18).
The super-sized pork ribs came slathered in a thick coat of sweet and spicy sauce. But don’t let the brown hue of the sauce fool you, for it certainly packed a punch!
To our delight, the pork ribs were ultra-juicy too, a sign of perfect cooking.
It turns out that they were actually cooked in the confit-style, hence every bite we took was oozing with juice. It’s also no wonder why they were so satisfying to chew on.
I must confess I found the dish immensely refreshing, with its exotic spicy notes hitting all the right spots. It was an interesting twist from the Chinese-style sweet and sour pork of which I’ve had my fair share.
We also had Chips (S$5) and Guacamole (S$5), a classic Mexican snack combo which certainly needs no introduction.
On their own, the housemade chips had a prominent earthy taste and a strong wheat aroma. We could instantly tell that they were fresh as they weren’t greasy at all.
The guacamole was satisfyingly creamy, contrasting the crunchy chips excellently. It also had prominent sour notes which helped to cut through the saltiness of the chips.
The super addictive bowl of chips was perfect for conversing over while we waited for our mains. We couldn’t resist reaching out for more, loading up every chip with a good amount of guac.
Although nachos aren’t traditionally available in Mexico as Alejandro revealed to us, we still went for the Creamy Poblano (S$28). The nacho dish is a crowd-favourite here at Senor Taco, according to him.
The nachos came on a massive plate, catching the attention of every diner while making its way to our table.
Every tortilla chip had a mountain load of toppings atop it. Think frijoles, grilled fajita chicken and cheddar cheese.
I loved that the tortilla chip had a solid crunch in every bite. Together with the plethora of ingredients on top of it, it made for a pleasant all-rounded bite.
Additionally, the corn tortilla chips came with a side of guacamole and poblano cream sauce too.
While the guac was an excellent dipping sauce, it was the poblano cream sauce that stole the show for me.
The Mexican chilli pepper sauce had a subtle kick to it, adding a touch of spiciness to the dish.
It was also extra viscous, making for a prominent textural addition in every bite. You can bet we wiped it clean and didn’t waste a single drop.
Of course, since we were at Senor Taco, we couldn’t possibly leave without trying their tacos.
The Wild Fish (S$10/piece, S$28 for three) was a personal recommendation by Alejandro.
The star of the show was undoubtedly the wild fish. Pan-seared to perfection, it was juicy and flaky on the inside.
That said, the tempura onion ring and shishito pepper were great complements too. They had a soft crunch which we couldn’t get enough of.
Furthermore, their umami and spicy notes simply added on to the variety of flavours.
Finally, bringing all the ingredients together was a luscious chipotle mayonnaise which oozed with every bite. Tangy, sweet and together with the other ingredients, it took our taste buds on a memorable gastronomical trip.
As for the soft and delicate flour tortilla, we agreed it was a very effective (and tasty) vessel indeed. It managed to hold its shape while conveying the myriad of flavours onboard to our taste buds.
The fish taco has definitely earned the approval of the fish taco lover in me. It’s one of Senor Taco’s signature tacos and truly for good reason.
Last but not least, we went for something slightly upscale—the Angus Tenderloin (S$11/piece, S$30 for three) taco.
The grilled Angus beef tenderloin was as tender and succulent as it could possibly get. It only made our mouths water even more after our first bite.
I found the caramelised onions particularly enjoyable, because of their sweet and subtle smoky notes. Not only that, but their softness also helped to blend them with the beef chunks.
The dish also came with a side of tomato and serrano sauce. Providing much-needed acidity and spiciness to the beef taco, it definitely made every bite a flavour bomb.
Originally Mexican, But Now A Singapore Citizen
Through our hearty feast at Senor Taco, we definitely learnt a great deal about Mexican cuisine. It was also equally inspiring to realise how one man’s pride and passion for his own culture can create such a legacy.
Alejandro Blanco first came to Singapore with no intentions of entering the food industry. Today, however, he is well-known as a pioneer of authentic Mexican cuisine in Singapore, and that’s not all.
Alejandro also acquired Singapore citizenship about seven years ago, along with his wife and two young children. He professed that he appreciates how safe, culturally diverse, dynamic and welcoming towards food culture Singapore is.
In my view, Singapore has definitely gained an invaluable asset. For without Alejandro, we Singaporeans might very well still be thinking that hardshell tacos are the norm.
Expected Damage: S$5 – S$30 per pax
Our Rating: 5 / 5
30 Victoria Street, #01-19, CHIJMES, Singapore 187966
30 Victoria Street, #01-19, CHIJMES, Singapore 187966