More than food just being sustenance and a reason for bringing people together, restaurants that serve authentic cuisines of the world magically transport us to places we’ve never been to. Such is the story of this Mexican delight located along Lopez Drive of Rockwell’s Power Plant Mall. “Achiote Taqueria is about celebrating Mexican street food without bastardizing the recipes. This is my memory of the streets of Puebla. This is about those days I spent in Mexican kitchens trying to understand what makes their cuisine different from ours,” shares Chef Robby Goco.
The vibrant colors of the chairs, the yellow walls, and the sound of a Mariachi Band playing on the radio sets the tone for an authentic Mexican feast coming your way. “I don’t have a big menu because I can’t bring all those other peppers here in the country,” says Chef Robby.
That is not really a problem, because the small menu is teeming with best sellers. Their Naked Guacamole (P170) is a signature of the restaurant. One of my best friends who was the first one to take me there said to me, “I know you don’t like Mexican, but they have the best Guacamole. You have to taste it!” Since then, I’ve been coming back to Achiote. Another friend told me that every time she eats there with her husband, they have to have one order each, otherwise they’d end up arguing over who gets to eat more.
Naked Guacamole: tomatillo and roasted poblano guacamole with just-baked tortilla chips and achiote-chipotle
“The most sellable item here is the burritos. What makes our burritos different from others? We use real cheese. We use Basmati rice. Nothing canned. Our beans are cooked for minimum eight hours. Our salsa is made fresh,” says the Chef himself. I couldn’t agree more. But one tip: maybe it’s better to share, because their servings are big. Take for instance, this Burrito Matador (P425) we had.
Burrito Matador: barbacoa, tripas, refried beans, cilantro lime rice, salsa rojo, pico de gallo, cheddar cheese mix, sour cream, lettuce
And then of course, there are those yummy tacos. While the Barbacoa (P355) was my first choice, I was really impressed with the Fish Tacos (P325). We had the least expensive of the two fish choices, the Mahi-mahi, so I will definitely be stopping by soon to try the Halibut.
Barbacoa: braised beef
Mahi-Mahi Fish Tacos
“It’s about getting really fresh ingredients, cooking them using Mexican techniques, and serving them here in the Philippines. You have to also differentiate us from Tex-Mex,” adds Chef Robby. We saw they take seriously the business of using only fresh the ingredients, as soon as we tasted the Taqueria Salad (P295). We saw Chef bring in the cherry tomatoes himself during the day of our visit. He told us that he has an Italian friend who grows these beautiful things for him.
Taqueria Salad: fresh romaine and arugula leaves, roasted poblano, avocado, caramelized onions, quesio cotija, cherry tomatoes, red radish, crispy tortilla strips with cilantro lime dressing
Another item that spells fresh is the Ceviche (Full Ceviche, P400). I don’t eat kinilaw, but this Mexican version of it might just change my mind. It came in a halo-halo glass with two slices of savory avocados on top. I couldn’t resist getting excited. Once it was mixed in a bowl, the colors just exploded; after just one scoop, I was left speechless because I actually liked it.
Full Ceviche: a combination of your choice of fresh seafood, marinated in lime and topped with jicama, EVOO, spicy sauce, and avocado
It wasn’t on the menu yet, but we were also served the Enchilada with Pork Carnitas, Vegetarian Black Beans, Mexican Chorizo Bulgur Rice and Salsa Verde. This one is another item that is definitely to share. It was quite interesting trying each item separately first, and then finally getting a bit of each and mixing them together.
Enchilada with Pork Carnitas, Vegetarian Black Beans, Mexican Chorizo Bulgur Rice and Salsa Verde
If there was anything that I could take away from that lunch, it was how fun the entire experience was. You know how in some Hollywood movies, everything seems boring and then suddenly pops in these scenes of Mexican house parties to spice everything up, or even to be the setting of a happy ending? That’s how it is in Achiote. It’s like being in one of those parties. It’s fiesta time!
Photos by Hermin Belo.