Like the Aztec emperor, Montezuma in his last days as a captive of the Spanish conquistadors, typical versions of Mexican food seize my tastebuds, hold them hostage and mortally wound them – Of course, I’m referring to the ever-popular ‘Tex-Mex’ cuisine.
Hey don’t get me wrong, I’m the first to have a cheese meltdown with good corn chips guac’ and the kids – at home though.
Personally, I think, traditional pubs and the house-made (your own house) should be the only places you find the token beans and sour cream. When I’m out dining, don’t taunt my tum with lashings of gas-producing dishes, glued together with yellow cheese and formalised with a spoon of avo and a dollop of sour cream.
I think this phobia of mine came from watching too many spaghetti Westerns as a teen; heavily-bearded outlaws mopping up great frying pans of beans just before ending the cantina owner.
I imagine quite a few eateries were built on this paradigm. It seemed to inspire a number of restaurateurs into a frenzy of overpriced eateries. Whole chains opened based on the profit margin of a nachos alone – they became the outlaws, the ignorant were robbed like marks in a wild west country fair.
This sort of Tex-Mex banditry still goes on, it’s the scared tastebud that continues to order the only thing it knows. I went out looking for my old adversary ready to draw my pen in a stand-off, but I was pleasantly surprised by the authentic Mexican food I found at Lismore’s Black Sombrero.
On first inspection of the deserted street, Black Sombrero Mexican Taquería and Tequileria seemed to be in a part of town that, frankly you’d rather not be seen in after dark (much like the cliché towns in cowboy westerns at sundown), but according to the owners council applauds their stand in opening after 5.30pm, and to me this smart Mexican Cantina seems just the way to revitalise the CBD in the evening.
The night was as muggy as Mexico – thick with the day’s heatwave still cooking the streets. With some appropriate aficionados for witness and company, we left the balmy night outside and found the joint was jumping inside. The mood was lively, festive and colourful and pulled us into the atmosphere without a problem.
As a result, we were in the mood for margaritas and food. My guests were not just ‘ordinaire’ types, having travelled widely throughout Mexico, they were my token experts: Senor Costa, Senorita Juana and I entered and were seated in what we agreed was a bit of a ‘Bermuda Triangle’; an area of an eatery that isn’t covered by any one waitperson, the folk on such tables (us) are often overlooked even if there are copious staff on.
We needed drinks and were served reasonably quickly, then we were after the food to complement our liquid. It was a bit like fishing, once you hooked yourself a waiter, they were great, fully engaged, friendly and attentive. But it was busy, so every time we had a need, we had to go fishing for that service.
I decided to get my camera out to gather curiosity (it was a desperate measure but worked).
James (our first waitperson) started with, ‘We have a great nachos… ‘, but when he was interrupted with a clear and unequivocal ‘no Tex Mex please!’, he sighed with relief: ‘That’s great! It’s been a slow and steady process getting people to try authentic Mexican dishes’, he said. We ordered the ‘Sombrero tasting plate’: an inclusion of three unadulterated signature meats.
Meats here don’t just appear, they’re lining up all skewered and flaming behind a windowed rotisserie char grill – a perfect addition to an already jumping Mexicana atmosphere. These came fresh and tender. Pulled pork, shredded beef and chicken placed alongside fresh fried tostadas (small corn chip style addendums).
As with the range of house made taco’s we tried, it was thumbs up from the travellers ‘just like the Mexicans do em’, they chirped.
When it came to the margarita menu, tequila and the art of drinking – a la Mexican, there were certainly no disappointments here. When Costa mentioned top shelf tequila I gave him a new pseudonym: Costa Lota. A three times filtered tequila, came still in the bottle with its very own chaperon carrying it – Rob from the bar appeared an authority on alcohol, an encyclopaedia of tequila.
We had a verbal tour of the gestalt of this smooth agave FOC with the expensive tipple sided with fresh slivered green apple to boot.
This place prepares and cooks tacos like a Mexican Eat Street – fresh, house-made and soft with filling flamed and fabulous. I’m happy I overcame my Tex-Mex induced preconceptions about entering this humble comida; it was a full house and we sat on its edge and were served really good and authentic energetic Mexican food.
If you have the urge to be festive and you’re out in Lismore, then Black Sombrero clocked high on my taco-meter and will have your tastebuds dancing a quebradita – buenos noches nachos!
Dinner: Tue–Sat 5–9pm; Lunch: Thu–Sat 11.30am–2pm; Siesta Sessions Menu Sat 2-5pm. Fully licensed. BYO wine only.
136 Keen Street, Lismore
6621 3111 Online booking: www.blacksombrero.com.au