LA’s “taco king” Esdras Ochoa presents authentic Mexican comfort food at his new restaurant in Kennedy Town.
Words Iris Wong Photos Samantha Sin
This hidden gem is truly hidden, given its lack of signage and an entrance accessed only via dimly lit stairs in a quiet alleyway in Kennedy Town. Walk-in traffic seems unlikely, yet by 7.30pm on a Wednesday night the entire restaurant, including its outdoor terrace, teems with chattering diners, from elderly couples from the neighbourhood to fashionable young things. At the helm is Los Angeles’ “taco king” Esdras Ochoa, of Salazar fame, who has joined forces with a team of young restaurateurs including architect Jon Chan, the co-founder of Boba Bear. Chan’s design credentials are apparent in the interior. Instead of the usual colourful boho gypsy taqueria, 11 Westside is all industrial chic, with an exposed ceiling, stone walls and big chandeliers.
This is authentic Mexican comfort food. Guacamole ($150), served in a mortar and pestle and mashed tableside, was easily our favourite dish of the night. It came with thin, crispy house-made tortilla chips that were the perfect vehicles for scooping up the creamy avocado goodness. Likewise, the tacos did not disappoint: pollo asado ($50) had the right amount of zest and sweetness, with juicy chicken that paired excellently with salsa and guacamole. We also enjoyed al pastor ($50) with achiote and pineapple, and the signature carne asada ($60) – grilled USDA prime short rib in Mexican ponzu sauce. In each of the tacos, the flour tortilla took us by surprise. It had a great bite and didn’t become soggy even with juices from the meat and condiments. Sadly, the same couldn’t be said for the doughy, grainy corn tortillas, which were served with pork belly chunks that were way too big. Our main course was Hermosa fish ($258). The red snapper fillet flaked into firm, juicy chunks and paired well with the side of piquant pickled vegetables. Dessert was “churros III ways” ($78). While its presentation was a tad underwhelming, and the deep-fried churros slightly overcooked, we appreciated the white chocolate ganache and cajeta (Mexican goat’s milk caramel) with a touch of fleur de sel. To go with dessert, ask for a Horchata Dominicana cocktail ($130) of dark rum, coffee liqueur and Horchata crème, one of many innovative cocktails by acclaimed bar manager Daniel Eun. If that doesn’t appeal, we also enjoyed Fresca ($130) and Saladito ($130).
11 Westside is a welcome addition to Hong Kong’s Mexican food scene (or lack thereof). There are some hits and misses on the restaurant’s small menu, and prices are a bit steep ($50 for a small taco), but the superb food quality, convivial vibe and “speakeasy” location seems to be gathering a cult following.
Spending: approx. $500 per head
Highlights: tableside guac, and for tacos, pollo asado and al pastor
What else: the restaurant fills up very quickly, even on weeknights, so be prepared to be put on a timer while you dine
1/F The Hudson, 11 Davis Street, Kennedy Town
Tel: 3996 7754