Wrapped up in Mexican

Senor Pico's relaunch shows it's still the place to beat

Mexican _ whether the people, the food, the country or the music _ is very entertaining and inspiring. Yet it's difficult to find exciting new places to enjoy cocina Mexicana in Bangkok, one of the world's most fun-loving cities and robust food hubs with a character very comparable to that of Mexico.

The vividly colourful and casual atmosphere of Senor Pico. A live band performs nightly.

Many times over the years I have been asked where, other than the renowned 19-year-old Senor Pico Restaurant and Bar at the Rembrandt, to find authentic Mexican food in town. It's quite a challenging question because we have to admit that this hotel outlet is one of a handful of destinations (along with a few modest, and perhaps flimsy-looking, Mexican eateries) where great tacos and burritos are on offer.

So it was great news for me that Senor Pico, which first launched in 1994, has recently been relaunched with a fresh new setting and menu designed by Fernando Reyes Barba. The Mexico City native took the restaurant's head chef position three months ago, having worked at top hotels and restaurants around the world including in the US and Middle East for 18 years. His culinary motto is simple: "To make sure the guests are happy with the food."

A duo of beef and chicken fajita on a sizzling pan with the works.

So his menu lists an impressive selection of internationally loved Mexican dishes with the tastes slightly adapted to the familiar American style.

From the extensive menu, we kicked off with quesadillas. At other restaurants, this favourite Mexican "grilled cheese sandwich" usually comes with chicken filling. But Fernando suggested that we try it with sauteed mushrooms (350 baht) which turned out to be marvellous.

A large flour tortilla was stuffed with the mushroom, springy Oaxaca cheese (quite similar to Monterey Jack and mozzarella), pico de gallo (fresh tomato salsa), guacamole and sour cream before being folded in half and pan-grilled to offer a slightly crusty finish and pleasant aroma. Other filling choices include shredded chicken, carne asada (beef sirloin), pork, and grilled cheeses and jalapeno peppers.

Next to impress were the tacos. To sample it in a different but more sophisticated fashion, we had it in the Baja style with line-caught red snapper (350 baht), instead of the usual beef or pork.

Prawn espetadas is served with green rice, refried black beans and flour tortillas.

Loosely enveloped in each of the three flour tortilla rolls displayed on the plate was a golden piece of deep-fried battered fish fillet, jalapeno tartar sauce, chunky avocado cubes and finely sliced vegetables. Underneath the brittle golden crust, the white fish fillet exhibited an awesomely fresh taste and texture. Equally delicious was the chicken burrito (395 baht). The extra-large flour tortilla roll, served cut in half, was stuffed with Mexican rice, pinto beans, pico de gallo, cheese and sour cream, presenting a hefty pleasure. Other choices of meat filling are beef sirloin, prawn and pork.

Traditionally, chilli sauce and guacamole (they have great-tasting guacamole here, too) are always the perfect condiments to Mexican dishes. But so far, because the dishes were tasty by themselves, no flavour enhancement seemed to be needed.

Fajitas are another treat you don't want to miss, especially if you look for a meat-orientated dish. Accompanied by a platter of flour tortillas, pico de gallo salsa and refried pinto beans, the duo of beef and chicken fajita (595 baht) featured a sizzling pan of perfectly grilled white-meat chicken and 120-day grain-fed US beef sirloin on a bed of sauteed onions and bell peppers. Both kinds of meat proved masterfully cooked and tasted "excelente".

We also sampled the best-selling pato en mole, or roast duck breast served with pecan and prune mole and cornbread (495 baht). The poultry was cooked medium, leaving a golden brown skin with pinkish meat. The supple and succulent duck slices went well with the slightly sweet, somewhat nutty mole (sauce), made with pecans, prunes, tomatoes, onion, garlic and chillies, and superb cornbread baked freshly to the chef's grandma's recipe with sweetcorn. Also really worth having are the espetadas, or the Latin-style skewered barbecued meats, which will be carved at your tableside. From the choice of meats and Mediterranean vegetables, our option that evening was the tiger prawns (995 baht). They had been rubbed with garlic, salt and bay leaves before being char-grilled. Four large prawns exhibited supple and naturally flavoursome meat enjoyed with side items including the brilliant green rice (marinated with coriander, garlic, jalapeno pepper and spinach before being double cooked), refried black beans, salsas and flour tortillas.

Roasted mushroom quesadillas with fresh tomato salsa and guacamole.

One of the most common desserts of Mexico is tres leches, or "three milk" cake (195 baht). Found at almost every Mexican festivity, the butter sponge cake is soaked in evaporated milk, condensed milk and whole milk, before being topped with whipped cream.

At Senor Pico, the mixture of milk was infused with orange liqueur, and cinnamon and citrus zest to lend a warm, refreshing perfume to the soft and milky but not-at-all-soggy cake that's crowned with fresh meringue and served with peach salsa and cinnamon custard.

As a bar, it features a nice selection of Mexican-Spanish cocktails, and sangria (Spanish fruity wine punch, 250 baht) is what you don't want to miss. But if you're not a fan of alcoholic drinks, I highly recommend the virgin lime Margarita (260 baht) because it was divine.

Just like the Mexican people, the atmosphere of Senor Pico was vividly colourful and fun. A live band performs nightly from 7pm to 11pm, except Mondays. The food proved hefty, hearty and full of flavour, and the service homely with a pleasing festive touch.

Baja-style fish tacos with crispy line-caught red snapper.

About the author

columnist
Writer: Vanniya Sriangura
Position: News Reporter