Ask any Mexican which is their favourite Mexican restaurant in Hong Kong and they will most likely answer that there are none that are worthy of this vote. Yet, every time a new one opens, it claims to serve “authentic Mexican food”. Such is the case with brand new Verde Mar, just off Wan Chai’s Johnston Road.
Opened by Vivian Wong and Chef Eligio Escobedo, the team behind Mr Taco Truck, Verde Mar aims to redefine contemporary Mexican cuisine, by bringing us an authentic menu that covers more than just nachos and tacos.
The concept is based around a typical Mexican village courtyard, with a very rustic style interior, warm colours and hanging lights. This casual, unpretentious décor seemed instantly welcoming.
On the fairly wide menu, you can find all the usual Mexican classics, such as nachos, tacos, burritos and enchiladas, as well as a range of alternative options. Since the restaurant prides itself on the latter, we stayed clear of the stereotypical dishes and began our meal with the snapper and avocado ceviche. This stack of sashimi-grade red snapper, avocado and tomato, seasoned with lime juice and coriander, was wonderfully light and refreshing, with a decent zing to it. We enjoyed it both on its own and with the accompanying tortilla chips that were clearly made in-house.
Give me a bowl of gooey, melted cheese any day and I’ll be happy. The Oaxaca cheese fundido, topped with homemade chorizo and served with homemade tortilla chips was absolutely perfect and fully satisfied my inherent need for melted cheese.
Although we weren’t entirely sure how the Veracruz Mahi Mahi steak was Mexican, it didn’t really matter all that much, since it was absolutely delicious. Topped with olives, capers and chopped peppers, the fish seemed more Mediterranean than Mexican, yet tasted divine. The Mahi Mahi had the perfect texture and we loved the crispy skin.
Our last savoury dish, which took quite a while to arrive, was the signature steak arrechera carne asada, a beautifully charred skirt steak that was both flavoursome and tender. Although all of the components – steak, guacamole, salsa, fried onions and homemade corn tortillas – made some very tasty tacos, we didn’t think this dish was worth its $300 price tag, given that skirt steak is known to be one of the least expensive cuts of meat. That price actually doesn’t even include the tortillas, for which you’re expected to pay an additional $28. Divide this by three (since there are only three tortillas), add some more guacamole (since the measly portion is barely enough for one taco) and suddenly you’re paying over $120 per taco, making these easily the most expensive tacos in Hong Kong and probably the world.
For dessert, we couldn’t resist trying the homemade churros. Everyone knows that good churros should come smothered in sugar and cinnamon, yet these barely carried three grains of sugar each. Unfortunately, although they were nice and crispy on the outside, the inside seemed only half-cooked and far too doughy. The only saving grace was the rich chocolate dipping sauce; in fact, we only continued eating the half-cooked churros so we could use them as a vessel to transport the sauce to our mouths.
Although my comments on the last two dishes seem negative, there were many things I did love about Verde Mar. If it can sort out its pricing and its churros, then I see no reason why this can’t become a favourite amongst Mexican restaurants…but, until then, I can think of other places I’d go to first.
24 Tai Wong Street East
Tel: +852 2810 0888