Village Cantina- Fantastic Tacos in Yarraville

Yarraville's limelight came when, in January 2016, Director Quentin Tarantino, and Actors Kurt Russell and Samuel L. Jackson arrived in the humble suburb in Melbourne's west for the premier of their movie, The Hateful Eight. As you can imagine, for one evening, Yarraville ballooned to an unprecedented capacity. After all, it was not everyday that your locale was host to Hollywood starlets.

Rob, proprietor and operator of Village Cantina, recalls of that day and fondly shares with us more interesting stories he's come across from having a restaurant business in the quaint, village-like suburbia.

From the conversation, you can tell Rob is a candid and genuine person. His down-to-earth energy and friendliness is very welcoming. Having just set my bags down in Village Cantina, already I was digging the ambiance of the taqueria.

The restaurant is inspired by the Sante Fe look - a Pueblo Revival architectural design that combines the earthy tones of stuccoed walls and timber furnishing. Oversized candles with wax melting down the sides burn a warm glow at each table; its light flickers across the figure of delicate paper mache Catrinas. Many of these skeleton ladies, a type of Mexican art sculpture, are stationed around the room.

There are also prints of La Calavera Catrina hung on the wall. At the back of the house, hand woven Mexican rugs bring color and soften the wooded courtyard. It is an artistic space- stylised after the vibrant culture of the cuisine.

The Village Cantina, a Mexican Taqueria and Bebida, came to being in October 2014.

Rob, who tenured in America and made travel to Mexico and Latin America a favorite pastime, fell passionately for the faraway culture and cuisine; so much that he wanted to bring that distinctive Mexican sazón to Melbourne's culinary scene. "I want to see the type of food that you can get off the streets in Mexico," he said and described the non-descript taco stands in Mexico where he had the tastiest tacos. Rob went on to tell us about the taco-shops in Mission District, California, where people were making amazing and gigantic burritos.

Admittedly, those unique moments- finding really good food when you are traveling- cannot parallel any day in your home city. Nevertheless, Rob is attempting to create that moment for foodies; in the unsuspecting village of Yarraville, foodies will find a place that makes full-on authentic Mexicano tacos, burritos and fried-to-order churros. They will find it at the village's cantina- the Village Cantina.

The duo-presence of Mexican street food and those found in Baja-California is evident throughout the Cantina's menu. Try the Tiras De Chile Pollo, the Elote and then Jalapeno Poppers with Chilli Cheese Fries from the Entradas (Starters), and you will get the contrast and evolution of Mexican food as it traveled from Mexico and later reinterpreted in California. It is delicious and flavorsome.

Another outstanding dish to try is the Quinoa Ensalada. The lime and agave dressing is refreshing and its tangy flavor add a layer to the smoky almonds and char-grilled corn in the salad.

Of the nine Tacos available on the menu, our party tried five: Pollo (Achiote chargrilled chicken in salsa verde), Gambas (grilled spicy prawns in mango coulis), Carnitas (pulled-pork and grilled pineapple), Pork Belly (in apple and beetroot slaw) and Roasted Pumpkin (with crispy kale, pepitas and avocado).

The tacos were tasty and colorful rounds. Not only were each of the proteins cooked to its own target perfection, the seasoning and pairing of ingredients gave way to complimentary flavors and textures.

It is important to note that all the sauces- the salsa verde, pico de gallo and guacamole- are prepared fresh everyday. Together, the salsa, lime wedge and coriander pitch a spirited kick to the tacos. As well, artisan chili sauces from Melbourne Hot Sauce and Hot Shot Hot Sauce, sets of which are on each table, give people the choice to take the heat up.

I like being able to try different chili sauces- it adds an exploratory and fun element to the meal. While each of us had our own favorites, the ballot counts for the Pollo, Gambas and Roasted Pumpkin tacos were the highest.

All of the taco tortillas are made with corn. Therefore, they are gluten-free. The tortillas are supplied by El Cielo Tortilleria in Port Melbourne. Burritos can be modified to be gluten-free; it would be burrito fixings served in a bowl handmade in Columbia with the option of corn tortillas as a side order.

For the dairy-intolerant, you would be relieved to know that the food at Village Cantina is not laden with cheese. Rob makes a point to not perpetuate stereotypical Mexican food where cheese and spiciness are overdone. Rather, the queso fresco, a Mexican-style cheese, is used on select dishes- only where it is traditionally paired or when it enhances the outcome of the dish.

Sweet tooths can relish a happy ending with an order of Churros or Dulce de Leche. The churros are made in house, and the fluted fried dough is on mark with having cinnamon-sugar coated crunchy outside and soft in the centre. The Dulce de Leche, a coconut coated-vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce, is a favorite for the people into the simple classics.

Village Cantina is not a franchise nor does it have a celebrity chef. Yet, its staff, chef and owner put forth the details of a well-attended eatery with solid scores of tasty food. "I do it out of passion, and I do the best I could. I just hope people get it," Rob said humbly.

When you can go to an ethnic restaurant and walk out having a new found appreciation for the cuisine, I would give praise to the chef and restaurant for a job well done. 

Thank you Rob for having me and blogger friends dine at the Village Cantina!!! 
Village Cantina is located at 30 Ballarat St, Yarraville, Melbourne,VIC
Their website! Village Cantina
Like them on Facebook!  Village Cantina
Village Cantina Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Trivia time! The interior concept of Village Cantina is largely influenced by the movie, From Dusk Till Dawn. Can you name the actor whose headshot is framed on the back wall??? ;)