Food: Mexi-van wave - K Chido Mexico
18 Chancery Street, Dublin 7
Published 31/05/2015 | 02:30
As locations go, it is unprepossessing. Tucked away near the Four Courts, in the entrance of Fegans' Foodservice warehouse on Chancery Street, is perhaps not where you would expect to find Dublin's most authentic Mexican street food.
The first indication that something exciting is going on here is the exterior, covered in joyous depictions of chillies and beans and pyramids. Inside, towards the back, there's a vintage food truck, painted in vivid turquoise and hot pink. Promisingly, there's an Ariosa coffee stand with a proper machine and a barista standing by. The smells are very good.
The furniture is made from pallets that are padded and painted. The space is heated, and more comfortable than it sounds, although it is unlikely to be somewhere you're going to bring Great Aunt Bridget to celebrate her birthday, unless she happens to be a particularly adventurous old gal.
This is not fine dining: you queue up to order from the hatch, take a ticket and wait for your number to be called. The plates and cutlery are plastic.
Food trucks have been around forever, of course, but in recent years they've shaken off the greasy burger image that we Irish associate with post-match food shame and become properly cool.
In America, the old-school Airstreams are the truck of choice, and just about everyone who is interested in food and who has seen the movie Chef - including sensible folk such as lawyers and doctors who really should know better - will, if pushed, admit to harbouring a little fantasy that one day they too will pack it all in to follow their dream.
For the benefit of street food nerds, the truck here is a Citroen HY, extra large and extra long, with a full kitchen on board.
K Chido Mexico or Mexico K Chido - either name is fine, says Theresa Hernandez, one of the owners - means 'How Cool is Mexico?' or 'Mexico How Cool'. It's an apt choice, given the crowd that's swarming around the truck for the Sunday 'bruncheria' - plenty of beards, in other words.
The truck is open daytime only, seven days a week, although check before you visit via Twitter @kchidomexico or Facebook (there is no phone) that it's not on the road at a festival. During the week the menu includes pulled pork tacos, chicken enchiladas and fajitas; it's a little different at the weekend, with more of a brunch focus.
Theresa met her husband, Gustavo, from Tlaquepaque near Guadalajara, back in the 1980s when she was working in Mexico. They returned to Ireland in 1989, setting up a business selling Mexican food because they found it impossible to source authentic Mexican ingredients in Ireland.
Gus and Theresa were originally stallholders in the Temple Bar food market, as Mero Mero México. They still have a loyal following; customers show up week after week to buy Gus's homemade salsas, marinades and sauces, which underpin the cooking at K Chido Mexico.
In Temple Bar, the couple's neighbours are Oisín Healy (son of organic fruit and vegetable man, Denis) and Tina Cropp (of the Corleggy cheese family) who run a crepe stall. The two couples are now business partners in K Chido Mexico. "The genetics of K Chido are good," says Theresa.
Dublin is inundated with burrito bars these days, and the standard of the offering varies widely. Because beans are cheap, the food in some tends to be heavy, fuelling the popular misconception that all Mexican food is stodgy.
Here, there's a lightness of touch, and a vibrancy to the food that bears testament to its authenticity. Yes, there are beans - refried beans are an essential element of Mexican food - but not too many. And they taste great.
Pulled pork that's been marinated with smoky chipotle comes with corn tacos, refried beans, rice, guacamole and a punchy salsa verde. It's a simple dish, executed impeccably, and costs just €7.
A quesadilla stuffed with vegetables and chorizo is smothered in melted cheese, with beans, salad and sour cream. It's €5.50 and would make short work of the worst excesses of Saturday night.
We share a few orders of nachos - variations on a theme (with cheese, with chorizo, with cheese and chorizo - the options are not that extensive) and great guacamole. The chips are super fresh and far tastier than any we remember encountering before, a million miles away from the tired versions you find in the supermarket. Onion and cilantro relish and salsa chido bring a subtle complexity to the dishes - it's a cut above what's on offer elsewhere.
Prices are low. Brunch for four, with three soft drinks and one excellent Americano comes to €37 before tip. At the moment there are no desserts, but Theresa says they are experimenting with churros at the moment, and hope to have them on the menu soon. This might just be a reason to pay another visit soon...
On a budget
There are plenty of low-cost options, but a Quesadilla 'Sincilla' - melted cheese in a wrap with beans, salad, salsa and sour cream is just €3.50.
On a blowout
You'll struggle to spend money here, but the brunch option of Huevos Porque No! featuring chorizo, bacon, eggs, beans, corn tortilla, salsa ranchera, sour cream and more, plus a side of guacamole and corn chips, and a coffee will set you back €15.
The high point
Great food, smiling staff.
The low point
There's no provenance information on the menu.
10/10 value for money
Whispers from the gastronomicon
At LitFest in Ballymaloe, everyone's favourite couple was wine writer Jancis Robinson and her husband, Nicholas Lander, the restaurant critic with the Financial Times. Lander's writing is informed by having been in the business, which lends plenty of credibility. Robinson declared herself to be a fan of lower alcohol wines and screw-caps, which she said she would favour if she were a wine maker, while Lander conducted a fascinating public interview with ex-Ivy chef-turned-restaurateur, Mark Hix, the flow of which was aided by several glasses of chilled white wine...