Honkytonks – Eating the (Entire) Menu

by The Editor

You may be aware of our surprise (and slight confusion) at the fuss made over the Honkytonks launch of a Taco Menu. While there can barely be a human alive who hasn’t ploughed their way through a Taco kit, complete with cardboard tasting shells and the accompanying bland sauce, why would anyone want to be involved in taco construction once hitting the bottom of a jug of sangria?

It struck us as all a bit, well… loco.

Perusing the menu it was clear Honkytonks has taken the humble taco far beyond the Friday night feel of Old El Paso. To confirm the quality (or otherwise) of their offerings, The Canberran decided to indulge in a Taco degustation.

That’s correct – a taco degustation. It was time to see how the bar’s comestibles matched their libations. All tacos were $5 per serve.

COURSE ONE

Chicken Taco: served with Mount Gay rum and cane sugar onion jam. Lightly covered with a pineapple and coconut salsa

Accompaniment: Domaine de la Chauviniere Muscadet Sevre et Maine (FRA)

The taco is made of chicken jerk, a Caribbean method of marinating and smoking the meat. The coconut and pineapple salsa cuts through the flavoursome chicken while the addition of a Mount Gay rum, onion and cane sugar jam continuess the spicy and sweet theme.

The wine matched nicely. While looking initially like an Alsace wine, the floral and citrus notes line up perfectly with the taco’s salsa.

Note. All tacos are made in a soft tortilla, so wrapping and eating is easier than a hard-shelled taco.

COURSE TWO

Cider Pork Taco: served with Romesco sauce and Argentinian Chimichurri lightly covered with red cabbage

Accompaniment: Mulled Cider (AUS)

Pork and cider. What isn’t to love?

The pork in this taco is actually chorizo, which lays down a gently spicy base. Comes across very soft and sweet. The chimichurri adds an extra bit of heat, resulting in a taco for those who prefer strong, bold flavours.

Made on site, the apple cider is combined with cinnamon, star anise, Mount Gay rum and cardamom (along with other secret ingredients), and gently warmed through. Although we struggled to pick up the cider notes in the chorizo, the warmth of the cider along with the Romesco sauce made for a good flavour match.

COURSE THREE

Pinto Bean Taco: Garlic and oregano sautéed mushrooms are served with a pinto bean and cactus salsa topped with El Jimador tequila and chipotle mayonnaise

Accompaniment: Ta Nui 2008 Marlborough Pinot Noir (NZL)

Wow. This one hit us out of the blue. Never in our lives did we expect a vegetarian dish could exceed a taco made from pork and spiced cider. While the mushrooms add a nice earthy base, it’s the chipotle mayonnaise that steals the show. It’s rich creamy, and probably not much healthier than chorizo. Delicious, and a clear star thus far.

The slightly pungent nature of the Pinot brings forward the flavours of the mushrooms, but to be honest, we would have happily drank a glass of the mayo.

COURSE FOUR

Beef Fillet Taco: Marinated in Quilmes Beer, Hickory smoke and jerk spices, sweet corn, capsicum and achiote spice compote with a Mexican olive tapenade

Accompaniment: Finca el Origen 2009 Malbec (ARG)

After the soaring high of the Pinto Bean Taco, we were dragged back to earth by this course. The elements on their own were fine, however the combination resulted in a somewhat watery texture and flavour, due largely to the presence of the corn. After a forensic search through our collective tacos it was clear the tapenade was missing – an ingredient that would have added a lovely base for the toppings and linked nicely with the wine. Had we had this course first and with the tapenade, it would have been received rather more gratefully.

DESSERT

Well, not a real dessert – in fact nothing like dessert. After four tacos we were in deep need of a palate cleanser, and tonight this came in the form of…

The Honkydog: Pork Frankfurt topped with Serrano Chillies, HonkyTonks Signature dog sauce, aged cheddar and red cabbage. ($7.00)

Accompaniment: Mulled Red Wine (AUS)

To be honest, the idea of eating an entire hotdog at this stage was going to be a challenge, even for the boys at the table (proving a $20 feast is more than capable of satisfying larger appetites) so only one was ordered, and cut into pieces to allow us all a taste.

It was interesting to see a run-of-the-mill footy frank shoved in a standard bun – given the complexity of the tacos we expected a more sophisticated take on the humble hotdog.

We’re not sure what is in the ‘signature sauce’ but it is certainly the highlight of the snack. The aged cheddar and cabbage added necessary sharpness to the deep flavour of the sauce, while the mulled wine, with orange and cinnamon notes got us prepared to take our full bellies and wander out into the biting cold.

CONCLUSION

Well, we have to say Honkytonks has it spot on. Having spent the evening plowing through fresh and tasty tacos (as well as more than one glass of wine) we have to admit the menu suits the quirky and inventive feel of the bar. Bonus points are awarded for providing a sustainable side to the food on offer. The disposable trays are made from plantation bamboo, and all food scraps go into a compost being prepared for their own kitchen garden. If it is anyway possible to put icing on a taco (or even a ‘dessert’ hotgdog) this is it.

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