You’ll of heard of tacos, enchiladas, and burritos and associate these with Mexican cuisine. You are right of course but there is more to Mexican food than what we call Tex-Mex.
Mexican cuisine formed approx 9000 years ago from the Maya and Aztec peoples and staples in the diet consisted of corn, beans, squash, amaranth, chia, avocados, tomatoes, tomatillos, cacao, vanilla, agave, turkey, sweet potato, cactus, and chili pepper. Then the Spanish conquest in the 16th century, introduced meats, dairy products and rice.
Mexico is Nico’s third menu offering at Six by Nico in Edinburgh and I went along to sample the menu.
We started off with a Pineapple and Basil Margarita with Tequila, Cointreau and Ginger. I adore ginger and you could certainly taste it in this wee cocktail; but you’ll most certainly get a huge hit of tequila too. A refreshing cocktail that warms you from the inside. The rim was heavily salted too which I liked!
1st course – Chicken Thigh Taco with Guacamole, Strawberry Salsa and whipped Creme Fraiche.
This is one dish that will leave you wanting more. The taco was course and earthy, very more-ish and one of those ground maize flavours that you just wish there was more of. The chicken thigh was soft and tender but the strawberry salsa was amazing. I’d never of thought that strawberries would compliment chicken but somehow the flavours all sang in harmony. I just wanted more.
2nd course – Nachos with Heritage tomato, housemade Queso Fesco (cheese) and Avocado Gazpacho.
This wins hands down, the prettiest dish on the menu. It’s like a Mexican sunset with the dried tomato crest adorning the plate.
Each element was cooked well and when combined into mouthfuls were absolutely delicious. For me the jury is still out one which dish, 1st or 2nd course, was the star dish of the meal. The nacho was buried underneath everything on the plate with one corner still crispy and the other a little soggy having soaked up all the flavours but this is a good thing. It’s like the nachos you find right at the bottom of a big bowl, the ones you scrape off your plate along with the melted bits of cheese.
3rd course – Elote – sweetcorn risotto, green chorizo and pickled red peppers.
The flavours here are classic Mexican ingredients – tomatoes and corn. Very homely nostalgic tastes however you’ll certainly pick up the slight smokiness from the chorizo.
The risotto was creamy, the corn kernels crunchy and the pickled peppers acidity balancing out the creaminess of the whole dish. Loved this dish.
4th course – Sea Bass Chilpachole Mixto – Mussel Escabeche, Crab Mole, Sikil Pak and Orange.
I am a massive fish and seafood fan and although the seabass was cooked perfectly – flaky and well seasoned, I just didn’t enjoy all the flavours.
What I did love was the soft fish along with the sweet acidity of the orange. It really elevated this dish but I didn’t care for the mussels nor the pumpkin seed sauce (sikil pak) circling the plate.
5th course – Pork Cheek Barbacoa with Refried Beans, Tomatillo, Rainbow Chard and Crackling.
Out of the last three dishes, this was the one I enjoyed the most. The cheek was falling apart, slightly gelatinous but that’s where the flavour lies.
Initially I thought the crackling was popcorn – it resembled the popped kernels. The crackling was tasty and crunchy just don’t leave them on top of the cheek for too long as they start to go slightly soft and I felt the chard wasn’t needed at all.
6th course – Chocolate Taco with Tonka Bean Ganache, Banana Ice Cream and Chipotle & Banana Caramel.
If you like bananas, then this is the dessert for you. If you like chocolate, then this is also the dessert for you. The taco was crispy and chocolatey and the ice cream tasted 100% banana. No denying it was banana. I didn’t pick up the tonka bean in the ganache but loved the dots of caramel.
The one thing missing from all of these dishes was the spice, the heat, the chilli – those flavours that you automatically associate with Mexican cuisine. Instead what you get is the light, fresh, vibrant side of Mexican cuisine like tomatoes, corn and chocolate.
This menu wasn’t as beige as the Chippy menu but I enjoyed it equally. I really do like Nico’s inventiveness and risk taking – he knows that not everyone will enjoy everything but one thing is for sure, you’ll keep going back every six weeks!
Six by Nico, 97 Hanover St, Edinburgh EH2 1DJ. Tel : 0131 2255050 www.sixbynico.co.uk/edinburgh
My Spoon Award : Silver 8/10