It’s been a while since we last dropped by this buzzy taqueria. Vibes-wise, the cosy 28-seater space still feels very much like an indoor food truck, with sizzle and chatter permeating the air. Food-wise, we’re happy to report that things have certainly improved.
The pico de gallo ($6) is fresh and bright, while the esquites ($9) or grilled corn, comes packed with smoke and creaminess thanks to the addition of chipotle aioli. For mains, tacos (from $12 for two) still come in palm-sized servings, but the fillings pack heat and flavour. Pulled pork is decently tender, and we like the fish for its cleaner profile. Here, white dory is grilled, rather than deep-fried, to create a version that doesn’t taste too greasy and cloying. And save space for the sweet tres leche cake ($9), a creamy, homemade creation with evaporated milk, whole milk, and condensed milk. Drinks, of frozen (from $15) or shaken (from $16) margarita, are a must-order as well.
Original review by Nicole-Marie Ng on September 26 2018
This no-frills taqueria gets the vibe right. The tiny space is plastered with hand-painted vintage Spanish movie posters and you have to jostle and squeeze between your
neighbours at the open show kitchen decked out in green, white and red – the colours of the Mexican flag. There, chef Mauricio Espinoza, the big daddy of Papi’s Tacos, dishes up plates reminiscent of his hometown of Tlaxcala, a small state east of Mexico City.
Because no Mexican restaurant is complete without guacamole, we start with an order of The Holy Trinity ($11) of chips, guac and pico de gallo. While lime in guacamole is a contentious issue – purists like Diana Kennedy, author of The Art Of Mexican Cooking, forbid it – we think a splash of acidity is needed, especially to help brighten the lackluster avocados we get around these parts. The pico de gallo is equally bland, so we end up having the free-flow chips with Papi’s housemade hot sauces instead.
In words no man wants to hear, Papi’s burritos lack length and girth. We give the burrito de asada ($16) a shot, but the combination of steak, rice, beans, cheese, pico de gallo and sour cream tastes rancid and isn’t worth finishing. The mushroom quesadilla ($12) fares better but it’s hard not to love a toasted tortilla stuffed chock-full of cheese and mushrooms.
As for Papi’s tacos, there are six palm-sized options to choose from. The tacos al pastor ($11 for two/$16 for three) is served on a crispy homemade corn tortilla topped with spit-roasted pork, red onion, pineapple and coriander. The combination of sweet, savoury and smoky is the best two bites we have all evening. The tacos de pollo ($11/$16), slow-cooked pulled chicken mixed with salsa is dry and forgettable while tacos de camaron($13) comes with fresh-from-the-packet frozen shrimp pan-seared and drowned in a lightly spiced sauce that renders the flour tortilla it’s served in soggy.
Maybe we’re missing the point and the drinks are supposed to be the draw instead. Afterall, Papi’s Tacos is a collaboration with the guys behind Employees Only Singapore, where Espinoza used to be head chef. There are shaken ($15), frozen ($18) and flavour of the day margaritas ($18/$21) that can be customised with the type of tequila or mezcal you fancy. Its convivial atmosphere with people spilling out onto the street makes it the perfect dive for downing shots – maybe then we can forgive the less-than-stellar food.
Time Out Singapore reviews anonymously and pays for all meals. Read our restaurant review policy here.
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