Los Amates (3 of 12)

Arturo Morales Los Amates Mexican Kitchen at 31 Johnston Street doesn’t pretend to be the Capella Pedregal of Fitzroy, in fact it has no pretensions at all which is part of its charm. The staff were friendly and helpful and we couldn’t fault them and the décor, brightly painted walls packed with colourful religious icons and Mexican memorabilia, provided a celebratory feel perfect for a warm and relaxed meal. Owner Arturo has been a chef for 27 years and opened Los Amates just over 9 years ago. Adrian Gonzalez has been the Head Chef for about 2 years and is originally from Mexico City, so between them they are the real deal.

Los Amates (2 of 12)

The name “Los Amates” comes from the Aztec work “AMATL” which means the bark from a tree called Amate, in which the Mexican indigenous people from the southern State of Guerrero would create paintings depicting celebrations, birds or Aztec symbols. These paintings are featured on the restaurant’s walls. When Arturo started the restaurant, he wanted a name that had meaning for him, referencing Amates that depict traditional cooking techniques, such as making tortillas.

Los Amates (12 of 12)

Los Amates (1 of 12)

Los Amates (4 of 12)

Ceviche Tostada:
Los Amates have been serving Ceviche for around 8 years. Ceviche is a raw fish dish marinted in a citrus dressing. The fish appears and tastes cooked by the acid in the marinade but in fact the proteins and simply denatured, not cooked in the same way heat does. The fish used for the Ceviche was Ling or Rockling as it’s also known. In Mexico many different types of fish are used, including shark in some regions. Apparently Ceviche was first made in Peru, then it found it’s way to Mexico, just as corn found it’s way down to South America. The Ceviche Tostada was one of our favourite dishes. It was fresh with lots of citrusy lime, fish, avocado and tomato, all topping the crunchy fried tortilla. It did include lettuce which may not be traditional but it did add a freshness and crunch to the dish. A great entree and way to start the meal.

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Chicken enchiladas with Mole Sauce:
The chicken enchiladas were coated in a rich, dark mole sauce, one of the yardsticks of Mexican cuisine. The complex combination of flavours in the Mole derived in part from chiles, spices, peanuts, garlic, raisins, cinnamon and dark chocolate will not be to everyone’s taste but we found it smooth, rich and smoky without any hint of graininess. The enchiladas came with the traditional Queso Blanco white cheese and without the lashings of oily grated cheeses that often smother Australianized Mexican food into abject submission.

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Lamb Tacos:
The white corn tortillas were soft and warm served in a little basket wrapped in colourful fabric. The tomatillo salsa was a great accompaniment (a green tomato looking fruit, actually a part of the gooseberry family, with a tart flavour). It was certainly a large serving and we weren’t sure about our choice of lamb so if you want a more traditional taco then try the chicken or be adventurous and try the fried cactus.

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Prawns Chipotle:
This was our favourite dish along with the Ceviche. Nine large prawns in a generous serving with a creamy tomato chipotle chilli cream sauce with fresh lime on the side. Los Amates have generously shared their recipe for this dish exclusively for The Culinary Library readers, see at the bottom of this page.

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We choose the Tres Leches dessert, something of a labour of love to make, usually taking 2 days to infuse the lightest of sponges with the three milk mixture (condensed, evaporated and cream). We make if often for its amazing texture and flavour. If you’ve never had it before you’ll probably like the Los Amates strawberry version but if you’ve  laboured over the Christine Manfield recipe you will find it falls short of your expectation.

But all in all we enjoyed a relaxed evening  that felt more like being looked after by a generous host in their own home rather than a night at a restaurant. The fact that the place was booked to capacity on a Tuesday night says more about the food and friendliness of Los Amates than we can.

Camarones (Prawns) al Chipotle Recipe
Serves 2.

12 large King Prawns
Olive oil
1/2 med size brown onion finely chopped
12 dried Chipotle peppers or a small tin of Chipotle en Adobo (to use about 1-1 1/2 tbsp)
200ml thickened cream
chopped parsley to finish the dish
If you are using dried Chipotles:
Soak them for at least 1 hour with enough water to cover, then tip them into a small pot with the water and “cook” them with 1/2 an onion and 2 cloves of garlic for around 15 mins. let the mixture cool down before put in into a blender; make sure water never disappears, there should be enough water to make smooth paste.
If you are using the tinned Chipotles:
Blend the whole tin with a little water; any leftover can be frozen or stored in a jar in the fridge and used another time.
Put some oil into a frying pan hot enough to grill the Prawns both sides and remove the Prawns when just cooked.
Add a touch more olive oil to the same pan, add the chopped onions and saute to just transparent. Then add about 200 mls of cream, 1 to 1-1/2 soup spoons of Chipotle paste (if you like very hot then ad 2 full spoonfuls). Let the cream reduce a bit
then add the cooked Prawns. Reduce the flame to a simmer and add the chopped parsley for some colour and freshness.
 Serve with Mexican rice or boiled white rice and salad.
 That’s it! that’s all it takes, just make sure Prawns are not overcooked so they don’t go hard and chewy.

Los Amates Mexican Kitchen
34 Johnston St, Fitzroy VIC
Ph: 03 9417 0441

Los Amates on Urbanspoon

The Culinary Library dined as a guest of Los Amates Mexican Kitchen.

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