Now open: Fresca
We visit the new Tex-Mex outlet to find out what's buzzing. By Surekha Ragavan. Photography Amir Rashid
We know of Frontera as the go-to Tex-Mex restaurant in KL but newcomer Fresca is hot on its heels. Only four weeks old, it’s already generating fair feedback. Strategically located at the entrance of The Gardens (next to Juicy Couture), the restaurant is spacious and family friendly at first glance. The lack of sombreros and cowboy hats on the walls is a good thing here, keeping the setting minimal but inviting. Timber wood paneling form its parameters while rustic bricks deliberately arch above the bar. Fresca’s interior is the result if you were to weld a Chili’s outlet and a Southern diner (a diner at an affluent suburb, not one of those seedy drive-bys you see along the freeways).
Tacos Alambre - Corn tortillas with roast beef and Poblano chilli
Owner and managing director Lim Meng Jan tells us the idea for the restaurant stemmed from the lack of Mexican outlets in KL (we are quick to agree). Having been a fan of Mexican food in the UK, Hong Kong, Singapore and Indonesia, Jan noticed the distinct avoiding of this cuisine in KL. ‘How does Indonesia have more Mexican restaurants than KL?’ she wonders. Thankfully, with the launch of Fresca, such languishing will slowly be put to rest.
The food here is a blend of authentic Mexican dishes and more familiar Tex-Mex staples like tortilla chips with guacamole, fish tacos, quesadillas, fajitas and burritos. Dominated by tapas-style share plates, the menu sees a range of sopes, small round pieces of dough pinched around the sides to contain a variety of toppings (chicken, beef, refried beans, olives, feta etc). These deliciously messy discs make for great pre-dinner snacks with a bunch of friends.
We recommend the Jalapeno poppers, an outrageously fun snack to order on business – because the sight of a client huffing on poppers is priceless. The crumbed chillies are stuffed with Monterey Jack and minced beef and served with a tangy mango chipotle salsa. One of Jan’s personal favourites is the Camarones al Ajillo, tiger prawns sautéed in Guajillo chilli (a variety of chilli widely used in Mexico) and garlic. While you may think of Tex-Mex food as rich and heavy, the food here does justice to its name (Fresca is a translation of ‘fresh’).
As for the mains, the tortilla-based plates are always popular but it's the availability of authentic Mexican dishes which sees it potential to stand out in KL. The Pollo con Mole, a traditional Mexican chicken dish served with a sauce made from a long list of ingredients including chocolate, nuts, chilli and fruits is available here as is the Poblano Chile stuffed with mushroom risotto (a clever European twist) and Mozzarella.
Enchiladas Verdes - Corn tortillas stuffed with shredded chicken covered in salsa verde and a gratin cheese finish
If all the chilli and peppers cause you to flush in the cheeks, the Margarita list might come in handy and even includes a naughty Jalapeno Margarita. The chilli-infused Bloody Mary (chilli-infused vodka instead of tabasco) and the Elderflower Affair (tequila with elderflower essence and grapefruit) show a well-planned cocktail list. ‘My sister and I spent a lot of time getting drunk,’ Jan says. Someone’s got to do it, ey?
In a slightly exuberant nutshell, Fresca is one of those places you can depend on for a practical Mexican meal without the promise of tacky indulgence.