As the Mexican proverb goes, a good man finds his native soil in every country. When Arturo Morales couldn’t find it after 20 years in Australia, he created his own with Los Amates.
The restaurant opened in 2003, at a time when people rarely travelled to the “real” Mexico and only knew of Tex-Mex cuisine. Luckily, a fitting site came up on Johnston Street, with Casa Iberica directly across the road and an annual Hispanic Festival held in between the two.
Morales’ gamble paid off. Supplies such as achiote paste are now more readily available than at first opening. He also sources hard-to-come by ingredients from guacaMall-e and Aztec Mexican Products in Tullamarine. He grows many of his own herbs.
As well as a breakfast menu featuring all kinds of huevos, Morales serves lunch dishes based on tacos, chilaquiles (fried tortilla strips), sopes (corn-flour cases) and gorditas (corn masa pockets). His mole poblano sauce (chilli, cocoa and cinnamon, among other ingredients) takes two days to make. Rotating specials provide a culinary journey through different parts of Mexico.
Drinks are as you’d expect: Mexican beers, various varieties of tequila and fruity margaritas.
The vibrant interior is decorated with Day of the Dead mementos from Morales’ trips back home. He likes to think of it as a hub for nostalgic migrants, but if local diners walk away with an appreciation for real Mexican cuisine, his work is truly done.