Cafe Iguana: More than just Margaritas

Cafe Iguana, like its big brother company, Brewerkz, just down the road; has always been an institution along these tourist busted lane ways of Clarke Quay. With mismatched walls in crazy block colors, hanging lamps and trailing fairy lights, the decor is as kooky Mexican as it can get. 

Since, my covert love for a good Mexican meal has always been unrequited in Singapore, unlike in Sydney where I had my fair stash of regular haunts; I was very much open to the idea of a tasting session over at Cafe Iguana; which if my memory serves me well, saw me getting sloshed at a tender age of 18 on a flight of very potent margaritas. So, the reputation for dishing out some solid margaritas stuck. But, how does Cafe Iguana deal on the food foray? Let's suss it out!

Now, let me warn you, this post will be very image weighty, so,  be prepared to be taken out by the psychedelic array of colours. Vegetarians fret not, as the menu is littered with suited options; a direction I deem super clever as a way of drawing in the tourists. The Mixed Vegetable Taco ($21) is one such choice, here, homemade corn tortillas are filled with shredded cabbage, a piquant lime cream, spicy salsa, jicama salad and cheese. Borracho beans and Mexican rice accompany this dish to fill the stomach before the onslaught of alcohol.

If you're gathered with friends and are feeling a little peckish, consider the Corn chips with Iguana's Signature spicy dip. The dip packs quite a punch with a good balance of acidity and sweetness that would probably see you working through the bowl of freshly fried corn chips, at lightning speed.

There's something a tad unique brewing in Cafe Iguana's kitchen, NO, it isn't beer, though they do have their own Iguana Lager on tap; a Mexican style beer (kind of like my favourite Negra Modelo) brewed exclusively for by Brewerkz; but it's their Tequila Grilled items on the menu that I remain fixated on. The Prawn Brochette ($35), think succulent lime marinated prawns, finished with a smoky and spicy tequila glaze and served with grilled vegetables and poblano scalloped potatoes. What I love about this dish, is first and foremost, the freshness of the seafood, and secondly, the licking of scorching flames over the sticky tequila glaze creating patchy grill marks that lead to a wide variation of textural contrast all in one bite.

I may be a big fan of Cha Cha Cha's Chimichanga, but Iguana's Mixed Vegetable Chimichanga, does give the former a good run for its money with its golden deep fried exterior filled with succulent vegetables, onions and cheese. Topped with a landslide of sour cream and guacamole to enhance the experience. I was left dumbfounded, with just the scratching of fork against plate to testify for my opinions.

Carnivores looking for something substantial can turn to the Mulato Rib Eye ($44). Witness the magic of good char grilled techniques on the protein, the mulato sauce; essentially a Mexican version of a black pepper sauce adds a slight smoky sweet finish to the steak. However, perching a prized piece of protein on a hot plate does have its downside as the steak continues to cook to a uncalculated well-done as time went by. If a change of serving style isn't employed, I reckon a better time management be implemented to ensure perfect doneness. 

Almost like the Chimchanga, minus the guilt factor of all that grease, the Sauteed Vegetable Enchilada ($24) is another option for the vegetarians. The Tomatillo sauce and melted cheese over the top of the package sealing the deal.

Mixed Vegetable Burrito ($21), savoury Mexican rice, borracho beans, cheddar and mozzarella wrapped in a flour tortilla. And if that isn't enough for you, opt to have it smothered in carne de puerco en chile verde (pork green chile stew). Might be a mess, but isn't that what Mexican food embodies?

And if you've been following me, you would know that, I'm a sucker for fried wings, buffalo wings, har cheong gai, etc... Hence, despite the exploding belly at this juncture of non-stop feasting, there was no denying the Fuego Wings. Colored a devilish red, the wings are divided into categories, the hot and the HOTTER, the former coated in a medium hot habenero sauce and the latter, rolled around in spicy roasted chile sauce. Alright, so, you won't get that sort of numbing sensation from chomping on these, because, to be honest, having to gulp down copious amounts of water (for the record, milk does work better) is not befitting of a good dining experience. Hence, the spice levels here are kept on a tight leash, with better attention paid to the aromas and flavors. Good call.

Two of my favourite dishes of the night were the Red Snapper Enchilada ($25) and the Tequila Grilled 1/2 chicken ($38). Just look at that thick blanket of tomatillo sauce and melted cheese over the tortilla, all these concealing a thick slab of ancho chili coated fish that has the same qualities of a blackened fish. Cooked well, the fish retained a flaky moist flesh in  stark contrast to its crusty spiced blackened surface. Definitely a dish that I would return for again! And as boring as it sounds, the grilled chicken pushes past mundanes, the lime marination locking the juices in and the tequila glaze permeating an outer ring with sweet spiciness. Served with grilled vegetables and poblano scalloped potatoes, this substantial portion can feed 2 peckish diners with ease.

For a no frills establishment, I must confess, the desserts are pretty mind blowing; the ingenious use of Mexican ingredients in there, a good reason to encourage ordering at least one item off the menu.

The Ancho Chile Chocolate Cake ($14) is a classic flourless chocolate cake imbued with a tinge of pepperiness from the ancho chile. A large scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream is perched precariously over the top, a welcome addition to the rich treat,

My favourite dessert of the evening had to be the Banana Chimichangas ($14), hands down. Cause, nothing beats deep fried bananas smothered in caramel and strawberry sauce. That is, until the droolworthy avocado ice cream is dragged into the picture. It's hefty presence presiding over the golden packages below it. I love guacamole, but this avocado ice cream takes the cake...any day of the week.

Last but not least, there is the ultimate Mexican dessert, Churros ($12) at the table. Here, the snack is dressed a little more upmarket in a martini glass with a pool of chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream beneath it. Not a big fan of the choux pastry like puffy innards, neither do I take to the pish-posh presentation very well; but this is definitely a great dessert made for sharing.

A trip to Cafe Iguana doesn't always have to be about the booze, though I must admit the Margaritas here still remain one of the better ones I've had. With a food menu that showcases rich flavors of Mexico, accentuated by innovative cooking techniques and punchy aromas, this old school institution should be your go-to for classic Mexican food. Be sure to try it the next time the cravings hit.

Cafe Iguana
30 Merchant Road
Riverside Point
t: 6236 1275

Operating Hours:
Mon - Thurs: 4pm - 12am
Fri and Eve of PH: 4pm - 3am
Sat: 12pm - 3am
Sun: 12pm -12am

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