Bright and bold
Jalan Kayu Jati, No. 9X, Petitenget Beach (behind the temple, opposite Bodyworks)
T: (0361) 736688
We usually try to wait for a joint to have been open for a little while before checking it out, but with bright, bold Motel Mexicola in Seminyak, Bali, we just had to stop by.
Go on, you walk past the above and try to not go inside! It’s a riot of ebullient, joyful colour, outside and in. Mexican in Bali? Sounds like a stretch, and it’s a long way from a rijsttafel with gamelan playing in the background, but somehow Motel Mexicola manages to capture an essence that Bali and Mexico share: a love of playfulness, a sensual spirituality, a chilled kind of attitude that says, “Bring it! Two tacos and two shaken margaritas!”
Pull up a comfortable seat outside for a drink and taco earlier in the day, when the menu, at least for now, is very short and sweet — basically booze and tacos.
Evenings, head inside to a large courtyard area — sit at one of the bars, on a sprawling lounge, in one of the clusters of chairs… The creative space feels like it’s been set up for a big, friendly party. In a week or two a more formal dining area is set to open, with an extended menu, one of the managers, Adrian, told us on our first visit when he introduced himself while working the floor.
Over that night and the next afternoon, we tried the pork, chicken and prawn tempura tacos, served on white corn tortillas (17,500 rupiah each, all prices +15%). They’re light, flavourful and delicately prepared — it’s a serious step above just cheap and cheerful Mexican. Two chilli sauces are served bottled on the side; the red will make you cry, it is that good.
Margaritas are good (79,000 rupiah) but forget about silly glasses — so 2012! — and come in no-nonsense plastic tumblers edged with salt. Maybe a little heavy on the ice, but that’s alcohol in Bali, and prices are competitive for the area (Ku De Ta is just down the road, after all).
We also tried the quesadilla with chicken and cheese (50,000 rupiah) and a few tostada (3 for 29,000 rupiah), simple, solid fare better than just for drinking with. We didn’t wade into the marinated raw seafood or heavier mains, like pork ribs and jumbo prawns, and look forward to seeing the more comprehensive menu when it’s out.
Make sure you have a wander around the whole, rambling, almost ramshackle premises — there are shrines and fountains and potplants and decorative touches everywhere worth having a look at. It’s a bit of a treasure hunt, really.
Mexican seems to be having a bit of a moment in Bali, but Motel Mexicola is the most ambitious and grandest place to have opened to date. If you’re staying in Seminyak, you really must try it. It’s not beachfront, but eating in Bali has become so much more than just beach and mountain views now.
Lacalaca around on Drupadi is another solid, fun choice worth checking out; and if you just want something simple, Taco Casa on Jalan Petitenget serves up fresh, healthy greatest Mexican hits as well. And don’t forget Sea Circus, just around the corner from Motel, which isn’t just Mexican, but does a mean margarita and some great Mexican stuff too.
By Stuart McDonald
Last updated on 27th February, 2015.