Getting back into cooking since 2009.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Zapata's (Restaurant - Northbridge)

Mexican food has a bad reputation. It's been marred by association with packet crap, and there are few decent restaurants in Perth to offset the dark side. Imagine if all we knew of Japanese food was the dodgy 4-pack nori rolls they sell at servos, or if Italian food in Australia was just sharehouse-style spag bol with those Kraft shakers of dandruff masquerading as parmesan cheese. Mexican food deserves better.

Of course, Tex-Mex and Mexican are not the same thing, but that doesn't mean you should just dismiss Tex-Mex food. Genuine Tex-Mex food is more like a regional variation or adaptation of Mexican food than a worthless Western bastardisation (see the Homesick Texan blog for some great Tex-Mex recipes).

We approached Zapata's in Northbridge hoping for the best but expecting the worst. Tex Mex can be done well, as I've mentioned, but it usually isn't. It's most often a convenient ruse to mask low-quality ingredients with acres of tasteless processed cheese, washing it all down with the obligatory cheap margaritas. I'm also deeply sceptical of any restaurant on James St in Northbridge. I assume all of those places are terrible until reliably assured otherwise.

Unfortunately, Zapata's restaurant in Northbridge confirmed our fears. The food they serve is a lazy, cynical insult to a great cuisine.

The margarita was pleasantly and surprisingly strong; everything else was depressingly poor.

The guacamole, which should be vibrant, tangy and well-seasoned, instead had the gelatinous, blended texture of a supermarket avocado dip with a near-miraculous lack of flavour. The guacamole was served as part of a trio of dips with "Chilli con Queso", which apparently translates as "Utterly Tasteless Molten Fat that May Have Once Been Cheese" and a 'salsa' of unripe diced tomatoes. These were served with cheap, semi-stale, shop-bought corn chips. Not a good start.

It did not get better from there. My beef burrito was tough, as if it had been pre-assembled and cooked and then reheated. A tortilla should not have the texture of leather. The taste hardly made up for the chew, with a metric tonne of bland burrito filling needing a heavy hand with the hot sauce to lend it any flavour at all.

The dismal food should not have been a surprise. The place ticks all the boxes for cliched awfulness. We were willing to give it the benefit of the doubt, but I wish we hadn't.

155 James St
Northbridge WA

Zapata's on Urbanspoon


  1. I went to Zapatas in Fremantle and also thought it was pretty shit.
    Damn you guys and your impending Californian (aka mexican heaven) jaunt!

  2. Absolutely as expected. Though I haven't darkened the door at Zapatas in Northbridge, I have heard a lot about the one in Fremantle, and reports from other people who had visited did not bode well. Thanks for taking one for the team though Matt... It would seem as a Mexican lover, you are in the wrong city.

    Aside from The Flying Taco, and a happy byo tequila fuelled memory of "That Little Mexican Place" (which has since gone downhill). I can count the number of great Mexican nights I've had on zero hands.

    By the looks of your home efforts though, you're not missing out too much :)

  3. Hi Guys,

    I am a fellow food blogger from Brisbane. I am organising a business dinner in Perth and would love some advice on where to eat. Who better to ask than a perth based blogger?! I am looking for somewhere that is located in Perth CBD, nice but not too over the top ($35-$45 mains maybe??) and relaxed but not too casual. Can you help me out?

    Thanks very much!

  4. Gastronomy Gal,
    There is not a lot in the CBD, unfortunately. Andaluz is great for tapas, and I'm told that Bar One's food is quite good (I've been for dessert and a drink and was happy with it). Andaluz and Bar One are at opposite ends of the CBD.

    If you're willing to venture out of the CBD and spend up to $45 on mains then I'd suggest Star Anise in Shenton Park (in the inner west) or Jackson's in Highgate (in the inner north). I wouldn't describe either of them as casual, but they're not too starchy either.

    Let me know how you go

  5. I think there's probably a few more decent places in the city area that we just haven't been to.

    Hopefully anyone reading can suggest something? I'd like to hear suggestions for myself also!

    Slightly out of CBD area I'd recommend Cantina in Mt Lawley & Ria in Leederville. Both really great food and a good level of relaxed without being lazy.

  6. yes, true! Two excellent choices!

    There is also Halo on Barrack St that is supposed to be good!

  7. i'd recommend cream in east perth, ha lu in leederville/mt. hawthorn and duende (tappas) in leederville.

    we ate zapata's on the weekend. i wasn't expecting much from it, and not much was what they delivered. however, the the staff were really friendly and the food was not exorbitantly priced (for perth anyway). i didn't feel ripped off, but i concur that it's not a great mexican restaurant, and probably not even a very good one.

  8. I forgot to mention in my post: the service was TERRIBLE! Actively hostile. We resorted to waving our arms above our head to get attention. Served food that we did not order. Waited over half an hour for burritos. Etc.

    There really wasn't a redeeming feature about this place apart from maybe the decent margarita.

  9. The margarita was not good enough to make up for everything else though. Go somewhere else for a drink.

  10. true, especially now Ezra and 399 exist.

  11. If you have to stay in the city i would say Halo or possibly Bar1, although it can get a bit noisy on certain nights.

    Wouldnt recommend Cantina or Ria as wouldnt work for a business dinner in my opinion (not that the food isnt good).

    Cream isnt really a business dinner sort of place as well, a bit more like a date restaurant IMO. Balthazar has been used for business meals for years, although i have heard that the standard has slipped a little recently. Anyone been recently?

    If you can venture outside the city a little Jacksons and Star Anise are good suggestions but all depends on if you want to go to a fine dining restaurant. How formal a dinner would you like?

    Ive taken a number of clients to Galileo in Shenton Park and it has always gone well. The food is great and the place is the right mix of great food, the right kind of service (good without being formal) and the correct lighting for a business dinner. It also is not too quiet which can be an issue i find at some venues when it comes to work meetings.


  12. Yes, good point(s)!

    I must confess that I've never actually been to a 'business dinner', so I don't really have a good sense of what a good business dinner restaurant should be like.

  13. haha yeah unfortunately when it comes to (occasionally) wanky business dinners u have to chose based on a different criteria.

    also gastronomy gal maybe consider the opus restaurant at the richardson hotel. havent been there but a mate takes clients there regularly. it is a fine dining restaurant though so might not fit the relaxed requirement.


  14. oh i didn't notice the bit about a 'business dinner', yeah sanj is probably right that cantina or ria maybe aren't appropriate if you need to talk business, and i too have never attended such thing! good luck!

  15. Thanks very much for all your tips. Halo, Star Anise, Bar one and Jackson's couldn't take the 16 of us so we have ended up at The George. Not too sure how that will go - but getting in a large booking is hard work so I'm happy to just have anywhere!

  16. I didn't realise it was a booking for 16! Yes, I'm not surprised they couldn't accommodate such a large group.

    I hope the George is OK! I haven't been there.

  17. This would have to be the worst meal i've had for many a years. There are not that many mexican restaurants in Perth, and those around do it so badly, this does it even worse. Service, meal, atmosphere - all did not rate at all it was sheer crap!
    The only one that can be applauded is Accapulco Annie's for making the distance.