Spicy-food lovers who love a challenge can court ‘mega death’ at Lower East Side Taqueria (LES for short). The 2 month-old restaurant joins popular Mexican restaurants like Lucha Loco and Piedra Negra in serving up that beloved Mexican staple, tacos, with a strong emphasis on tongue-searing.

The 70-seater eatery is inviting with its open and airy concept, which helps to showcase its whimsical décor. Its centrepiece is an unusual ‘chandelier’ made up of wooden pallets and chairs intertwined on the ceiling. Visually arresting, to say the least.

Started by the same folks behind Spathe Public House, which serves European cuisine with a communal dining concept, comprising owner Christopher Lim and Chef-Partner Claudio Sandri, LES offers customers 3 levels of spice intensity for its tacos and burritos. This is achieved using not only directly imported indigenous Mexican chillies such as habaneros, poblanos and jalapenos but also by making its own pickled chillies and sauces.

Brave souls can take up the Ultimate Hotness Challenge with an incentive, if you can finish 3 tacos, worth $28, prepared at level 3 spice intensity within 30 minutes, they will be on the house.

UrbanWire tried a level 1 spice intensity Pork Belly Taco ($11), which didn’t come in the usual U-shaped hard taco shell but shaped like an open faced dumpling, and served on an adorable pig-shaped wooden board. Marinated in a homemade ancho chili paste, the slow-cooked pork belly was meltingly succulent and had just the right amount of heat. While the dish was simple, it packed a punch, and was complemented well with a sweet corn salsa, sour cream as well as an onion-and-pepper slaw.

Swiss-born Chef Claudio offers his rendition on the popular fish taco with the open-faced Tilipia Taco ($12). The broiled tilapia fillet, with toppings like onions, cilantro and caper berries, was light, flavorful, and surprisingly easy on the stomach despite its level 2 spice intensity.

Seafood lovers will be happy to see the Octopus and Squid Burrito($18) on the menu. Cooked using the sous vide method (cooking food sealed in airtight plastic bags in a water bath), the octopus was tender, and the other ingredients such as broiled streaky bacon and fresh avocadoes made for an interesting burst of flavors in the mouth.

Forget about delicate eating when it comes to the Cumin and Grilled Chicken Burrito ($13). Wrapped full with smoky char-grilled chicken, bacon, pinto beans, and cilantro-and-lime rice, this hearty dish makes you want to set aside your fork and knife and simply tuck in heartily with both hands.

Do leave some space in your tummy for the Charcoal Grilled Beef($28), which was the standout dish of the night. The juicy 150 grams of Australian grain-fed rib eye was excellently done and served with a zesty dash of homemade salsa verde. The grape and green apple salad was refreshing and prevented the dish from being too heavy.

Should you find the heat from the food overpowering, the milky Horchata ($5) is a chilled beverage with a strong cinnamon taste that will help take the edge off the burn on your tongue.

For the more courageous or foolhardy, take the plunge and request for the hot sauces such as Blair’s Mega Death and Dave’s Ultimate Insanity to season your plate. Don’t take a whiff of its smell before tasting though, it just might stop you in your tracks. You’ve been warned!

When it comes to booze, Lower East Side Taqueria offers a range of craft beers, priced from $12 to $15, as well as spirits. The bar also carries a choice of boutique tequila, mezcal and rum sourced from Mexico. Most of the crowd, mainly consisting expats and office workers, was seen enjoying a beer or 2, soaking in the relaxed vibe.

LES has just expanded their Mexican-inspired menu to include more quesadillas, main dishes, as well as a dessert – churros with chocolate sauce. With its warm lighting and cosy wooden furniture, this is the place for you to chill, where your slippers and bermudas fit right in.

Photos courtesy of Aravin Raj

Additional Information
Price rating: $6 to $28
Rating: ★★★★✩
Address: 19 East Coast Road
Telephone: 6348 1302
Facebook: https://facebook.com/LowerEastSide.sg
Opening hours:
Mon to Fri: 12pm – 11pm. Sat and Sun: 10am – 11pm