El Mero Mero

The buzz: The folks behind Señor Taco set up shop in the newly-refurbished Chijmes with a Mexican restaurant that’s about more than just street food, tacos and margaritas. Think of it as Mexican fine dining without the stuffiness.

The vibe: Along the lines of the lively Señor Taco atmosphere, this more upmarket reincarnation is a little less raucous than its Clarke Quay counterpart. The open kitchen and bright space is minimalist without being boring, and chic without being stiff and serious. Quirky monochromatic and geometric walls mingle with tan leather chairs and banquettes to make the space edgier.

The food: This would be the ideal restaurant for a nice Mexican meal that’s not just tacos and burritos (although there are plenty of those to go around). Think elevated street food like Tostada de Atun ($17), tuna in a crunchy tortilla with chipotle mayo and pico de gallo, and the addictive Al Pastor tacos ($26) made with Kurobuta pork, pineapple, coriander and onions. There are other regional classics like Aguachile de Callo de Hacha ($23), an interpretation of a scallop ceviche with serrano-lime sauce, dragonfruit, cucumber and worm salt and a decadent national favorite, Enchiladas Verdes ($28), a dish composed of corn tortilla with parwns, tomatillo-serrano salsa, cream and cheese.

The drinks: If it’s not Mexican, it’s at least Mexican-inspired. They’ve got regional beers from mainstays like Corona and Dos Equis to a heavier beer from small brewery Bufadora in Tijuana. The cocktail list is short but has concoctions like El Mero Mero ($18) with mezcal, orange, lime and agave; the sweet-tinged Cancun Whisper ($18) with tequila, honey, apricot liqueur and lemon; and the deceptively light Welcome to Tijuana ($18), a heady blend of vodka, gin, rum, tequila, mezcal, pineapple, watermelon, orange, passionfruit, mint and soda. There’s also a wine list that’s populated with Hispanic (and some Spanish) wines from Argentina, Chile and Mexico.

Why you’ll be back: This may be the first restaurant in Singapore to do justice to Mexican food outside of hearty tacos, burritos and nachos. It’s just an inkling to Mexico’s rich food scene with plenty of raw seafood, corn tortillas and meats without over-the-top “with a twist” factors we see so often.