We were in Sydney a few weeks ago, and as luck would have it, Dan Hong’s Mexican ‘cantina y barra’ had recently opened in Surry Hills. Having read a few blog reviews beforehand, I was keen to try, and see how it compared to Melbourne’s uber-popular Mamasita. The answer . . . very favourably!
To begin with, it’s open throughout the day, meaning that despite a lot of hype, there are no ridiculous queues to get in. At least not when we were there, which admittedly was during the day.
Then there’s the the fact that it’s attached to a pub, meaning you can sit in the front bar enjoy reasonably priced drinks with your meal, including a reasonable selection of beers. And Mexican is certainly good drinking food. You can sit in the ‘cantina’ section and sip on margaritas.
It’s really the food though, that give El Loco the advantage. We only tried the tacos, but we did try all five filling options – pork with pineapple salsa; lemongrass beef; prawn; chicken and corn salsa; and tofu. All five choices come with cabbage, coriander, spring onions, salsa verde and pico de gallo.
I doubt that any of these flavour combinations are particularly authentic, but the important thing is that they work together and they’re very robust. I was particularly surprised by how good cabbage tasted in a taco. The corn-based taco ‘shells’ are soft of course, and have the tiny corrugations that are common to most good tortillas, and which help the filling bind to the shell. All were good, but I’d have to give a slight edge to the pork and pineapple
They’re served in little bamboo ‘boats’, which are presumably quite environmentally friendly, and possibly even reusable.
The prices – $5 per taco – would make anybody from Mexico, or even the US for that matter, gasp, but here in Australia they’re fairly standard. Serving sizes are reasonable, and certainly more generous than at Mamasita, meaning three tacos are adequate for a fully grown male.
In addition to tacos, there are a other choices on the menu, including Mexican-influenced hot dogs, salads and grilled dishes.
Having been to both Mamasita and El Loco on multiple occasions, I think the more casual and less ‘too-cool-for-school’ El Loco has the advantage, and I hope Dan Hong decides to expand south of the border.
64 Foveaux Street
Surry Hills, NSW
phone: (02) 9211 4945