31 August 2011

Barrio Chino Launch: Mexican Taqueria & Tequileria, Kings Cross (30 Aug 2011)

28-30 Bayswater Road, Kings Cross NSW 2011

Tequila, tostadas & tacos

Thanks to part-owner Peter Lew for inviting me along to the launch of the new Taqueria & Tequileria, Barrio Chino. It didn’t take long to realise the Mexican served here was a huge step above your average Westernised cheese and sour cream smothered renditions of the past I've had. Actually I can’t even remember seeing any cheese. My first flavoursome bite of the Camarones taco ($6 each) with grilled market prawns, kiwi fruit salsa and chilli jam transcended by taste buds to a new experience — Mexican that will want me coming back for more, and more. But at $6 a pop I better watch my wallet too although I've been told they are a bit larger on the normal menu. The signature Tuna Tostada ($14 for 4 pieces) of tuna sashimi, avocado and chipotle mayo on a corn chip lived up to its hype. I could have easily finished off a whole tray although at $3.50 each it's the same price as freshly shucked oysters in a restaurant. I never would have thought raw fish on a corn chip would work but it does. It also became one of my favourites of the night. Apparently the tortilla and yellow corn chip bases are available from the Mexican products supplier Fireworks Food.

All the tostadas and tacos I tried were worth trying but some I preferred more than others including the Roast Corn Tostada ($12 for 4 pieces) of sweet corn, avocado and chipotle mayo and Chicken Borracho taco ($6 each) which had a good balance of chipotle-beer braised chicken, cream, avocado contrasted with refreshing iceberg. The Spicy Albondigas ($15 for 3 pieces) of pork and beef meatballs with roasted tomato-chipotle sauce had a nice flavoured heat to it like most of the dishes tried. Although I’m not sure if $5 a meatball will be value-for-money for many people — ouch! But again they're supposed to be larger on the normal menu than what was served as a cocktail style for the launch.

When it comes to tequila I don’t seem to be a huge fan — perhaps too many awful memories in the past of bad quality tequila 1, tequila 2, tequila 3, floor. Their house margarita Tommy's Margarita ($15) is humorously described as ‘No Shitty tequila. No sour mix. Just hand squeezed lime & organic agave netar. You're welcome!’ It packs a punch and I’m sure lovers of the margarita will probably enjoy. The Stealth Margarita ($16) is equally lethal with the added kick of jalapeno and chilli salt — can it get any more Mexican, I think not. The food has certainly left me wanting to return to try more. I’ve been recommended to try the ribs and ceviche which are now on my wishlist when I get a chance. This place has certainly opened my eyes to the taste sensations of delicious Mexican cuisine I've only heard about but have never had the opportunity to try until now.

PROS: Very tasty tostadas and tacos, Fresh and quality ingredients, Flavoursome dishes to enjoy with a drink that's not too heavy, Mexican that isn't covered with cheese and sour cream
CONS: I'm suspecting the cost of filling up your stomach could get expensive if you're a big eater, Bite sized servings
MUST TRY: Tuna Tostada, Camarones taco — For next time the ceviche and ribs have been recommended to me by the entrance hostesses

Roast Corn Tostada - Corn chip, sweet corn, avocado and chipotle mayo ($12 for 4) pieces

Pulled Pork Tostada - Corn chip, pulled pork, burnt orange and jicama ($12 for 4 pieces)

Tuna Tostada - Corn chip, tuna sashimi, avocado and chipotle mayo ($14 for 4 pieces)
SIMON FAVOURITE :-) — One of their signature dishes

Camarones taco - Grilled market prawns, kiwi fruit salsa and chilli jam ($6 each)

Beef Barbacoa taco - Brisket, red chill sauce, lime cured red onion and oregano ($6 each)

Calabaza taco - Roasted pumpkin, capsicum, cactus and toasted pepitas ($5 each)

Carnitas taco - Traditional crispy braised pork, onion and cilantro ($6 each)

Chicken Borracho taco - Chipotle-beer braised chicken, cream, avocado and iceberg ($6 each)

Spicy Tuna taco - Seared yellow fin tuna, jalapeno-garlic sauce and pineapple-jicama salsa ($6 each)

Spicy Albondigas - Pork and beef meatballs, roasted tomato-chipotle sauce ($15 for 3 pieces)

Chefs daily postre - Horchata flan with rum syrup

Chefs in the kitchen

Drinks are up

Tommy's Margarita - Our house margarita. No Shitty tequila. No sour mix. Just hand squeezed lime & organic agave netar. You're welcome! ($15)

Stealth Margarita - Calle 23 blanco, St Germain, lime, agave, jalapeno and chilli salt ($16)

Segura Viudas Brut, Spain

Luchador Shiraz 2008 and Yada Yada Yada Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, Santa Vittoria water

Margarita menu

Extensive tequila menu

Fully stocked bar of tequilas

Entrance hostesses with hats and boots to match

Nicole Galloway (part owner) in the middle flanked by models(?) that aren't fans of smiling perhaps

Scary face, pretty face — you choose

Sombreros and boots

Cocktail flairing and fire-breathing — call the fire brigade

Launch party in motion

Official photographer

Nice lighting features — it's the finer details that count

The calm before the party storm

Colourful Mexican skulls

Last minute final touches on the signage

30 August 2011

The Little Snail: French, Pyrmont (29 July 2011)

50 Murray Street, Pyrmont NSW 2009

Phone: (02) 9212 7512

Menu isn't quite all French

Thanks to Nina Howse from Our Deal for providing two vouchers ($69 each) for the ‘A Three Course Gourmet Dining Experience for Two. Value $139’. I’m not sure how $139 was worked out since a 3 course dinner menu is $56 and an Aperitif is $9 each which comes to $130. Lunch is even cheaper at $35 for 3 courses. The offer is valid between 22 June – 22 Sept 2011 in case you have bought one. My expectations weren’t particularly high with bruschetta, salt & pepper squid, kangaroo fillet, risotto and sticky date pudding on the menu — I’m pretty sure you won’t find those in France. To start the pre-determined Aperitif provided by the restaurant was so light on alcohol I thought I was drinking straight orange juice. The Garlic bread ($4.50) was quite nice but comes at an extra cost. The restaurant promotes its signature dish as escargot so I had to try. I remember trying these for the first time when The Little Snail was in Bondi. The Escargot de Bourgogne was oven baked in herbs and garlic butter which comes with two tiny slices of bread. The snails weren’t too chewy and quite flavoursome but I’m no expert on what a good one should be although more bread would have been appreciated to soak up the sauce.

The Ravioli of Blue Swimmer Crab, Prawns and Salmon with a lemongrass and chervil veloute looked nothing like a ravioli but more like a snowball croquette. Sauce was quite nice although the dish was a bit on the luke warm side. The Paté Maison was quite generous and more Plain baguette ($2.50) was ordered to help finish it. It was fairly smooth but a bit on the firm side. I think keeping the ingredients more simple and having cornichons instead of the champignons would have been more to my liking. A decent amount of seafood was found in the Bouillabaisse de Marseille although the sauce was more like an Italian Neapolitan pasta sauce and didn’t have the same depth of flavour like I had at Flinders Inn or the prawn bisque soup at Chase Oyster Bar.

Corn-Fed Chicken Roulade was also served a bit luke warm and unfortunately had a meat loaf processed consistency — we wondered if it was made in house or bought in. Wasn’t particularly appetizing I’m afraid and the vegetables soon became the best part of the dish. The Citrus Marinated Tasmanian Salmon had an overly salty skin and the Magret de Canard with a cassis and raspberry sauce became a strange combination of flavours for our French dining guests to stomach. My Seafood Plate takes the cake for perhaps the most non-French dish of the night complete with sweet chilli sauce. The soft shell crab was actually cooked quite nicely and the crumbed calamari pretty tender. Having no patriotic crème brûlée on the dessert menu the Classic Crème Caramel had to do which was quite good. A non-French Warm Sticky Date Pudding was also good and the Handmade Profiteroles with crème patisserie was served singular rather than living up to its plural description. The Kahlua Infused Chocolate Mousse (spelt Cjocolate Mouse on website) was equally satisfying and didn't contain any mouse that I was aware of.

PROS: Quite nice décor and ambience, Friendly staff although don’t expect the majority to be French including the kitchen I’m suspecting, Desserts were better than the entrees and mains, Lots of seating and roomy spacing, Probably good for large groups
CONS: It's more of a Modern Australian café menu than a pure French restaurant menu, Some of the dishes were unfortunately served a bit luke warm, Aperitif was extremely light on the alcohol, No crème brûlée — how very non-French
WORTH TRYING: Desserts, Garlic bread and I guess the escargot if you’ve never had them before

Aperitif with deal - very light on alcohol, Lemon, lime and bitters ($4)

Winter Creek Riesling Traminer 2009 ($40)

Aperitif and Cocktail menus

Garlic bread ($4.50)

Escargot de Bourgogne - Dozen snails marinated in herb-infused court-bouillon, oven baked in garlic butter

Ravioli of Blue Swimmer Crab, Prawns and Salmon with a lemongrass and chervil veloute — doesn't look like a ravioli to me

Paté Maison - Armagnac flavoured duck liver pate with marinated champignons, date chutney and port vinaigrette

Bouillabaisse de Marseille - Traditional French seafood soup with mussels, fish fillets and prawns, served with garlic baguette — was more like Neapolitan sauce but decent bits of seafood

Plain baguette ($2.50)

Corn-Fed Chicken Roulade with french beans, vichy carrots and madeira sauce

Citrus Marinated Tasmanian Salmon on crabmeat risotto and sauce vierge

Magret de Canard - Duck breast fillet with wok tossed spinach and a cassis and raspberry sauce

Seafood Plate of grilled salmon, garlic prawns, salt and pepper squid, chilli mussels, beer battered soft shell crab and mesclun salad

Classic Crème Caramel

Warm Sticky Date Pudding with butterscotch and vanilla ice cream

Handmade Profiteroles with crème patisserie and mint chocolate sauce

Kahlua Infused Chocolate Mousse

Bill $51 extra for four people, 2 x $69 deals used = $189

Menu cover and table water

Parisian decor

Large fish tank

Downstairs seating and bar area

Upstairs seating

Interesting shaped mirror in the toilet — not particularly French though

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