Thursday, December 8, 2011

Barrio Chino: A Mexican in Chinatown

I'd been hanging for a revisit to Barrio Chino (Spanish for Chinatown) ever since their launch party in August. Aside from Guzman Y Gomez, this was really my first taste of more authentic Mexican fare, albeit with some fusion; aptly located a few doors down from World Bar.

Gone are the days of corn chips covered thickly in melted cheese and sour cream - save that for a desperate pantry/fridge searching moment. Give me fresh, zingy flavours not laden with dairy and while we're at it, give me some decent tequila that doesn't remind me of my teenage days.

Tommy's Margarita pitcher from Barrio Chino, Bayswater Road, Kings Cross
Tommy's Margarita is the only one served by the jug, so it's the obvious choice for a group. And having met the creator of Tommy's Margarita last month makes it doubly awesome.

The jug, the first of many, comes with a wooden spoon to stop the ice coming out when pouring, and we're provided with half salt rimmed glases also filled with ice.

The margarita mix of El Jimador tequila, lime and agave syrup is fairly classic with with an excellent balance of sweet, sour, salt and that trademark tequila kick.

Ceviche with corn chips
Ordering food at Barrio Chino is super easy; one of everything would be ideal but if you've got a protein in mind, the tacos pretty much sort themselves out.

With the food comes a trio of chilli condiment sauces: one very mild and more lime than chilli; another spicier but manageable; and one that temporarily burns upon touch but doesn't last.

We started with the ceviche of white fish from the botanas snacks section of the menu, cooked and marinated in lime juice.

The Chinese style bowl must have been a play on the name, but the jumble of Spanish onion, avocado, coriander and the occasional bit of juicy mango was just good fun, especially with the house made corn chips. They're nothing like supermarket packet ones and have a real corn flavour about them.

Black bean taco
One of various tacos through the night, the vegetarian black bean taco is served with said protein, a grated white cheese, coriander and a mild red sauce.

All the tacos are served on soft, double layers of corn flour tacos, which essentially means two tacos per serve (with the amount of topping one one serve, you wouldn't be able to fold up the taco to eat).

One I didn't try at the launch and that was simply fabulous was the baja fish; a lightly battered finger of fish served with finely shredded raw cabbage and a creamy lime sauce. Simple but so very satisfying.

Roast corn tostada
But I think the real stars of Barrio Chino are their tostada offerings in the snacks menu. It's surprising, and a little embarrassing, that I can eat so many of these but they have it all: fresh ingredients; winning flavour combinations; varied texture and complete deliciousness.

The roasted corn version features corn kernels and avocado dressed in a mild chipotle mayonnaise, and takes only a few mouthfuls to crunch and devour the sweet and tart flavours.

Tuna tostada
The tuna tostada features a slice of raw tuna, sashimi style, with equally colourful dabs of avocado and chipotle mayonnaise. Another winning combination, though I think the tuna would benefit from being diced, to make it easier to eat it bites.

Pulled pork tostada
Last but not least, the pulled pork tostada is a little heavier than the first two, laden with saucy shreds of tender pork and juliennes of the jicama root vegetable. This is perfect food for sharing, with bottles of condiments flying all over the table with almost each bite.

Chicken Borracho torta
For the bigger appetites, the small-ish tacos may not look quite enough while 10 of them might hit the back pocket a little too hard. There are a couple of more filling options served on soft burger buns, like the chicken borracho.

The soft roll is filled with braised and pulled chicken, avocado, iceberg lettuce and chipotle sauce. While it's tasty, it has nothing on the flavour-packed tostadas and tacos - and sadly no amount of condiments will change that.

The back dining area in Barrio Chino is filled with stimulants such as the beautiful crowds, colourful decorations, loud music and open kitchen. The booths in the front are perfect for pre or post dinner drinking, while it looks hard to nab a seat at the long bar where all the margarita and tequila action happens.

Chinatown or not, I hope this fresh and zingy style of Mexican cuisine is here to stay because BarrioChino is just darn good.

Barrio Chino on Urbanspoon


joey@FoodiePop said...

I haven't really tasted authentic Mex food either, so am hoping to go one of these days.

MissPiggy said...

I'm DESPERATE to go here - love love love Mexican food, not that I've ever had the "real deal" either.

sugarpuffi said...

the tuna tostada looks so good! should venture to the x sometime soon

Sara - Belly Rumbles said...

Loving the new mexican options around town these days. Yet to try Barrio Chino, and keen to get there.

Lucas said...

Sold. The next time I'm up renting a car at bays water, I shall swing by (it's seemingly the only time I ever go up that way).

john@heneedsfood said...

Oh wow I'm with you on the tostada. I haven't had them at Barrio Chino yet but when I start with them I just can't stop. May have to try this place and see how it compares to the Mexican I had in Mexico and US. Looks a little progressive compared to true Mexican stodge but I'm fine with that!

tori said...

Sounds like a great place to check out when we get back to Sydney- thank you for the heads up! I have a particular weakness for Baja fish tacos....

Tina said...

Hi joey - World's away from nachos covered with cheese and sour cream, which probably would be decent for hangovers still...

Hi MissPiggy - You can do an El Loco comparison, but I seriously love the tostadas here - amazing.

Hi sugarpuffi - Yeah, I try to stay out of the Cross most of the time...

Hi Sara - Barrio Chino is a great night out; probably a little less casual than other Mexican options around.

Hi Lucas - Haha, no drinking Tommy's margaritas and driving though!

Hi John - Yeah, there are touches of fusion, but everything is just so fresh and flavour-packed.

Hi tori - The fish taco was probably the best thing I had all night - no photo though :(

Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said...

Wouldn't mind seeing tostadas become the new canape du jour actually.

Tina said...

Hi Rita - Everything's better on a crispy corn chip, right? :)


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