Friday, May 9, 2014

Chica Linda: Drink'n'Dine with the hot ladies

The latest restaurant instalment from the enterprising Drink'n'Dine pub group has surprisingly taken oven the tapas and pintxos offering at The Carrington, replacing it with the vibrant Latin American-themed Chica Linda - Spanish for 'hot lady', or 'beautiful girl'.

The bar at Chica Linda, Bourke Street, Surry Hills
Designed to be a casual affair of Latin American-influenced share dishes, Chica Linda opened to the public a last Friday with a riotously colourful makeover of the existing space out the back end of The Carrington, while the front, old-school pub remains with its pub menu and pie floaters.

Chica Linda fitout
The brief menu traverses Latin America and is separated into bites, arepa flatbreads, small and big dishes, family-style share dishes, sides and salads, and of course desserts.

Hot Lady mixed drink
And as ever, the drinks and cocktail list has a healthy dose of Drink'n'Dine fun and creativity, starting with the Hot Lady mixer of tequila, sweet pink guava soda and half a lime on lots of ice. Refreshing and easy to drink, it's a good one to start on.

Caprininha Amazonica cocktail
We managed to sample a fair whack of the cocktail list with the Tenga Huevo Sour featuring plum pisco tasting like Chinese salted, preserved plums.

More fruity and enjoyable was the Caprininha Amazonica with cachaca and pineapple juice, shaken with an aromatic coconut sugar and garnished with a beautifully ripe segment of fresh pineapple.

Burnin Passion shots
If those aren't enough of a booze kick to start, try the vodka, passionfruit and orange "shots" served on fire, in a hollowed out passionfruit half.

Quite the unusual sight not on top of a Zombie cocktail, the Burnin Passion shots are pure novelty with the alcohol-driven flames singing some edges of the passionfruit. Avoid drinking from the burnt bits to get a pretty sweet shot or so, depending on the size and balancing abilities of your passionfruit shell.

Chicarones, guasacaca sauce
With a drink or two under our belts, we were ready to tackle executive chef Jamie Thomas' menu, starting with excellently executed chicarones pork crackling.

Airy, crisp and not oily, these boiled, dried and deep fried pork rinds were served with a very light seasoning, and a sensational green guascaca sauce that was vinegary, garlicky and all sorts of bliss with the puffy chicarones.

Smoked pork arepas, honey chipotle glaze, pickled slaw (front) and grilled cheese arepas, corn salsa and salsa rojo
Formed from ground maize, the dense arepas are offered with a choice of fillings sandwiched between the split yellow discs.

While the smoked pork variety with a hunk of glazed meat and joyously contrasting red cabbage slaw and green sauce looked a treat, I went with the grilled cheese option which had a hunk of grilled haloumi cheese and a delightful salsa of corn, black beans and capsicum.

Soft shell crab arepas, avocado, hot sauce
Sure to be a crowd favourite is the soft shell crab arepa, with a lightly battered and fried portion of crab underlaid with mashed avocado and dressed with fresh coriander, julienned jicama and chilli.

Flamed longaniza, aji chilli, pineapple
From the smalls menu we had the coiled and skewered longaniza sausage, garnished with a chilli and pineapple salsa.

The satisfyingly coarse, porky sausage filling was a highlight with sweet, spiced flavours bursting from within the smoky char of its flame-grill treatment. Along with the ripe pineapple dice of the salsa, it was sausage heaven.

King crab diablo, spicy paprika sauce
We moved on to what I thought was the piece de resistance of the meal: the share-sized King crab legs tossed in a spicy paprika sauce, with lots of lime and coriander.

With the Drink'n'Dine group's messy and lovable House of Crabs probably going through tonnes of seafood a day, it's nice to see the crustacean love shared among venues.

King crab diablo
I found the sauce only mildly spicy and not overpowering the crab meat, although there are bottled hot sauces at the table for those who like it more fiery.

The crab legs were best accessed with scissors and the claws with crackers, with sweet, juicy crab flesh in abundance in both. Not as messy as a HOC affair, finger bowls and plenty of napkins come still come in handy.

Achiote smoked chicken, tomatillo salsa
Another family style plate, the cuts of achiote smoked chicken were as comforting as they looked, served with another fabulous accompanying salsa.

The chicken had a deep smoky flavour and that firm texture of smoked meat, and was particularly homely when eaten with a side of the soft Coca-Cola rice and beans.

Puerto Rican roast pork, salsa criolla
Another crowd favourite of the shared plates was the roast pork, served in thick slices with crackling and the corn salsa. Superbly spiced and juicily cooked, the tender pork tipped me over the edge on the main dishes.

Green and red tomato, jicama, aji chilli, chia seeds, queso
With the meaty mains I was glad to see the green and red tomato salad; a lively mix of colourful, ripe tomatoes, jicama sticks and grated queso cheese in a herbaceous dressing.

Quinoa, barley, pomegranate, orange, labne
The grain salad was about as on-trend as it gets, combining quinoa with barley, sweetened with orange segments and fresh pomegranate. The creamy labne yoghurt cheese brought some richness to a very healthy side salad.

Two colour fries
Eschewing the common potato, Chica Linda's two-colour fries comprise some long, very uniform sticks of deep fried sweet potato and cassava or yuca; the latter making for a firm, slightly starchier chip. It was nonetheless moreish with a spiced mayonnaise for dipping.

Black Naga cocktail
Thoroughly sated and impressed with our flash-tour of Latin America, we couldn't get away without dessert.

There are a couple of cocktails that could be matched to dessert, including the dark Black Naga of Herradura Anejo tequila, chocolate bitters, brown sugar and a curious garnish of cucumber, served on the rocks. The dark chocolate flavour really came through, setting off the chocolate dessert well.

Chocolate milke cake, mashmallow, buttermilk ice cream, passionfruit
The rather complicated chocolate milk cake comprised a mousse and cake crumb, baked together forming a separated yet combined texture of the two, with a very mild chocolate hit. Easier to love was the fluffy marshmallow topping with passionfruit seeds and the refreshing buttermilk ice cream.

Guava empanada, apple, dulce de leche ice cream, fried plantain
For sweet-savoury lovers, it's hard to beat the fabulous puff pastry empanada, encasing a soft, sensual diced apple and guava filling.

With just the right amount of spice and sweetness (just as comforting as the apple pie from a particular global fast food chain), the empanada was finished with a caramelly dulce de leche ice cream and lightly fried, crisp plantain shavings.

Chica Linda fitout
After a very well balanced meal thanks to the chef's choices, any sadness over the loss of pintxos and tapas from The Carrington were mostly erased. Chica Linda's nightly dinner and weekend breakfast and lunch offering looks to be capitalising on the Latin American food trend which is gaining plenty of traction this year.

And unlike most hot ladies, Chica Linda is fun, approachable and not in the least pretentious - check her out.

Food, Booze & Shoes dined as a guest of Chica Linda and Drink'n'Dine.

Chica Linda on Urbanspoon


penny said...

Will have to pop over soon.....

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

It looks fun. I hope the food is better than what we had at the Oxford Tavern, another other Drink and Dine outlet.

Annie said...

would love to try those arepas soon. looks really tasty

Tina said...

Hi Penny - Definitely worth checking out ;)

Hi Lorraine - I've yet to dine properly at Oxford Tavern... The BBQ looks really good!

Hi Annie - They were great, especially the crab one!

Felicia @ Next Stop: Food said...

The food sounds amazing, especially that pork :)

Tina said...

Hi Felicia - It's a pretty appetising menu, especially the big share mains!


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