Tuesday, October 25, 2011

El Loco, Surry Hills

It's time for Mexican food to get some recognition. And finally! In the last couple of years, numerous branches of Guzman Y Gomez and Mad Mex were opened as well as the surge of Mexican and Latin American eateries situated in bars including Barrio Chino, The Abercrombie and El Loco. A friend wanted to do her birthday at a Mexican restaurant. Initially we were planning to go to Baja Cantina or Flying Fajita Sistas but there were last minute attendees so we went to El Loco instead. Because it was a Saturday and it gets very packed around 7-8pm we decided to show up around 6pm to get a table since the restaurant does not do bookings.

Classic Margarita

Situated at the Excelsior Hotel, this operates as both a restaurant and a pub. Which leads to crowded venues and countless patrons standing around and eating without a table. But that did not spoil anyone. It is the fun, social, noisy, buzzing atmosphere that made El Loco what it is. It has a very affordable menu including $5 tacos and with the rest of the menu being $15 or less. More importantly, the tacos were absolutely divine!

Pollo taco (chicken)

Carne Asada taco (beef)

Al Pastor Taco (pork)

When you see a Mexican restaurant using soft corn tortillas instead of hard shells, you are onto a good thing here. While it isn't strictly authentic (salad and cheese can still be seen but that didn't distract us), it is the fusion of flavours in its tacos that brings the spark of Chef Dan Hong's work to the taste and palate of the diner. Such examples include the tofu taco and the ever changing 'Secret taco'.

Secret taco - we're guessing lamb hearts? - alot tastier than you think

A special deal that night was a chorizo with haloumi taco. My friend enjoyed this immensely. Although he loves haloumi cheese. I thought this was another example of interesting taco fillings that Dan Hong (chef of El Loco) dishes up.

Special one off taco - chorizo and haloumi

The corn chips with guacamole and salsa were surprisingly addictive. Initially I wasn't sure becuase it looked like the corn chips you would see from Woolies or Coles but it went down a treat that we ordered another batch.

Corn chips with guacamole and salsa

In my opinion, my fave one was the taco al pastor as it reminded me of the ones I've had in LA with the sweet pork and pineapple flavour. In previous visits I have also tried the camaron taco (prawn) and the queso de soya taco (tofu) - both I would definitely recommend. My friends have tried these fillings but I was too full by then. While it may not be the most authentic Mexican restaurant, it still does a good job at interpreting this cuisine as closely as they can whilst appealing to the taste familiar to Australians with unique flavours. And with the many eateries opening across Sydney, this demonstrates that Mexican food is much more than simply hard shell tacos filled with sour cream and cheese.

El Loco
Location: 64 Foveaux Street, Surry Hills
Contact no: 02 9211 4945

El Loco on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 6, 2011

SIFF 2011 Let's Do Lunch - Mad Cow, Sydney [CLOSED]

I've been planning to check Mad Cow for a while but the menu prices usually put me off a bit. This is coming from someone who lives less than 5 minutes from Cooks Hill Hotel ($10 steaks!) and used to dine on $5-6 steaks back at uni while the prices of steaks at Mad Cow range between $36 for a minute steak to $110 if you want a wagyu sirloin.

As part of the Crave Sydney International Food Festival, Mad Cow and numerous restaurants across Sydney are offering a $38 Let's Do Lunch set menu including a matched glass of choice.

Mad Cow's Let's Do Lunch menu

At Mad Cow, they are offering a wagyu 250g rump steak with spicy barbeque sauce, shoestring fries and green salad. On the Let's Do Lunch menu at the restaurant, they also offered two other dishes they weren't listed on the SIFF website: mushroom risotto and a pan roast fillet of cone bay barramundi but hey it's Mad Cow! Might as well try a steak when you have the opportunity.

Complementary bread and butter

The staff were very attentive. One of them asked if this was my first time trying out a LDL meal. In fact it was. It took a while for them to get the complimentary bread but they apologised immediately. The bread was sooo good! From what I remember, it was the Sonoma Soy Linseed bread. I might buy the loaf when I get the chance.

Wagyu rump steak (250g) with spicy BBQ sauce

When the waiter presented the steak, my initial reaction was "that's a pretty small steak". It was good that the fries and salad were included otherwise I would have ordered more. The wagyu steak was tender, juicy and oozing with flavour. The barbeque sauce was the perfect match with its tangy spicyness that complemented well with the steak. If there is anything that I have learnt, it was do not underestimate the size of the steak. As small as it looked, I almost wasn't able to finish up the steak because it was more filling and denser than I thought.

Check out the steak!

This is a knife!

The chips and salad were great side dishes. While the chips are addictive with its crunchiness, the salad balanced out the oils from the steak and chips as well as the butter and the carbs from the bread.

Shoe string fries and green salad

Shiraz - definitely an ideal combination with a meal like this

I would definitely recommend coming back here to try out the steaks or check out the non-steak dishes or even Mad Cow's signature steak tartare and some of the other starters. For a deal like this, it is definitely worth the experience - and the cost! Plus you can't go wrong with complementary red wine.

Mad Cow
Location: Level 1, 320 George Street, Sydney NSW 2000
Contact no: 02 92403000

Mad Cow on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

EnThaicement, Liverpool

Thai restaurants make the best name puns ever. Thai Me Up and Thaitanic are a couple of classics. EnThaicement is not a place familiar to those who do not venture to Liverpool very often. For the locals, this restaurant across the street from Westfield Shopping Centre has been there for years though under a different name and different owners. All this time, I have not tried this place but have been curious to see how it compares to other local Thai staples ala Thainamic and Holy Basil, both in Canley Heights. Plus my friend is a regular at this place during his work lunch breaks and we've organised a catch up session.

My friend liked sitting near the monument of Buddha as it looked very peaceful and quaint. I thought it was a very interesting addition to the restaurant.

Pad Thai with chicken
I enjoyed the restaurant's version of this dish. The sauce used in was enough to make me want to polish up the entire contents of the plate.

Green curry with chicken
My friend tried out the Green curry with chicken. He had noodle-based dishes numerous times so he wanted to get something different. I was surprised and the way it was presented as it looked lighter and less clumpy than the green curry dishes I have seen at other Thai restaurants. The menu said that this dish is very spicy. I did not try this as I was already full from the pad thai.

Check out the cutlery!

It was very quiet when my friend and I went but it didn't matter since we enjoyed the food and the intimate atmosphere. It was your standard Thai fare that you would expect. At lunch time they do the lunch special with meals costing between $9 and $12 depending on the choice of meat you want to order. The service was very friendly and cheerful. As for the food, in my opinion it was not the best compared to Holy Basil and probably Thainamic for your south-western Thai feed but it is definitely worth to check out when you venture out to Liverpool and you feel like Asian food more than Rashays and the local food court. As it has opened recently, hopefully this restaurant will last longer as it already has a local following and who knows, it may become the next best thing to Thai food in South West Sydney.

Location: Shop 40, Elizabeth Street Liverpool
Contact no: 02 9600 9262

EnThaicement on Urbanspoon