Sunday, July 14, 2013

La Lupita at The Basement, Sydney CBD

With the ever-growing number of Mexican restaurants and bars/cafes/pubs serving Mexican food (mainly tacos) in Sydney these days, it would be hard to figure out on which place is considered as authentic when there are so many options with different interpretations. While I haven't been to Mexico, I have read a couple of good Mexican food blogs on food trucks and taquerias. Judging from the tacos I've had at La Lupita, I would say that these are the closest interpretation to the tacos I've tried at the Mexican taquerias in Southern California (or SoCal as they like to call it) and I mean it. It has everything you want from condiments like coriander and radishes, no cheese served in tacos, spicy sauces and the charred yet juicy and meaty fillings like Al-Pastor and Carne Asada. And I just keep coming back for more!

When I first heard about La Lupita at its old Canterbury pop up restaurant, it was also operating as a food truck, Al Carbon Tacos (this food truck is now selling Sonora hot dogs upstairs from The Basement). It is the brainchild of former-policeman Attila Yilmaz, who I sometimes spot working in the kitchen or taking orders for customers back in its earlier days at the Canterbury pop-up. Many locals were devastated when the restaurant moved to Circular Quay since it had a local, family vibe; while the Circular Quay venue has a corporate, professional atmosphere yet it still does have a buzzing and social feel about it. Personally, I thought it was alright because I work in the city and Canterbury is half-way for me. Despite the change of venue, the cheerful and welcoming vibe was there and more importantly, the food was still incredibly delicious. You may not breathe in the smell like the open spit-roast kitchen at Canterbury but the same quality and taste is still there and that's what really matters. It was quite dark inside so I had trouble taking some photos due to the dim lighting (sorry guys!).

La Lupita's residential musician, Victor Valdes, performing on stage

When you head inside the restaurant, you are given an order form which gets stamped as you decide what you want to order. The tortillas get pressed at the front and the meat was cooked in the kitchen at the back. After you receive your food, you head to the salsa and salad bars to dress your tacos. At the end you pay for your meal at the bar at the back of the restaurant. Would have liked to know which desserts are available rather than being kept in suspense :p.

Order form
What La Lupita is well-known for was their hot salsas. There are restaurants that claim their food to be hot but then they are actually quite mild. At La Lupita, when they say it's hot it's BLOODY HOT! The salsas range from the extra mild Guacamole to the super hot Habanero. Pick your poison ;-).

Salsa bar

After picking your salsa/s, you choose your own salads whether it's fresh coriander, sliced radishes or even red and white onions. The fillings at the salad stand reminded me of the Mexican taquerias in my trip to California especially the radishes and the coriander. I always over stuff my tacos with these extras.
Salad bar - Dress your own tacos :)

As you can see, I went overboard with loading up the tacos with the salsas and salads so unfortunately these photos did not do justice. But let me tell you, they taste absolutely delicious! The tacos were bursting with charred and meaty flavour and the tortillas had enough texture to hold a decent amount of fillings without falling apart. While it would be good to see a corn tortilla for a truly authentic taco experience, the flour tortilla was freshly made and tasty enough to satisfy my taste buds. Even before you pack the tacos with the salsas and salads, the serving is reasonable enough to make you fairly full.

Tacos ($6.00 each)

Pollo Asado (chicken) taco - charcoal spit roasted so it retains a tasty crunch on the outside while still tender and juicy inside

Carne Asada (beef) taco - smoked, tender and soft beef that melts in your mouth

My personal favourite is the taco al-pastor for its grilled and flavoursome spit-roasted pork and juicy, sweet, roasted pineapple. Those who know and love true Mexican cuisine will love this version.

Al Pastor (pork with roasted pineapple) taco

For those who are either vegetarian or keep for nachos, there are a couple of options for you to enjoy as well. One that I've tried was the Frijoles Charros that consists of spiced pinto beans made cowboy style, tortilla chips, salsa roja, crema mexicana, chiltepil (a type of salsa consisting of pepita seeds, sesame and chilli) and queso de Oaxaca cheese. While I do prefer that they used totopos like the ones at GYG, the tortilla chips are still crunchy even when soaked with the immense toppings. What makes this dish for me was the stringy and bitey Oaxaco cheese...dammit I just love stringy cheese! With the interesting selection of toppings, these are definitely not your average cliched nachos! For other vegetarian, nacho-related options; you can check out the Troelotes ($10.00) which consists of tortilla chips with roasted spiced corn, fresh salsa, crema mexicana, lime salt and grated cotija cheese. I haven't got the chance to try this yet but will check this out on one of my many future visits here.

The serving size was substantial so I would recommend ordering this if you are sharing it with your friends especially if you want to try more food from the menu.

Frijoles Charros ($10.00)

These were messy to eat but still delicious if you are keen for something meatier or just low-carb/high-protein (lol). It tasted even better with the spicy and tangy chipotle salsa which elevated this dish to be more than just blackened chicken wings.

Spit roast hot wings ($10.00)

This is a great place for a quick feed for lunch or dinner. The prices are cheap (very cheap for a restaurant at The Rocks/Circular Quay area) and you get good value for money as the food will surely fill you up no matter what you order. Another positive about this restaurant was the friendly and helpful service from all of my visits. Will return to try their one-off special tacos that you can only access if you post a photo of yourself at the restaurant then show it to one of the people working there. The menu is limited here so it's easier to try everything out but hopefully as time passes, there will be more delicious food (especially the special tacos) added to the regular menu. If you are looking for a delicious, affordable and authentic Mexican tacos, look no further than La Lupita. It will blow your mind...and your taste buds!

La Lupita at The Basement
7 Macquarie Place, Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9251 2797

La Lupita at the Basement on Urbanspoon


  1. I miss the Canterbury location too but as you say this one is more convenient for a lot of people :D We really love the food here :)

  2. i really liked their hot wings :-)

  3. Great to see them doing so well in their new digs. And the self serve condiment station is so much fun!

  4. mmm~~~ the hot wings sound and look sooooo good!! :D
    Looks so awesome to have a self-serve for the salads!!

    - Cassie @ Next Stop: Food

  5. this place looks so good, regret not going when it was so close to me in canterbury!