Sunday, July 27, 2014

Mexican Chorizo at Taco Mafia, Surry Hills [CLOSED]

We all know about chorizos right? Especially the ones that you would often see as tapas at Spanish restaurants. But what about Mexican chorizo? If you think that Spanish chorizo and Mexican chorizo are the same, think again. This is actually rarer to find in Sydney with Taco Mafia being one of those very few eateries that stocks this meat. Not too long ago, I got the chance to taste the difference as well as trying out the food that Taco Mafia serves.

The fit-out was similar to what you would see at places like Guzman y Gomez and Mad Mex except that Taco Mafia is an independent-owned (and I think also family-owned) store located on Elizabeth Street close to Domino's. It's promoted for delivering "Mean Mexican" cuisine which was clearly shown from the Mexican gangland-inspired decor from the posters to the red splashes on the white stools and the car doors ridden with bullet holes. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of eating a generous-sized meal at lunch so by the time I got to Taco Mafia, I was still very full so two visits were made to get a better idea on what they serve.

Hibiscus tea

Was treated to a cup of hibiscus tea which was only offered as a special on the day. When I returned to Taco Mafia later, this was unavailable on the special menu. For those who are not familiar with this, it's made from hibiscus flower that was imported from Mexico. It had a light, fruity and not too sweet taste so it is an ideal drink for the warmer weather. 

Taco Truck Tacos - L: Chipotle Pork, R: Chicken Tinja (Individual: $3.00, 3 x tacos: $9.90)

There are three different types of tacos available at Taco Mafia. You could get the option of "Taco truck" tacos, soft tacos and crispy tacos. I ended up ordering the taco truck tacos which were soft corn tortillas consisting of a meat filling of your choice, coriander and chopped tomatoes and onion. On this occasion, I got to try the flavours listed on the Specials blackboard which were chipotle pork and chicken tinja. The chipotle pork was made in-house and had a soft and not too spicy flavour. The Central Mexican-inspired chicken tinja was a bit spicier with its shredded chicken breast and thigh cooked with a tomato, onion and chilli sauce base. This was served with corn chips and house-made guacamole on the side.

Mexican Chorizo 

But what about the Mexican chorizo? On this visit, I was given the chance to check out the difference in the Mexican chorizo. Unlike the more common Spanish chorizo which is firm and mild; Mexican chorizo is much softer, spicier and can only be used when the skin is removed as shown above. While you can have Spanish chorizo as a cured meat, Mexican chorizo can only be eaten once it's cooked.

Corn chip with chorizo 

As you can see, it has a spicy and strong flavour with a crumbly texture that is similar to minced meat only with lots of seasoning. Great to have with crispy corn chips as a dip.

Cooking the Mexican Chorizo at home

I got the chance to try out the chorizo at home. Simply remove the skin and spread the meat across the pan. Cook the chorizo for about 3 minutes or until it's brown. One thing to note is that the smokey chorizo scent when cooking was too strong to handle especially with the intense spices. It works well with lots of recipes such as quesadilla, refried beans and chorizo, scrambled eggs, breakfast burritos and even on pizza or a Mexican chorizo fondue! Check out the Goyos Mexican Chorizo website for recipes and where this delicacy is stocked in Australia. Currently Taco Mafia is the only restaurant that stocks this in Sydney however you can also find it at Casa Margarita at Polkobin in the Hunter Valley. 

Special Burrito - Chorizo ($13.90) 

Because I was unable to eat any other dishes on my first visit due to a heavy lunch, I decided to make a further visit to try the chorizo burrito. You could get a regular burrito with the same fillings as the tacos as well as cheese, rice, chopped tomato and onions and pinto beans for $10.90. You could up-size to a super burrito with guacamole and sour cream included in the filling for $12.90 or a special burrito for $13.90 with different flavours listed on the blackboard that are only available for a limited time. While I opted for no sour cream, I actually found that the sour cream and guacamole would be beneficial to sooth the spicy flavours of the chorizo. Was very delicious though I thought that the size was a bit small given the price. Definitely had no trouble finishing this up. This also came with a small serving of corn chips on the side.

The staff was friendly and accommodating on both of my visits. While it was quiet, hopefully with this review it may not be the case since they do appear to be true to their word with serving authentic Mexican cuisine. Especially when they offer chicken fajitas and chicken mole for the occasional specials. Apart from the special chorizo burrito, most of the other items on the menu were quite cheap actually. For example, the chicken fajitas on a plate on the special menu is actually cheaper than most places serving the same dish! And they do deliveries to Sydney CBD and Surry Hills if you are craving for Mexican food at work for lunch or even dinner if you end up staying back late.

Disclaimer: The Random Foodie dined as a guest of Taco Mafia on her first visit, courtesy of Bill from Goyo's Mexican Chorizo. A further visit was also made to Taco Mafia on a later date where the burrito was independently paid for. Opinions remain personal. 

Taco Mafia 
232a Elizabeth Street, Sydney NSW 2010
(02) 9212 5222
Mon-Fri: 7:00am - 9:00pm
Sat: 8:00am - 9:00pm
Sun: Closed
Taco Mafia on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Bar Surry Hills and Italian Kitchen, Surry Hills

Recently I had the opportunity to attend the launch event for the opening of Bar Surry Hills and Italian Kitchen located inside Rydge's Hotel on Albion Street, Surry Hills. Before then, I believe it was mostly pub food before the revamp of the venue so it's interesting to see a classier Italian casual dining restaurant replacing this joint. 

This is located very close to Chur Burger and Reuben Hills so it's good to see Albion Street getting its name out there in the Surry Hills restaurant scene. Plus it's a great spot with loads of space to chill with a cocktail or two.

Upon entry, there was a table containing a platter of freshly cut charcuterie meats, a giant wheel of Parmesan cheese (!!!), olives and loaves of bread with mixed toppings to accompany the platter. There was even a man standing behind the table using the meat slicer to prepare the platter for the hoards of interested and hungry guests.

 Mixed bread loaves

Parmesan and Mixed Olives

Salumi Misti Board ($18.00)

Sicilian Olives and Handmade Grisini (included in Salumi Misti Board)

This board was a very popular feature at the launch night with queues of people waiting for to be served. With that many cured meats to try, this was no surprise at all. This includes slices of prosciutto, sopressa, mortadella, home made grisini, sicilian olives, grana cheese and extra virgin olive oil. The thinly sliced meats were so delicious that I was keen to try more and more. Especially the prosciutto and the sopressa cured meats. The same goes for the grana padano cheese which had a hard and bitey texture with a fairly strong flavour. The platter was accompanied with green and black Sicilian olives and crispy grisini which were equally tasty to enjoy. There was just so much to sample on this platter that I would be happy to stick with this all night and order seconds. 

Giant wheel of Parmesan cheese!

Had to do another picture because seriously look at the giant cheese wheel! Wouldn't mind biting into this right now hehe.

If pizza is gets you going, you will be glad to hear that Bar Surry Hills and Italian Kitchen has a generous selection of pizzas to decide especially for large groups. Throughout the evening, we saw loads of different pizzas delivered from the kitchen. Each pizza costs $16.00 if you want to get a whole 12 inch round pizza. If you are in a larger group and you want to try their 1 meter pizzas (yes they have 1 meter pizzas!!!) then it costs $70. There was also a good selection of bianco pizzas (base with no tomato sauce) to choose from if that is generally your preference. On my first impression of the pizza base, this wasn't as thin as you would expect but not as thick either which is good if you like your crust to have a balanced texture.

Fungi Misti - porcini mushroom, truffle, ricotta, thyme

The first pizza I tried was the Fungi Misti, a bianco pizza which had an aromatic taste that you would expect from porcini mushrooms and truffle. Though I'm personally not a huge fan of ricotta cheese, the remaining ingredients added a decent amount of flavour that this ended up being the least of my concerns. 

 San Daniele - tomato, roquette, San Danielle prosciutto, shaved parmesan

I was so hungry that I ended up picking a slice of the San Daniele pizza and forgot to take the photo before digging in. Loved the tasty prosciutto which was the star of this pizza.

 Diavola - tomato, mozzarella, hot salami, capsicum, olives

This was definitely one of my fave pizzas of the night. Quite spicy though it actually hits you slowly. Absolutely loved the stringy mozzarella cheese that doesn't let go when you pick up the slice.

 Quattro Formaggi - mozaarella, gorgonzola, crescenza, ricotta, basil, shaved parmesan

So much cheesy goodness. You will be in cheese heaven with this type of pizza especially with the many different types featured in the toppings. 

Bruschetta - pomodoro, imported goats cherve, baby basil ($8.00)

Did not end up trying the above but the toppings looked very delicious. 

Arancini ($9.00)

These golden risotto balls consists of pesto with (mozzarella?) cheese oozing out as you take a bite. Loved the outside crumbled coating which was nicely crisp. This came with creamy aioli sauce on the side. Unfortunately I forgot (I had quite a few drinks by then) to take a photo of the arancini as a whole so here's a food porn shot.

Nutella Pizza with strawberries and sweet sugar ($12.00) 

The highlight of the night was seeing the 1 meter pizza in all its glory as a nutella pizza! Looks like chocolate and strawberry heaven just by looking at the above photo. You can't help but drool as you see it approaching your table. The crust was thick and doughy which was topped with fresh strawberries, spreads of nutella chocolate and sprinkles of icing sugar. While it was worth the food porn moment, I would have preferred more nutella chocolate but still it was an amazing pizza otherwise.

Canoli - hand piped Sicilian ricotta, chocolate ($4.00)

Just like the Nutella pizza, the canoli was also an incredible, food-porn worthy sight. Lots of creamy ricotta and chocolate stacked inside the crunchy shell and coated with icing sugar. Looks so dreamy to eat and certainly very yummy since everyone at the table gave this a thumbs up.

Passionfruit Paloma Cocktail ($16.00)

What's a bar without a few drinks to kickstart the night? Loved the passionfruit paloma cocktail which had a sweet (but not overwhelmingly sweet) flavour which is ideal to have on a warm day as you chill on the couch. 

 Espresso Martini ($16.00)

For a warmer night, I personally would enjoy an espresso martini. This had a coffee flavour with a thick amount of froth and topped with cocoa powder. Quite strong but lovely since it felt like drinking a coffee mixed with alcohol. Wouldn't mind having another glass again.

Aside from losing my voice at the end of the night (true story), it was a fun night checking out the renovated venue with lots of delicious Italian dishes. Although it was dark, you can walk past and see the lovely artwork added to this venue as part of its revamp when you walk past it. According to the menu, there is also a generous selection of pasta dishes which I didn't get to see that night. In terms of pricing, it was actually reasonable and not too pricey with the most expensive dish costing $20 (unless you get the 1 meter pizza but that is definitely made to share so should be fine). Would recommend this for a group gathering for a special event as well as a casual after work dinner and drinks catch up.

Disclaimer: The Random Foodie dined as a guest of Bar Surry Hills and Italian Kitchen, courtesy of Zoe from The Drawing Book Studios. Opinions remain personal.

Bar Surry Hills and Italian Kitchen
28 Albion Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010
(02) 9289 0028
Mon-Sat: 11:00am - 11:45pm
Sun: 4:00pm - 11:45pm
Bar Surry Hills & Italian Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Papi Chulo, Manly

Ever been to a restaurant where you really want to eat everything off the menu? If you stomach can handle it of course. That was how I felt when I finally made the ferry trip to Manly to check out Merivale's first North Shore restaurant, Papi Chulo, for a food blogger gathering. On a relatively sunny afternoon (which ended up being horrendously windy later on), I met up with Irene's Getting Fat, iFat Food Chronicles, Nessy Eater, Polyphagia, A Swoonful of Sugar and Milkteaxx to try as many meaty dishes as we could handle. Also we bumped into the girls from Next Stop Food and Journey From Within who were celebrating a birthday at a nearby table.

If you prefer public transport over driving, you can literally get to this restaurant a mere moments after leaving the ferry wharf. Tremendous scenery of the beach side which would be perfect for a nice sunny day. When I got inside, I was immediately stunned at how packed the restaurant really was a 12:30pm. We were seated very close to the kitchen so we could perve check out some of the delicious dishes getting delivered to the tables

El Mani ($8.00)

While I did not get the chance to try this drink, the others said that this blend of chocolate sauce, caramel peanut butter and vanilla ice cream was quite rich, creamy and incredibly sweet.  I was particularly drooling at the chocolate biscuits floating on top. Looks nice to have on a warm day.

Smoked Hot Wings with Comeback Sauce ($16.00)

I usually have don't have a huge reaction when it comes to chicken wings but oh my gawd these hot wings were absolutely incredible! The skin was crisp and golden while the meat was well-cooked to our liking. It was no wonder why this was so popular with everyone at the table. And that comeback sauce! While it wasn't too spicy, it still had that zesty, smokey, chipotle-esque kick which excites your taste buds. No surprise that I was keen to use this sauce on everything.

Curly Fries ($9.00)

I do love a good serving of curly fries. We don't see these babies enough around Sydney. The fries were very crunchy and seasoned with various spices though given its heavy carb content and the amount of food coming up, I didn't eat too much of it. Great to share and perfect with that amazing comeback sauce!

Smoked Wagyu Brisket - 300gm ($34.00)

Sure enough, we all fell silent the moment this gorgeous piece of meat showed up at our table. Gotta admit, the food delivery was incredibly fast with many dishes showing up at the same time. Seriously though, look at the marbling on that smoky beef! So soft, tender and ridiculously juicy, it makes you want to drool all over the table. I'm speechless as I'm writing this actually. Just look at that photo!

Papi Chulo BBQ Platter ($86.00 - serves 2-4 people)

Just when you can't get enough of beef brisket, we ordered even more of this cut as well as a sample of different types of meat in this restaurant's signature BBQ platter. This includes a half rack of lamb ribs and 150gm each of wagyu brisket, chopped pork and pork belly served with pickles and soft bread. The lamb ribs were very tasty and easy to cut through. It also didn't have that strong taste that seems to turn some people off lamb...well I didn't think it was strong but that's me. You just can't help but feel the happiness when the meat fell off the bone so quickly. The pork belly was succulent fatty goodness that melts in your mouth. Even though there's a thick slab of fat, it's a total guilty pleasure especially with its incredible softness and the seasoned flavour. And that chopped pork (I think it's pulled pork? Looks like it) is sooooo addictive! Had a sweet, saucy and tangy taste that keeps me getting more than my share especially when it came down to leftovers.

Papi Chulo Burger - grain fed beef, bacon, American cheese, tomato, lettuce, pickles, soft bun ($18.00)

By the time the Papi Chulo burger showed up, most of us were feeling full from all the meaty goodness. I was still ok by this point so I grabbed my share. The beef patty had that medium-rare pinkish colour as we attempt to split the burger to share. While this did not stand out compared to the other dishes - most likely because we were too full, I still loved that crispy bacon as well as the soft (though filling) bun.

Plate of colourful pickles and other veggies

If you are getting meat sweats just by reading this post, fear not. We also got a complimentary plate of colourful pickles and other assorted veggies which came with the meat platter. While they were quite sour, they were a nice relief from all the meats, carbs and fatty oils that we have eaten so far. 

Smoked Wagyu Brisket Sandwich - spicy celery pickle, caramelised onion, horseradish mayo, fried egg, soft bun ($18.00)

M arrived late when we finished nearly everything so she ordered a smoked wagyu brisket sandwich (which looked very much like a burger). Although we couldn't eat anymore savoury food, we cannot help but feel the food envy at the layers of beef brisket and egg in that burger. Could only imagine how good this would have tasted.

Pear and Rhubarb Cobbler, Ginger Crumble, Creme Anglaise, Orange and Ginger Ice-Cream ($14.00) 

Just when you and I thought that we have given up, think again. There is still that mysterious favourite room for dessert. Three desserts actually. Yeah we couldn't decide so we tried them all to share. The pear and rhubarb cobbler was warm and not too sweet or sour. While there was a decent amount of creaminess due to the creme anglaise and ginger ice cream, it was combined with the ginger crumble and chunks of pear and rhubarb. Compared to the other desserts, this was lighter with well-balanced flavours and textures which was why this was a favourite sweet dish for pretty much everyone at the table.

Banana Split - fresh split banana, chocolate fudge, peanut praline, banana ice cream, peanut butter ice cream, cherry jam, whipped cream, glace cherry ($14.00)

The banana split especially at a restaurant like Papi Chulo would certainly bring out your inner child. With all that creaminess from the peanut butter and banana ice creams and the whipped cream, it was certainly a decadent and rich dessert. The fresh bananas, chocolate fudge and crumbled peanut praline added a good amount of crunch to what was otherwise an intense creamy dessert. 

Warm Chocolate Chip Cookie with vanilla malt ice cream, butterscotch sauce, macademia brittle ($14.00)

Personally I really loved the above dessert mainly due to my preference towards anything sweet involving softly baked chocolate chip cookies. This was rich and very sweet due to the amount of chocolate, the indulging scoop of melting vanilla malt ice-cream and the thick and warm butterscotch sauce but the softness of the cookie won me over instantly. Plus that crumbled macademia brittle made it even more addictive for me. Would order this again next time especially on a cool day.

While we clearly had our fill for lunch, there was still so much more that I want to try from the menu. Especially the cuban sandwich, the pea guacamole, those potatoes and gravy (and bone marrow!) or even get my hands on one of the smoked BBQ meats again. The vibe was incredibly busy and the service seemed prompt and attentive to our needs. One of my very few qualms was the pricing since it generally leaned toward the more expensive side. Though this is standard for most Merivale restaurants. If only Manly was closer for me to get to because I could definitely see myself making regular visits to try everything on the menu especially for birthdays, farewells and other special occasions.

Papi Chulo
22-23 Manly Wharf, Manly NSW 2095
(02) 9240 3000
Mon-Fri: 12:00pm - 10:30pm
Sat: 11:30am - 10:30pm
Sun: 11:30am - 9:00pm
Papi Chulo on Urbanspoon