“We have to go there!” my cousin Ros exclaimed upon reading a review of Barrio Chino. I had been meaning to check out the new Mexican place that had opened up around the corner from my office so immediately I agreed, and so plans were made to have her upcoming birthday dinner there. Because we were in a group, we were given three menus to choose from, which all seemed like excellent value. We had the $35 menu and there was sooo much food, we all left very satisfied.
A pitcher of Margaritas was a must. A second pitcher of Margaritas is also a must. We got stuck into the Guacamole, Salsa and Chips while we waited for the rest of the group to arrive. The guac is made to order, and is one of the better versions I’ve had, though El Capo still takes the cake on this one. The roasted tomato and mint salsa was great too, but it was the guac that I kept going back for. Our chips were replenished when we ran out.
One of my (and birthday girl Roslyn’s) favourite dishes of the night was the Albondigas, which are pork and beef meatballs with an insanely delicious smoky tomato and chipotle sauce. I still think about these, months later!
One of my favourite things on any Mexican restaurant menu is BBQ corn. Charry and sweet, Barrio Chino’s version was served with chipotle mayo, queso and lime, and was everything you would expect from this dish.
And now let the tacos begin! We were served platters of five different varieties, with sides of refritos (pureed pinto beans), Mexican rice and three types of hot sauce. The tacos themselves are small, but they’re definitely not short of fillings. First up was the Chicken borracho with chipotle-beer braised chicken, crema, avocado, lettuce. While this was great, I always feel that chicken tacos are simply less impressive by default than beef or pork.
And the Beef Barbacoa tacos are particularly awesome at Barrio Chino. The brisket is smoky and fall-apart tender, served with red chilli sauce, lime cured red onion and oregano. A must order!
Next was the Baja Market Fish with lightly battered blue eye, cumin-lime crema, cabbage and coriander. I didn’t manage to try these but the consensus was that they were very good, with a great variety of textures. I didn’t manage to get a photo of the Vegetarian tacos with roasted pumpkin, capsicum, cactus and toasted pepitas. These were unexpectedly spicy!
Saving the best til last? The Carnitas tacos were the final ones to arrive and I was struggling for stomach space by this point but of course I had to try them! Chock full of braised pork, onion and cilantro, I think they tied with the brisket tacos as my favourites of the night. And unlike Mamasita and La Cholita, where the tacos needed help from the condiments to save them from being a little bland, these didn’t. But that smoky chipotle sauce was awesome!
As a side note, Barrio Chino also does taco specials, and on my second visit (alas without my camera this time) we had an absolutely freaking awesome Duck and Pomegranate taco. The a la carte menu also includes other delicious sounding shared dishes including tostadas and quesadillas. We skipped dessert in favour of birthday cake, though the churros and the traditional Mexican flan both sound delicious and I’ll have to remember to leave room to try them on my next visit.
The restaurant filled up quickly after we arrived (evidently popular with the hipster crowd), the atmosphere was boisterous and fun and there was a line out the door when we left. They don’t take bookings for groups under ten, but there’s a great little bar inside where you can have a drink while you wait for your table. Barrio Chino ticked all the boxes for me, especially those amazing meatballs and brisket tacos.
Happy Birthday Ros (sorry that this post is several months after the fact!) xox
Barrio Chino, 28-30 Bayswater Rd, Kings Cross (02) 8021 9750