Baja Cantina, Glebe

I love a cheeky little Mexican on a Friday night. Their food is pretty good too. Ba-dum-chhhhh! Ok, well that was an obvious joke, but not bad for a Sunday night, right?

My dining friend and I recently went to visit an old favourite, Baja Cantina on the perpetually bustling Glebe Point Road. Bookings are relatively necessary or so it would seem, with the restaurant full by about 7pm (there are two sittings, 6/6:30 and 8:30) and sorry punters being turned away. I’d always been impressed during previous visits so expectations remained high this time around.

Baja Cantina - decked out as any tex mex restaurant should be

Baja Cantina – decked out as any tex mex restaurant should be

We started with a (very) standard entree – chips and guac. I liked how their chips were made on site and fried fresh. The guac was decent. Well flavoured, various little chunks of onion here and there. A solid serve for $9 (large, $14). I have to say I would otherwise have gone for the queso fundido – even the name is screams enjoyment. A TEDs – boooringgg ( a very reasonable $4.50) and a Dos Equis Amber ($7) were also ordered, although buyers remorse briefly overcame me as I saw a brightly coloured jug of sangria arrive at our neighbouring table ($16).

Can't go wrong

Can’t go wrong

Immediately entering the town of Regretsville, I could feel fullness rearing its ugly head even before the mains arrived. What started off as mild fullness courtesy of a delicious pork belly for a team work lunch was only perpetuated by my lack of control over abovementioned corn chips.

It actually worked well that we had to wait really quite a long time for our mains – as in, a good half hour / 40 mins notwithstanding said busy-ness of the restaurant.

My dining friend’s steak fajitas ($25.90) arrived theatrically. An army-sized plate of black beans, cheese, tomato, rice, guac, sour cream and lettuce arrived, together with an hilariously small and unbalanced serve of three tortillas, as well as a bowl of salsa. Mere moments later a great sizzling behemoth of a plate of steak, capsicums and onions arrived. So apart from the obvious tortilla to filling debacle, I have to say that the steak was pretty tough, though the capsicum/onion combo was pretty tasty. It wasn’t really cut across the grain and it was a little fatty. The quantity was enormous – but actually just made me think of the unfortunate wastage of the situation. A human of epic sized proportion still could not have finished this dish.

fa-jeetas, mate

fa-jeetas, mate

My enchirito with shredded beef ($22.90) was similarly man-mountain sized. Tragically, it had clearly been sitting around for a good 10 minutes or so, I estimate! It was cool and juices had visibly run out, mixing with the enchilada sauce. Though the waitress speedily whisked the enchirito away to be reheated at my request, it was mildly frustrating that a dish had been let out of the kitchen, cold. It came back steaming hot and on a new plate, which was appreciated. The filling was pretty rice-y, which I don’t remember having been the case last time (I’m pretty on point with the rice to meat ratio). A sad experience, indeed.

Entrada, enchirito

Entrada, enchirito

Overall, Baja Cantina offered a fairly glum experience! So different from the experiences of Mexican dinners past. Weirdly, the food portions appear to be growing – in stark contrast to food portion sizes of many restaurants out there. I still want to try the Baja fish tacos…but it might take a few more dinners to forget this experience 😦

Baja Cantina
43-45 Glebe Point Road, Glebe

Food? 5/10. Credit given for past visits; deductions for cold food and tough steak
Drinks? 9/10. Put it this way, 1 page of their 2-page menu is dedicated to drinks. Various beers, cocktails, wines and a whole lotta tequila
Atmosphere? 8/10. Lively and decked out like any tex-mex restaurant should be. We were unfortunately seated right next to the entrance, which meant a constantly opening and non-closing door, but that was more just circumstance – every restaurant needs a door! The waiters were ever present and friendly and the restaurant boisterous and bustling.

Baja Cantina on Urbanspoon

Cafe Pacifico, Darlinghurst

So the other day, I made my inaugural purchase of an Entertainment Book, having previously been a little skeptical dog on the concept. I’ve swiftly realised the false economy – that you order to compensate for any discount you’re receiving. Anyway, spotting Cafe Pacifico in said book, I took up the opportunity to check out a cool-looking Mexican restaurant / tequila bar a couple of nights ago.

Skeptical dog

Up a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it flight of stairs, we were greeted with smiles and a pulley system attached to the door, which would send a bony skeletal hand flying up and down. Having arrived at the painfully un-hip hour of 6pm on a Friday night (apparently I’m 80 these days), we were seated immediately and plonked upon our table was a serve of complimentary chips and salsa.

Wanna chip bro?

Wanna chip bro?

The chips were…chips, nothing special. The salsa had a surprising kick for what otherwise looked like a soupy saucy bowl of red.

Proceeding to commence the Friday night-unwind, we got stuck into a pitcher (1L-ish) of Mexican Sangria ($34), which seemed to get increasingly strong towards the end of the jug. Fruit was sparse – a little orange here, a little apple there, spice was somewhat uninspiring, but it was decent, and boy did it help us unwind.

Quit yer wining

Quit yer wining

Enough talking. Onto the food. Having been to a chicken abattoir the day before, I went for the beef enchiladas ($22.9) with optional sour cream ($23.9), while my dining friend went for the beef burrito ($22.9).

Is that a burrito in your pocket?

Is that a burrito in your pocket?

I think my dining friend’s comment summed it up succinctly as our mains arrived – “I though we ordered different things”. They just sort of looked same-y. And beige. They were quite tasty – plentiful, tender shredded beef, topped with melty, oozy cheese and the promised sour cream. Both came with refried beans and what I’d usually expect to be a cilantro-lime rice thing (but what was instead a sort of orange-y tasting rice), but it was essentially just the same save for mine coming in the shape of two rolled tortillas, and his coming in one burrito.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a burrito? Is it an enchilada?

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a burrito? No, it’s an enchilada

I was probably hoping for something with a little more of an innovative twist; something a little funky. Anything. Cafe Pacifico is in the trendiest of trendy areas, after all. This reminded me more of a local, suburban Mexican dig – definitely not bad, but nothing particularly exciting to speak of. Nevertheless, it was good, hearty fare, which hit the spot on a cold Friday night. And service was fantastic as well.

As we retreated into the night – at the out of control hour of 7:30pm – the bar had begun to fill up, bartenders were yelling and whooping, tequila was being shotted and the party was just getting started.

Cafe Pacifico
95 Riley St,
Darlinghurst NSW 2010

Food? 6/10 – sorry guys! It’s probably not the best value for money – at $24 for a suburban enchiladas, I’ve had better!
Drinks? 7/10 – Sangria was pretty unimaginative, but they did have a wiiiide selection of tequila and were also touting their “famous margarita”
Atmosphere? 9/10 – very cool. It’s set upstairs in what would have once been an old, unloved warehouse. Now decked out with Mexican paraphernalia, posters, candles, beer boxes and a huge bar, it’s lively, quick and a lot of fun.

Cafe Pacifico on Urbanspoon

Poco’s Cantina, Randwick

Mexican. Or more correctly, Tex-Mexican. Is there anything better? The answer is a resounding, compounding, not-astounding no. I freakin’ love Mexican. Which made it all the more epic when my dining friend and I went to check out Poco’s Cantina in Randwick last week.

The menu is brief – all of the usual suspects are there – enchiladas, tacos, burritos, fajitas, nachos, chilli. With every new dish, my drool intensified. Not five minutes after we were seated, a cute little container or corn chips and salsa were plonked in front of us. The salsa was in a chip bowl – epic. Tacky, but epic. Observe:

Chip bowls make everything great

We started off with a couple of bevvies – a corona, of course and a very well priced ($8 or so?) margarita for me. Even though there were a decent number of people in the restaurant, our drinks came quickly and were delicious. The drinks menu isn’t particular out there or wildly impressive, but it goes with the chill, simple, no frills idea of the restaurant.

Margarita time! (and a half-demolished chip bowl)

There were some fantastic looking buffalo wings as a menu entree – but focused we were, we went straight for the big guys. For mains, DF went for chicken enchiladas ($19) and I went for my typical choice – the choice by which I judge all Mexican restaurants – the beef burrito ($21.50).

Enchiladas

The enchiladas were huge! Two packed enchiladas, topped with a mild (yes, DF is the world’s biggest heat wimp) tomato sauce, tasty rice and a side of beans. Little black beans would have been better – they kind of tasted very obviously of “canned goods” but other than that, DF gave a nice big thumbs up.

Burrito!

So my burrito was incredible. Tasty, super tender shredded beef, beans and cheese in a massive tortilla. Rice, sour cream, guac and salsa on the site. Sufficiently spicy; not overkill. So flavoursome and such a generous serving. I like the concept of having it all in the burrito, all in one, but then I guess this way skips the issue that I once faced – ALL of the super spicy chili down one end of the burrito, which I injested in one, big, painful, teary bite. Anyway – I’ll be coming back for this burrito again.

The cool thing about Poco’s Cantina is that it has no frills. Look anywhere – literally, there are none. And it doesn’t try to be fancy. They serve their chips in a plastic container. Their menu is in a plastic folder. The waiters are these young surfy kids. It’s brilliant!

Being my birthday, we decided to take a quick visit down the road to this cool little cafe called Kurtosh. It’s a cafe based on this Hungarian “donut” called “Kurtoskalacs” (you know the ones, wrapped around a wooden mold and baked in that funky looking machine, dusted with cinnamon / sugar). Kurtosh also has a few counters filled with these massive slabs of cake – chocolate cake, cheese cake, nutty cakes, teacakes, blondies, poppy seed cakes – you name it – that you buy by the gram. We went for 100 grams ($4), which gets you a very nicely appropriately sized piece, of a berry cheesecake. Thick, rich and very cheesy, it was let down slightly by its non-biscuit-based crust (the best of all bases), but was delicious nonetheless. We also went for a very chocolate-y chocolate ball (no rum, unfortunately!), for $2.50. If richness could be defined by a small dessert, then this chocolate ball would be that definition. It wasn’t complex, it wasn’t mysterious… it was chocolate, and it was good.

Cheesecake and chocolate

We went to:

Poco’s Cantina
52 St Paul’s St,
Randwick NSW 2031

Food? 7/10
Drinks? 6/10
Ambience? 6/10
Recommend it? Yes, for a relaxed “cantina” dinner. The food and drinks were cheap and delicious – grab a few friends, sit around a bigger table at the back and have a good ol’ night.

Poco Cantina on Urbanspoon

Kurtosh
20 St Paul’s St,
Randwick NSW 2031

The Norfolk, Redfern

Since having moved into my new place, I have made it my self-proclaimed mission to check out every single pub in the area until I find one I can deem “the local”. Since making this claim, I of course have been to about three out of the 84,000 pubs around me, so it’s not going particularly well.

To make up for this, a few dining friends and I went to check out The Norfolk Hotel on Cleveland Street a couple of weeks back. The Norfolk is one of those pubs where somebody was probably once stabbed, where the paintwork peeled and where bouncers through punters out the door and onto the street. It is one of those pubs where some hipster thought to themselves…I can make some money out of this hell-hole, and immediately appointed an interior decorator, some attractive bar staff, a couple of decent chefs and a drink called the Tijuana Camel Toe (it’s delicious).

A few beers (and camel toes) into our night, our stomachs made note of the fact that we had been drowning them in alcohol without so much as a stick of grissini to balance it out. We swiftly approached the bar, ordering a duck, a fish, a chicken and a beef taco (4 for $20), “salt n pepa” squid with jalapeno mayo ($14), a beef burger ($18.50) and a deceptively spicy “Chickn” Burger ($17).

Chickn Burger

We later worked out that the Chickn Burger had on it sriracha mayo, which we appeared to have missed in our menu selection. DF1, being a spice-sissy, regretted this decision immediately and swiftly went to gather as many glasses of water as would fit in his hands. Otherwise, he said the chicken was reasonably juicy and the bun was brioche-y. The chips, he said, were crunchy, but did look like they’d come out of a McCain’s packet. No picture of the beef burger, but the two did essentially look precisely the same (and probably could have been, given the number of beers we had consumed). DF2 said “good…nothing special” after wolfing it down.

Beef and duck tacos

The tacos were light, fresh, flavourful bites enveloped in a chewy tortilla of deliciousness. Both meats were tender and well marinated. The duck taco came with tart orange and surprisingly delicious cabbage slaw (for a girl that does NOT like cabbage). The accompanying wedge of lime added a delicious, fresh twang.

Salt N Pepa squid with jalapeno mayo

The Salt N Pepa squid was great. The squid was cooked perfectly – a light crispness on the outside, and perfectly cooked, non-stringy squid on the inside. The jalapeno mayo had a very decent kick, but not so much that it wasn’t enjoyable. The wedges of lime cut through the creamy sauce and everything was brought together beautifully.

I’m a fan of the Norfolk Hotel, not just for its crazy-named drinks. I like their fresh, no frills fare. I like the fact that their kitchen copes pretty well and produces pretty decent, cheapish food for what seems to be a pretty hectic affair. I think I have actually found myself a good, ol’ local.

The Norfolk Hotel
305 Cleveland Street
Redfern NSW 2010

The Norfolk on Urbanspoon