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.

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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.

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