Greek goddess and I having a glass of white sangria in the front bar of Barrio Chino, while we wait for the rest of our dinner party; Mrs. P, Shetlan the pom to arrive. Out the back, noisy diners fill the long share tables and booths. We’ve arrived early and it’s already full.
This site used to be Zachary’s, opposite Hugo’s and next to the for lease signs on the old Bayswater Brasserie and Lincoln. It’s by the same owners of Cantonese Fei Jai in Challis Avenue with a Brazilian head chef, Rafael Tonon that’s teamed up with Joe Hargreave from San Francisco’s Tacolicious – sounds like a good combination to me! We’re taken through to one of the booths (have I said it before, I love a booth?) and order a jug of red sangria. Food here is designed to share with lots of snack sized options, little tacos and salads.
You can tell this place churns through the customers as our waitress (who’s hot by the way – I wish I could pull off a pixie peroxide crop like that) runs through the three different types of chilli sauces like she has a million lackluster times before – all we remember is the green ones not hot. Our food arrives only minutes later. The ‘tuna tostado’, corn chip, tuna sashimi, avocado and chipotle mayo ($14) is demolished in one tiny bite – bright red silky tuna then a taste of hot and cold with the chipotle and avocado. It’s unanimous, we could do with a few more of these…
Mrs. P isn’t a seafood eater, so we’ve order double of the ‘spicy albondigas’, pork and beef meatballs roasted with tomato chipotle sauce ($15). They’re moist and tasty but I don’t know where the ‘snow storm’ of grated house-made cow’s milk queso is on top of them Terry Durack?… ours looks more like a mild case of dandruff.
The ‘ribs’, baby back pork ribs with tanarindo-habanero glaze and jicama slaw ($16) are good, but I’m yet to find anywhere that does them as good they do in the US – I have visions of the enormous racks of them piled up in Costco… drown them in BBQ sauce and get them on the BBQ immediately please! Yum.
My favourite is probably one of the day’s specials – a ceviche of snapper, squid and pomegranate served with corn chips. It’s tender, light and fresh with a little sweet tang. I would have been happy with a big bowl of this and maybe some of the ‘made-to-order guacamole’ ($4) – we didn’t order this, but it’s turned up on our table anyway.
You can’t have Mexican without a quesadilla. I’ve thrown in a last minute order for the ‘quesadilla tres queso’, three-cheese quesadilla with corn and salsa ($12), and I really shouldn’t have. Sadly it’s a little like a cardboard cheese sandwich. Another jug of red sangria and the front bar is really packing out now.
We’ve each ordered a taco – three specials ‘duck’, twice cooked duck with pomegranate and two ‘carnitas’, traditional crispy braised pork, onion and cilantro (6). I love anything pulled-pork-related and am happy with my decision…
… but I’m still hungry. I sheepishly ask the table if anyone will join me in another taco (there’s only a few bites to them!). Thankfully there are three takers, but it takes for-ever to get a waitresses attention. I’m trying the duck this time and the others the ‘chicken borracho’, chipotle braised chicken, crema, avocado and iceberg lettuce ($6). The duck is lovely but I’ve got food envy looking at the chicken. Anyone for a third? Better not ask…
Shetlan is already calling out that we “must have the churros” – I agree, we must! ‘chrurros with dulce de leche and chocolate’ ($10) and I like the sound of the ‘traditional Mexican flan with burnt toffee’ ($10). I’m remembering churros from my time in San Sebastian, eating them for breakfast – a bowl of muddy rich, bitter chocolate with golden crunchy sugar coated doughnut squiggles. Amazing.
The churros arrive and I could cry… five anorexic doughnut sticks like McDonalds chips still begging for a few more moments in the deep fryer sit lonely alongside the chocolate sauce and dulche de leche in a shallow double-dip bowl. The flan is like a super creamy crème caramel… nothing amazing, but it’s satisfied my sweet tooth. We head back in to the bar for a glass of wine – this is where the action is.
If I come back, it’ll be for the great bar atmosphere, drinks and some bar food snacks.
Barrio Chino – 28-30 Bayswater Road, Kings Cross 2011 – 02 8021 9750