Mexican Restaurant Sydney - Northern Beaches Restaurant Reviews
Mexicano Restaurant Review
where: 2/205-209 Ocean Street, Narrabeen
when: dinner tuesday - sunday
bookings: (02) 9970 8975
Reviewer - Danny 'Taste-Bud' Gray
Hold on to your sombrero folks! In fact, maybe just leave it at home, you won't need it at this modern Mexican dining destination.
At Mexicano there are no sleepy stereotypes, just a modern bar/restaurant abuzz with exciting and fresh flavours the likes of which Sydney has never tasted. So dust the sand off your feet, grab a cold cerveza and park yourself in this trendy beachside taqueria.
Forget everything you know about Mexican food. Didn't know anything to begin with? Even better! The days of cheesy, oily, bland and boring food are over. Sean Prenter, executive chef at Mexicano, has some serious chops (pardon the pun) hailing from the Sydney institution Rockpool. Sean and his brother Kieron have taken some time in between surfs and cooking for the super-rich to set up what is one of the most exciting restaurants to open on the Northern Beaches in some time.
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From what began as a humble idea to sell tacos out of a garage, the boys behind Mexicano have exceeded their goals dramatically. Perhaps the only similarity to their original plan is the size. The restaurant isn't a big one and you'd be forgiven if you missed it a few times while driving past. With no room for a mariachi band you'll just have to make due with the rockin' soundtrack playing through the speakers. Tucked around the corner from Ocean St. near the golden sands of North Narrabeen beach Mexicano is a cosy little joint and they have little trouble filling up the seats. If you haven’t booked a table here be prepared to wait, this restaurant attracts plenty of people be it surfers looking for a post-surf snack or foodies from afar checking out the hype.
Once seated at our cozy table I get a chance to peruse the drinks on offer before co-owner Kieron and his wife join us for dinner. There is a great range of authentic Mexican beverages on offer. The beer list is nicely filled out with Mexican brews including Corona, Pacifico, Negro Modelo, Dos Equis and the Chilean Kuntsmann.
The wine list is concise but has great variety with drops from Spain, Italy, Chile, Argentina and Australia. The 2009 Alamos Malbec is excellent, a shining example of the fine wines being produced in South America at the moment. The tequila is well stocked here and there are plenty of fine ones to choose from including Patron, Don Julio and a personal favourite, Espolol.
The cocktail list contains all the usual suspects you'd expect to find at any South American themed restaurant. However the quality is way above average, I ordered the Jalapeno Margarita, it came out on the rocks in a salt rimmed tumbler, the house infused jalapeno tequila has a delightful kick and the whole drink is well-balanced and packed with flavour. The sangria, served individually, is sweet and well-spiced and the Pisco Sour is another well-balanced and expertly made classic. As Kieron joins our table he boasts to me that their frozen Margaritas are the best in town, already sipping on the Jalapeno Margarita I could hardly argue but was looking forward to trying the frozen version. Kieron went on to mention a new drink yet to grace the menu which is a departure from the limey, citrus based concoctions currently dominating the menu, it's been named Red Agave via a promotion on Facebook. The drink contains jalapeno infused tequila, raspberry and coriander and provides a much needed contrast to the rest of the cocktails, decadent, sweet and delicious this drink is sure to be a favourite once it debuts on the menu.
So let's talk about the food. It's all about sharing here which is good because there's bound to be a few cases of food envy. I recommend kicking off with the grilled corn. Not being a fan of corn in general I was completely blown away by how good this simple dish is. Spicy and smokey with fresh lime, salty cheese and a creamy chipotle mayo to tie it all together you'll never eat boring old boiled corn again! The chicken winglets are notably awesome, brined then fried the skin is crispy and the meat is juicy, served with an agave syrup this dish is a real treat.
Alternatively, you could start with the fries or house-made corn chips as both are excellent. The corn chips are so far superior to the packeted variety it'll blow your mind. Don't forget to utilise the selection of El Yucateco hot sauces placed on each table since it adds a definite kick to any dish.
Next up is the beetroot salad. Probably not what you'd expect to see on the menu in a Mexican joint but it's as delicious as it is surprising. Comprised of luscious chunks of beetroot adorned with candied walnuts and goat cheese sprinkled with micro herbs, this dish really highlights Sean's fine dining pedigree. I'd rarely declare a salad a must but it compliments the spicy and savoury food perfectly and works well as a palate cleanser between dishes.
The next dish up is a crowd favourite, the beef chimichangas, served in fours each tied with a charming piece of string. You'd be forgiven for thinking you'd just been served an entree of spring rolls. However, upon biting into the crispy golden finger you'll discover a delightful filling of 'melt in your mouth' slow cooked beef brisket. Give it a good dip in the cucumber and sweet vinegar salsa and you'll be in flavour country!
A Better Ceviche
We moved on to a dish which is becoming increasingly common around town, ceviché. However Mexicano have put a little spin on it using lime-cured Spencer Gulf Prawns served with an avocado-clamato jelly and corn chips. Fresh and flavourful like a Pico de Gallo with prawns this dish is light and jazzy, perfect on a scorching summer's day with a Pacifico or margarita to wash it down.
History of Mexicano
While we are waiting for the next plate of mind-blowing food to arrive, Kieron lets us in on the story of Mexicano. Originally the idea was to just make tacos and sell them out of a garage somewhere. When they stumbled upon a small shopfront just beside the sands of Narrabeen beach for lease, the opportunity arose to create so much more. There is not a lot of space in this restaurant but it has been utilised well. The kitchen space is small, there's no cool room which means all the produce is brought in fresh everyday, a massive tick in my books. The restaurant is fitted out in a clean white modern finish trimmed with striking hardwood tables and feature wall behind the bar. Modern and rustic at the same time the design is simple, cool and best of all there's no cheesy decorations. The majority of the staff there today have been there since the doors opened so the service is warm, efficient and friendly.
Amazing Fish Tacos
For the larger dishes you'll be faced with a decision between tacos and quesadillas, let me make it easy for you get the fish tacos. Look I know you probably pulled some kind of confused and disgusted face just at the idea of fish tacos but let me tell you they are out of this world! This dish truly sums up Mexicano, fresh, flavourful and just generally awesome.
The tacos are served in three's but the kitchen staff will happily send out a serve of four to avoid uproar in the event of failed taco diplomacy at the table. Firstly, what makes all the tacos so great are the tortillas which are hand made and hand pressed using traditional methods. They come out soft and perfectly charred. The fish is coated in a light and crispy batter and sits atop cabbage slaw with mango or papaya (depending on season). Last but not least is the chipotle mayo which seals the deal in a beautiful palm-sized package of texture and flavour. It just doesn't get any better than this!
Pork Shoulder Quesadilla, Chipotle Beef Brisket Tacos and Achiote Grilled Chicken Tacos
The other dishes I highly suggest you try is the pork shoulder quesadilla, chipotle beef brisket tacos and achiote grilled chicken tacos. To be perfectly honest there's not a dish on the menu I've tried that I wouldn't recommend so follow your stomach and your taste buds. For the vegetarian I'm pleased to say there are a few more options than my last visit with a veggie taco a new addition to the menu.
Firmly satisfied with our meal so far its time for dessert, I strongly urge you to consider this course as the dishes on offer are excellent. The ice cream sandwich consists of coconut florentines, honeycomb and white chocolate and is like no ice cream sandwich you've had before.
The next dessert is a proud new addition to the menu consisting of fried tortillas stacked and filled with Mexicano's homemade icecream and sweetened with a burnt agave syrup. Not knowing what to expect this dessert blew me away. Strangely reminiscent of an awesome pancake breakfast this dish is a must for any sweet tooth. If stomach real-estate is an issue opt for the ancho chilli and cinnamon truffles, hand-made chocolate treats that are smooth and sexy with the slightest hint of chilli. A great option for those with their belt already unbuckled and looking to end the night on a sweet note.
So dinner was done but I had almost forgotten I had yet to try the frozen margarita. My dining companions were too full from dessert to join me so I soldiered on solo. The margarita comes out like a cup of pure white snow drizzled with agave syrup. The balance is perfect and flavour sensational. You'd have to travel a long way to find a better margarita (probably Mexico). In fact the drink looked so good Kieron couldn't help but order one for himself and that's what you like to see, an owner of a restaurant who enjoys the food and drinks just as much if not more than the diners. While Kieron wouldn’t heed my pleas to open for lunch, a little bird has hinted there may be a second Mexicano opening it's doors in the not too distant future, so stay tuned for that.
I can honestly say Mexicano has nailed it, their modern approach toward the rich and often misunderstood heritage of Mexican cuisine has heralded in a new era of Mod-Mexican cooking. With a focus on simplicity and fresh produce the Prenter brothers have taken the fundamental components of what makes a good restaurant and capitalised big time. Packed to capacity night after night Mexicano is the shining jewel in the crown of Northern Beaches dining. There's no white table cloths or degustations here, just damn good food, damn good drinks and a damn good time.
With the end of the Mayan calendar fast approaching we face our future with some uncertainty, some people maintaining we could see the end of the world. If the apocalypse is indeed upon us, I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather seek shelter than a little Mexican place called Mexicano. Put a Margarita in my hand and a fish taco in my belly and bring on Judgment Day! It's not like gluttony is a sin or anything, right?
The Good, The Bad and The Better Looking
The Good – Exciting, fresh and tasty menu cooked with precision. Great drinks with a focus on wicked cocktails. Awesome grooves in a cool environment. Good value for money. Ample parking.
The Bad – If you want a seat book well in advance, walk-ins are welcome but are likely to wait.
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