“A couple of bites into this soft, cheesy hot dog dressed with fresh salsa,
I now realize Mexican to be more than just tacos, tequila and Salma Hayek”
I’ve never quite taken a liking to Mexican cuisine. Save for crispy shell tacos with good lashings of chilli meat sauce, there seems to be too much avocado, beans, corn and jalapeño in the food of Speedy Gonzales.
But a casual Mexican cantina within the Excelsior Hotel in Surry Hills seems to hit all the right notes with the locals. Then again, it’s one of Sydney’s flamboyant bar extrepreneur Justin Hemmes‘ drinking and eating establishments where good food and partying go hand in hand. Better late than never, it has taken us more than three years to get here since it first opened.
El Loco, Surry Hills
Housed at the back of the Excelsior Hotel, the restaurant has a casual vibe with a shady al fresco dining area.
The dining room is like a school canteen, decked out with multi-coloured stools and fancy tabletops. It’s rather quiet when we arrive past 1.30pm on a Sunday afternoon.
An El Loco salad on the kitchen servery has beef piled on by cabbage, fennel, radish, topped with crispy tortilla strips and snowed under with loads of grated haloumi cheese.
The chefs in the kitchen are busy preparing corn chips, guacamole, fish and pork torta sandwiches for a bunch of people out at the al fresco area soaking up a bit of sun.
There are meal deals as well as member privileges for the Loco Club.
There are three types of El Yucateco hot sauce on each table and my favourite is the Salsa Picante de Chile Habenero red.
The menu is short with Mexican favourites ~ tacos with spit roast pork, lemongrass beef, prawn, chilli marinated tofu, chicken and even a secret ingredient one that changes daily.
The al fresco area is a shady spot on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The sun is out, it’s blue skies with a gentle breeze and rustling leaves.
I might be influenced by the Mexican style corn chips but a Cervesa Pacifico Clara has gentle notes of corn with a crisp and dry finish.
Mysaucepan‘s Jalisco Colada is a margarita with Olmeca tequila shaken with Malibu, coconut water, lime and pineapple juice and sweetened with Agave syrup.
Crispy corn chips come with guacamole and a tomato salsa.
This is beer and cocktail food that is hard to go wrong. Slightly chilled, I prefer the tomato salsa with fresh garlic and coriander.
Corn on the cob is dusted with bits of pangrattato for some crispy texture.
I prefer crunchy taco tortilla over soft ones.
Camaron taco comes in a soft tortilla with a few prawns hidden under diced cabbage, coriander, spring onions, salsa verde and pico de gallo.
A quesadilla is stuffed with chorizo, jalapeno and cheese with a side of chipotle mayo. This is standard Mexican fare but is as good as it comes.
Ever since I laid eyes on the El Hot Dog almost three years ago, I’ve been wanting to sink my teeth into this tasty-looking number.
There’s just something very appetizing and seductive when a succulent-looking sausage is sticking out at each end of a soft roll and piled with pico de gallo, pickled jalapeno, mayo and grated haloumi cheese so fine it melts from the gentle heat of the sausage.
The fresh and raw taste of the pico de gallo is refreshing while the grilled pork Frankfurter is soft yet a hefty bite against creamy mayo and cheese.
A couple of bites into this soft, cheesy hot dog dressed with fresh salsa, I now realize Mexican to be more than just tacos, tequila and Salma Hayek.
I would come back here just for that cheesy submarine.
So dear readers, do you like Mexican food and if so, what is your favorite?
64 Foveaux street
Surry Hills, New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 9211 4945
Opening hours: Monday – Thursday 12pm till late, Friday & Saturday 12pm to 3am, Sunday 12pm to 10pm