Categories
Café Latin American

Mas Tinto – Stanmore NSW Restaurant Review

Colombia is the birthplace of one of the friendliest wardspeople I have ever worked with, as well as the home of Más Tinto’s cuisine. Más Tinto, as Google Translate tells me, translates from Spanish into “More Red”, which does not look to add any additional meaning to the cafe’s name what so ever.

The first thing I need to tell you about is this amazing guava and cheese empanada ($3.50). As you can see, these empanadas here are a bit smaller than the ones at Mascot-based Chilean joint Pochito, and a bit more deep fried than baked. My partner had some significant misgivings about me ordering a fruit empanada over a meaty one, but these evaporated the moment this empanada was bitten into. The sweet guava and salty cheese complimented each other perfectly, with the soft filling contrasting in texture with its crispy fried envelope. This empanada was the best part of the meal by far, and could be a true ambassador for the café.

It’s kind of unfortunate that unbridled praise for Mas Tinto starts ands with its guava empanada. The Ajiaco ($18), a chicken, corn, and potato soup, was the better of the two mains that we ordered. The soup itself had a nice tangy flavour, especially eaten with the provided capers. The rice served was flavoured, though the rice itself was very loose and a little bit harder and dryer than we are used to. It is unfortunate that we ordered both this and the Mazorcada (shown below), as essentially both were meated with the same shredded chicken breast, something that we found repetitive and boring.

The Mazorcada ($16), a too-cheesy concoction of shredded chicken, sweet corn kernels, French Fries (the potato crisps from the packet), mushrooms, and chorizo, felt like the opposite of what I wanted. Rightfully or wrongly Más Tinto was chosen because we thought it would be a lighter alternative. The Mazorcada was anything but light. It was far too cheesy, and far too heavy. Despite this, I thought the flavours were too mild, a problem that not even the healthy smattering of chorizo could solve.

VERDICT
While I didn’t like either of our mains that much, Más Tinto’ guava and cheese empanada is worth a small detour alone. I’m sure that based on the quality of this little parcel of joy there are other things on the menu that I would’ve liked more.

3.5/5 (guava empanada 5/5)

Más Tinto
43 Bridge Rd, Stanmore NSW 2048
(02) 8541 6258

Categories
Brazilian

Brazilian Flame Barbecue – Zetland NSW Restaurant Review

Though there are many meats that I have tasted and loved in my lifetime, I had not, until today, ever had Brazilian barbeque. I found my way to Flame Brazilian BBQ after picking up a cake from nearby Black Star, and having read some quite good reviews on google.com decided why not.

Brazilian Flame offers five types of meat in various formats – on chips, on salad, in a roll, with some rice. The meats available are as follows:
– Pork
– Beef
– Lamb
– Chicken
– Chorizo
I had read great reviews about the chips from some chip fanatic on Google (he called them dangerous) and decided stupidly that it would be safer to get two lots with chips than to get some with salad (mostly as I did not know how to order the salad).

I had the BBQ meat snack packs of chicken and lamb on chips and beef and pork on chips. I can rate the order of meat enjoyment in the order of :

  1. Chicken
  2. Pork
  3. Beef
  4. Lamb

All meats but the lamb were quite moist and juicy. The chicken was the best. The pork was fully cooked through, but the fat and skin content were still there. The beef was in between medium and well done. The lamb was a bit dry. I had to give chorizo a pass but would risk it over the known quantity of lamb or beef next time.

Eating at peak period for Sunday lunch meant that the meat was always freshly roasted and constantly turned over. Wait time was a mere five minutes.

The quality of the chips were overstated. Admittedly they were eaten following a ten minute commute, but really good chips can usually withstand such a short amount of time. These did not.

The smoked sauce on top was just fine, there could have been more of it.

We only managed to finish around half the chips and meat between, so for $16 there’s a lot of food packed into these boxes.

Final thoughts

Not bad not good, should’ve had salad. Very cheap though.

3.5/5

Brazilian Flame
565 Botany Rd, Zetland NSW 2017
(02) 9167 3994

Categories
Café Latin American

Costas Arepa Bar – Bondi Beach NSW Restaurant Review

I’m generally not a very beachy guy, and though I’ve lived in Sydney almost all my life, my visit to Costas Arepa Bar also marked my first visit to Bondi in over a decade. Bondi, as some may know and many are about to learn, is home to a population mostly consisting of well off Caucasian youths, who have the benefit of their family having lived in Australia since the First Fleet. One outcome of this very well off population is the incredibly boomy corner store industry, with the mini-grocer next door to Costas Arepas Bar seeing plenty of egg-and-or-milk runs from the above mentioned cohort during our brief visit.

Mama Chang (L), Yankee (R)

The arepas at Costa Arepa Bar are essentially little, corn based toasted sandwiches filled with an imaginative and plentiful range of fillings. The arrangement is similar to what you would find if you toasted a crumpet, cut it in half and filled it to the brim with proteins, salad, and sauces, though the arepa itself is a bit more grainy, thinner, yet somehow still more substantial feeling.

Though the displayed menu confusingly offers its arepas in pairs for $14, the chef was quick to point out that any combination of arepas could be had.

The Mama Chang featured a crumbed hoki fillet, kimchi, slaw, and a mixture of mayonnaise and “Korean BBQ Sauce”. Whilst the flavours were OK, I wasn’t a big fan of the sesame crumbing that they used on the fish, which I found gave it a bit of a harder bite than it really had to (no doubt designed to suit Bondi’s anti-gluten cultists).

The Yankee, was advertised as featuring beef short rib in BBQ sauce with coleslaw and jalapenos, though what we actually got was a pulled meat, not at all comparable to the juicy piece of short rib as we were expecting. The blandness of the meat and boring BBQ sauce made this the weakest arepa of the bunch. Not even the jalapenos could save it.

Pepiada (L), DownUnder (r)

The Pepiada arepa was the strongest of the bunch. The shredded chicken was coated in a rich sauce of lemon mayonnaise, coriander, and avocado. Unlike the other arepas, the filling in this one was homogenous, with no unexpected surprises or difference in ingredients eaten bite to bite. If you find yourself here and only have room for one arepa, this would be the one to go for.

The DownUnder arepa of the same shredded chicken but in peri peri sauce with a side filling of bacon and avocado just wasn’t executed as well as the Pepiada. The spicy filling wasn’t quite spicy (though the additional hot sauce for $1 made up for that), and the differing elements made it difficult to eat.

Soy Cappuccino

Costa Arepas Bar’s soy cap is essentially the same as any other soy cap, made with Little Marionette beans. What’s worth mentioning is the cup from Huskee, which is made from coffee husks and has a nice handfeel. I’d think about getting one of my own were I able to keep a keepcup longer than a few days.

VERDICT
3.5 NOT BAD.

Costa Arepas Bar
112A O’Brien St, Bondi Beach NSW 2026
0480 276 880

Categories
Asian Fusion Korean Latin American

Vecino – Canterbury NSW Restaurant Review

It’s far too common to find Asian fusion cafes, particularly in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, owned by people with no cultural ties to the food being served, and it really warms my heart to see a Korean-Mexican fusion restaurant owned by Asians and run by both Korean and Spanish speaking waitresses, chefs, and carpenters.

Vecinos’s expansive menu features both classic breakfast favourites as well as their signature Korean-Mexican menu of Korean fried chicken, tacos, burritos and quesadillas. Set within a small space across the road from the neighbouring Woolworths (and free parking lot), Vecino features an unusual collection of steampunk or plumbing inspired furniture, apparently assembled in house by Vecino’s very multitalented crew.

We had a selection of tacos and Korean fried chicken for our midday meal.

My first delicious taco was the Baja Taco (2 for $14.50), filled with a battered fish fillet (of unknown species), cabbage, dill ranch sauce, pico de gallo, and lime juice with salsa and jalapeno. I had been craving a sashimi taco for some time, having been recently denied one at Osaka Trading Co by my friends who weren’t too fond on the idea, and while this was no sashimi taco it hit the spot perfectly. The fish was freshly fried and very crispy, with the mild sauces adding a creaminess and the salsa adding a freshness. This taco was simple to eat and a recommendable pleasure.

The Bulgogi Tacos (2 for $14.50) with marinated soy beef, cabbage slice, pico de gallo, teriyaki sauce, sour cream and guacamole with salsa and jalapeno sauce were a wet and delicious mess. After experiencing the sensible tastiness of the fish taco nothing could have prepared me for the deluge of sauces and delicious liquids that poured out of this taco as I bit into it. The beef was sweet but not overpoweringly so, with each bite a delicious fusion of familiar bulgogi flavours with the freshness of the salsa, guacamole, and lime juice. A really good fusion taco.

Unfortunately I think Vecino’s Honey Cream Prawn Tacos (2 for $14.80) didn’t quite meet the expectations by the previous two tacos. Each taco featured a number of small prawns in a very hard honey glaze-crust. Unfortunately this hard glaze made these particular tacos far more difficult to bite through, chew, and eat than the others. This, coupled with what I think is less interesting a flavour makes these tacos a pass from me.

We also had half a Salsa Picante Chicken, which is a fusion take on the usual Korean Fried Chicken, topped with salsa picante and salsa de mango. While I was initially a little hesitant, the sweet and spicy salsa flavours actually complimented the fried chicken very well. I also found the side cabbage to be better than most others, I think owing to the lighter flavours used in the dressing compared to most Korean restaurants. I thought the hot chips served with the chicken were quite good, likely triple-fried with an exterior batter, but ultimately completely unnecessary. I would’ve liked the opportunity to order the chicken without them rather than be locked into eating them and possibly missing out on other tasty menu items.

A perfectly adequate cappuccino was had in Grounds of Alexandria turquoise.

VERDICT
Vecino is Asian fusion done right in every sense. The combination of Mexican and Korean flavours provides an experience that can’t be had anywhere else in Sydney.

4.5/5 . About twice as good as Costas Arepa Bar.

Vecino
Shop 1/1-3 Charles St, Canterbury NSW 2193
0456 416 749

Categories
Latin American

Pochito – Mascot NSW Restaurant Review

Having to drive my previously-slightly-inebriated partner to work following a night out meant that I had an excuse to try one of our local cafes on the way back home. Pochito, one of Sydney’s few homes of empanadas and other Chilean cuisine, was next on my hit list.

Pochito, as the story is told by its owners, means the feeling of sleepiness induced by a meal. While I can’t find such a translation online from Spanish, what I can find is that pochito means kidnapping in Russian. Something to think about.

Chicken and mushroom, Four cheese empanadas.

After having a seat at a table of my choice (all tables were free), I indulged in three of Pochito’s specialty empanadas.

The four cheese empanada ($5) was too cheesy for me. It’s a stupid thought to put down on paper, but I’m sticking to my guns. Apart from the cheesiness there was not much other flavour. The chicken and mushroom empanada ($6) was quite creamy, not bad, but not as good as our third contestant. My partner thought that both the four cheese and chicken and mushroom empanadas were missable.

The traditional beef empanada ($6) was by far my. It had a tasty filling of beef, egg, and onion, as well as some olive and sultana that I wasn’t quite able to appreciate. This was served with a dish of coriander salsa, which was delicious.

The Lomito Sandwich ($12) is a Chilean specialty, and really delicious. Included within its milk bun was a generous serving of marinated pork loin mixed with smashed avocado, a tasty, juicy slice of tomato, and a lot of mayonnaise. I actually ordered the lomito after I had finished my half of the empanadas, as they had not quite hit the spot. I’m glad that I did. The lomito sandwich really is special.

DISCUSSION

Pochito is a family run business, and during my visit I interacted with multiple family members, who were all quite nice and welcoming. At one point during my meal the owner of the restaurant came by and asked me if I was a foodie. I must admit that I was too embarrassed to say that was, and basically lied through my teeth and told her no. She said something along the lines of “I guess everyone needs to eat to stay alive though.”

Sorry Paulina.

4.5/5, mostly for lomito. (Empanadas alone 3.5/5)

Pochito
1021 Botany Rd, Mascot NSW 2020
0402 432 920