El Loco is the latest addition to the ever-growing list of Merivale Restaurants, it’s a popup bar designed by The Society Inc, literally built in 7 days and is headed up by possibly the busiest Chef in Sydney, Dan Hong. It’s a Mexican Cantina inspired by Roy Choi famous for his Korean Tacos and the result is an asian fusion explosion.
It’s not even 6 when we arrive at El Loco so we have our choice of seats. With lights on strings, rickety metallic chairs and tables with mis-matching laminate I feel as though I’ve tumbled into the Mexico of my 60’s inspired dreams. It’s a brilliant atmosphere made all the better by the DJ who turns up later in the night spinning all the tunes that inspired the commercial jingles of my childhood.
Of course I know why we’re here, alcohol! Birthday shout out to my awesome drinking buddy Suze here, before we’ve even looked over the food menu we’ve started on our first round of Tequila. I’m utterly incapable of going past the Classic Margarita, and Suze’s vice is the Pink Cuco slushie. Both are eye-squintingly sour and cut with a generous hit of Tequila in both, but I’m loving the ring of salt on the rim of my glass that’s thick enough to make my mouth water.
We’re lured in by a silkily smooth Guacamole and Corn Chips with a satisfyingly loud crunch, they’re saltily awesome and perfect as a snack as we pour over the menu while waiting for the rest of our party to arrive (cheers to Dan Hong for sending over a basket for us to try). The salsa has an unexpectedly strong kick of chilli and is a little overly watery for my tastes, but we’re loving on the Guacamole so much that by the end of the night we’ve ordered 2 more batches and Suze has resorted to eating the last of the Guacamole with a spoon.
Tecate! I’ve never heard of this Mexican beer before, but I take the opportunity to steal a sip of it while marvelling over its typography and fascinating name. The taste is not unlike Coke whose can it so resembles, with that familiar beer aftertaste kicking in after a moment, but I’m sticking to my Tequila tonight.
With all Tacos at $5 each we simply decide to order one of each with the exception of the Tofu Taco, because really that is not on. They arrive in a rush and at first are virtually identical with the condiments all hidden under a cloak of cabbage and Salsa Verde, they’re a small handful each and all served on soft tortillas which need to be eaten quickly as they soon begin soaking all up the juices.
The Carne Asada made up of lemongrass beef and salsa verde is the most obviously Asian influenced, with the familiar kick of lemongrass bringing up the memory of so many family BBQs, while the Al Pastor with its spit roasted pork and pineapple salsa is easily my favourite with the pineapple kicking it up to the next level.
Because we know how much we all love our Pork the consensus is made that obviously we need to order 2 of the Al Pastor Pork Tota Sandwiches. It’s taken me a while to embrace the untoasted burgers that seem to have taken over Sydney, but after my first bite I know I can’t go back to my old ways any more. Served on a fluffy soft bun, oozing with mayonnaise and leaking cabbage and pork, at first bite I know that this is going to be a love-love relationship.
Hot Dogs suddenly seem to be the hottest thing in Sydney, but hey I’m not complaining. Maybe it’s me, or maybe the sheer amount of shaved cheese tumbling enticingly over the sides of the hot dog has hypnotised my brain but I’m convinced the Excelsior Hot Dog is the best thing I’ve eaten tonight. I like cheese. Made all the better with pickled jalapenos shyly hiding under the cheese, I’m seriously contemplating ordering another for myself before suddenly being distracted by the Fish Torta Sandwich.
I can’t be the only one who’s wary of the Fish Burger, I’ve always avoided it on menus and am pretty sure the last Fish Burger I ate was a Fillet O’Fish from MaccyD’s a good 10 years ago. So it’s with caution that I take my first bite of the Fish Torta Sandwich and suddenly become a convert, grilled lightly sans skin, it’s a flakily soft bite made all the better by the contrast of the crunchy cabbage. It’s a toss-up between the Fish Torta and the Al Pastor Pork Torta, but I’m shocked at myself to find that I prefer the fish.
By the time we leave El Loco it’s standing room only and our table is pounced on the moment we get up to leave. It’s an Asian Mexican cantina with food that’s made for eating with alcohol, has reasonable prices and the best part is it’s open until 3am on weekends! While the tacos haven’t blown my world, the Fish Torta and Tequila will have me coming back any day of the week. Throw in a funky decor, rocking DJ and a location down the road from Central Station and I think we’re onto a winner.
64 Foveaux Street
Surry Hills, NSW, 2010
Ph: (02) 9211 4945
Monday – Thursday: 12pm until late
Friday – Saturday: 12pm – 3am
Sunday: 12pm -10pm