40 Reservoir St Surry Hills, NSW 2010
|Opening hours||Sun-Tue Closed ; Wed-Sat 5pm-10pm|
|Features||Licensed, Bar, Vegetarian friendly, Romance-first date, Gluten-free options|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, Cash, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||04 1206 1899|
What, at the very heart of it, is that thing that can really make or break a restaurant? If it's the ability to seamlessly merge a soundtrack from Talking Heads to Pat Benatar to Pulp to Kate Bush while slinging tinnies of beer and throwing down quesadillas, then this new semi-permanent taqueria-discotheque is making it, breaking it, flipping it and reversing it. I should probably mention that it's entirely vegan now, too.
Meet the three amigos behind Reservoir Street's most exciting new pop up. Alongside business partner Jon Kennedy you've got Sean McManus on the cans, and Toby Wilson on the pans geared up for tremendous, military-grade, meat-free great times.
There's been a lot of talk of this being your go-to for a glass of funky orange wine and a taco. And sure, they can make all your skin contact dreams come true when it comes to their wine list, which is an ode to all things minimal intervention. But for my dime, I'll be doubling back for a classic margarita - almost creamy, it's so balanced - and a Tecate chaser. Natural wine is a pretty common find in Sydney restaurants these days - getting a margarita this tight is much more of a challenge.
Space-wise, the outside's been given a few licks of Audrey Horne-red paint, but inside, there are still echoes on the walls of the mod-Thai bistro it once was (Bad Hombres is built on the old Sugarcane site.)
It all works, though. And in no small part because Wilson's menu is far from straight. Think of it less like Mexican, and more like Mexi-kinda. You might start with crisp house-made corn chips and a kind of pumpkin mole, heavy on the coriander root. On another visit, it's black bean, so heavily smoky that even the most devoted vegan at the table naysayer (no, it wasn't me) is hooking in.
Juicy grilled corn is blackened and slathered in Japanese mayo and finished with Japanese spiced salt - unfriendly for dates, perfect with mates. The Taco of The Day is filled with fingerlings of roast Jerusalem artichoke, like a sort of Mexican chip sandwich and while there's no more Oaxacan cheese on the menu, there's still plenty to cheer about on the quesadilla front. Especially the kale and zucchini flower number.
Large format gets a look-in here, too. Half a head of juicy cauliflower, leaf-on, sits on a slick of almond puree, ready to be carved like up and placed on steamed Chinese pancakes along with a mix of finely chopped coriander root and leaf and a scattering of raw onion. Or maybe it'll be a roast eggplant, given a similar treatment, only here served with a pile of fresh tortillas and pickled onion.
Bad Hombres, coming in hot.
Vibe: A tremendous semi-permanent taqueria-discotheque.
Pro Tip: There are all the makings for a very long and boozy evening here, with this drinks list. Order snacks accordingly.
Go-to Dish: There's definitely an argument for using stretchy cheese on everything within reach. Double down on those quesadillas.