Chololo review

The menu at Chololo is emblematic of a multicultural city such as Sydney.
The menu at Chololo is emblematic of a multicultural city such as Sydney. Photo: James Brickwood

New Canterbury Rd Hurlstone Park, NSW 2193

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Opening hours Tues and Thurs-Sun 5:30pm-9:30pm
Prices Cheap (mains under $20)

Go to Chololo with an empty stomach and a friend. Unless you have a bigger-than-average appetite, that's the only way to manage sampling all the eatery's delights: birria tacos, quesabirria, ramen noodles in meaty, chilli-heavy consomme, grilled elote (corn) with cheese and mayonnaise, bubble tea. 

Birria de res, de pollo, or de hongos (birria made with beef, chicken or mushroom) is the centrepiece of every dish. "We mix ancho, guajillo, chipotle and pasilla chillies and around 30 spices with chuck and short rib and cook it until it's really tender.

The same chilli and spice blend is used for our chicken thigh birria, and our vegetarian birria, made with shitake and field mushrooms," says co-owner Julia Nguyen.

Ramen soup and beef birria tacos.
Ramen soup and beef birria tacos. Photo: James Brickwood

Nguyen opened Chololo in Fairfield in 2020 with her partner David Tran and his brother Kevin. A second store is located in Hurlstone Park.

Authentic birria is a centuries-old Mexican goat stew that originated in Jalisco, in Mexico's south. At Chololo, the birria is a Tex Mex style that evolved in Tijuana, then LA and Texas. The flavours are unapologetically brash in the most satisfying way.

Smoky chilli dominates the rich meat and pairs well with the mozzarella and tasty cheese that's melted on tacos, quesadillas and burritos. A bowl of consomme, the by-product of cooking the meat or mushrooms, is served on the side for dipping.

Chicken birria tacos.
Chicken birria tacos. Photo: James Brickwood

Birria tacos are social media-famous in America and have been gaining momentum in Australia. Nguyen and the Trans discovered them online. 

"We were home last lockdown and we kept seeing people talking about this birria taco on social media, but no one is Sydney was serving it," says Nguyen.

"We figured out how to make it and realised it was crazy addictive. We started cooking birria in my parents' backyard and we'd sell out in five minutes, so we decided to open the Fairfield shop."

Chicken burrito.
Chicken burrito.  Photo: James Brickwood

The act of dipping a crisp taco packed with meat and cheese into soup doesn't just make good social media content. It also tastes incredible.

That's partly because the fat from slow cooking is brushed on the tortillas before adding birria, cheese and crisping the lot on the grill. The soup can be eaten on its own, or as a base for ramen noodles, which is another trend taking off in America.

Although tacos are what made birria famous in the English-speaking world, Chololo's burritos deserve special mention. The stout wraps are stuffed with birria, rice cooked in consomme, cheese, plus a palate cleanser of tomatoes, onions and coriander.

Elotes (cheesy corn).
Elotes (cheesy corn). Photo: James Brickwood

A "skirt" of grated cheese is caramelised to dark golden on the grill before being layered on top of the finished burrito. 

The addition of the cheese isn't a gimmick. Often the last bites of a burrito are disappointing. The filling is gone and you're left with folded bread made soggy with pooled sauce. Because of the cheese, the final bites of a Chololo burrito are a pleasure.

To drink, there's Mexican soft drink, Jarritos, in a rainbow of flavours from Mexican cola to tamarind. Or, as unexpected as ramen, there's bubble tea with rainbow jellies. Nguyen's favourite birria foil is anything citrus.

Bubble tea.
Bubble tea. Photo: James Brickwood

"I always go for fruit tea, anything citrusy like grapefruit or lemon with a rainbow jelly mix," she says. "It's perfect to go with a savoury meal."

Although Chololo's birria isn't authentic Jalisco birria, the menu is emblematic of a multicultural city such as Sydney. An evolution of a centuries-old dish came by way of America, was perfected in a south-west Sydney back garden and found a following in Fairfield and the inner west.  

"There are so many different cultures in Sydney. We love how everyone embraces new styles of food."

The low-down

Chololo

Main attraction: A Sydney take on Tex Mex birria tacos, quesadillas and burritos, served with a side of ramen.

Must-try dish: Burritos filled with rich birria de res offset by a tangy pico de gallo.

Insta-worthy dish: A video is the only way to properly capture the act of dipping a birria taco into consomme. 

Drinks: A rainbow of Mexican sodas plus an extensive list of bubble teas. Pick something citrusy to cut through the rich food like grapefruit black tea with rainbow jelly, or go completely off piste and order a smooth, spiced, terra cotta-coloured Thai milk tea. 

https://www.instagram.com/chololo.sydney/