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Mexicano, North Narrabeen

February 22, 2013 — 4 Comments

The best Mexican food I’ve had in a long time. While I lived in the US I enjoyed a variety of Mexican food. Some of it was stodgy, solid, fried meals with refried beans and rice and mountains of cheese, which were good if that’s what you survived on, because you could get a meal to fill the stomach for not many dollars. That was from hole-in-the-wall-type places or el cheapo “restaurants”. And then if you wanted Mexican food which was lighter and fresher there were fewer of those. One chain, Baja Fresh, had particularly good, fresh food and was still inexpensive.

Now jump forward a few years from then until last night. I had the pleasure of trying a new place with some friends, going to Mexicano in North Narrabeen. Now I know the area quite well, and had even been past the restaurant a few weeks back, but as there is no street signage, and the restaurant is only open in the evening it was closed up during the day.

Mexicano is in a tiny shop, cramming as may people as possible into a small space, so it’s not quiet, but has a vibrant atmosphere.

The restaurant has two dinner sittings: the first from 6 to 8pm, and then the second from 8pm to 11pm. It was the second sitting that I was there, and there was mood-lighting, and I didn’t have my good camera with me, so the photos that follow are very poor in quality, but I’ve decided to include them anyway because at least they might get a feel for the food, and it would allow me to wax lyrical about it until I can get back when there’s better light for better photos to more accurately reflect the colours!

The tables are varying heights. Not quite sure why they did that. The decor is funky, with skulls matching their logo, and fun elements, and huge bowls of flowers. I was pouring water into a glass, and discovered this at the bottom of the bottle:

Mexicano - bottle

The food at Mexicano is designed to be shared. Think of it as Mexican tapas.

Here’s what we ordered:

Street Snacks

Chicken Winglets: salt-brined, crisp fried, agave syrup and nuts:
Mexicano - chicken

These were tiny, tasty winglets, with that beautiful agave syrup with spices, and sprinkles of pieces of pistachios, pepitas and peanuts. A good start to the meal.

Other Street Snack choices include grilled corn (which looked luscious, so must try next time), guacamole with corn chips, and chipotle beef tostaditas.

Everything is made on site, so the corn chips and tortillas and tostadas are all special.

Shared Plates

Pickled Beetroot Salad: goats cheese, candied walnuts, lime dressing, micro herbs:
Mexicano - beetroot salad
Nothing novel here, having had this many times elsewhere, but it was light and refreshing and enjoyed it.

Spencer Gulf Prawn Cerviche: marinated lime prawns, chilli, avocado – clamato jelly and tostadas:
Mexicano - prawn cerviche
Oh this was so good. The prawns were tender, and there was a wonderful balance of flavours with the lime, just enough chilli, and so on. It was at this point that I thought that I’d come back to Mexicano just to have that dish again.

Beef Chimichangas: shredded beef, cucumber, and sweet vinegar salsa:
Mexicano - chimichangas
The chimichangas I’m used to eating are huge and dinner-plate-sized, but these were the snack version: shredded, tender beef, wrapped in crisp pastry, tied with string, served with the vinegar salsa. Delicious.

Other Shared Plates include Grilled Rodriguez Chorizo and Empanadas Sofrito.

Tacos

These were soft tacos, made with fresh, small, tortillas hand-made daily with wheat and corn masa flours.

Chipotle Beef Brisket Tacos: chipotle sauce, grilled onion, salsa mexicana:
Mexicano - beef tacos
Very good.

Mexicano Fish Tacos: battered local fish, chipotle mayo, cabbage slaw and mango:
Mexicano - fish tacos
Now the fish taco was the best I’ve had anywhere. It had small pieces of fish in a light batter which had some crunch, with a very fine slaw for more texture and a dash of sweetness, and a slightly spicy mayo.

There are other tacos, such as a Pork Should Yucatan-Style one, and quesadillas, such as a triple cheese one.

Even though there was chilli in a number of dishes, it wasn’t too hot, just adding to the layers of flavours.

Sweets

Ice Cream Sandwich: coconut florentine-honeycomb-white chocolate:
Mexicano - ice cream sandwich
This was topped with a fine layer of white chocolate. The ice cream was vanilla. The crust: wow! It is described as being coconut florentine, but was so much finer than a regular florentine. It had crunches of honeycomb throughout the base, too. A wonderful combination of tastes and textures.

Hand-made Chocolate Truffles: Ancho chilli and cinnamon flavour:
Mexicano - chocolate truffles
The grand finale for us were the chocolate truffles. As truffles do, they just melted in your mouth, with rich chocolate, but also a perfect combination of chilli and cinnamon, not too hot, but rich.

Other dessert choices include a Baked Custard Crema or Pear and Cinnamon Custard Fritters.

Final Thoughts

Just as with yum cha or tapas, little by little, over a series of dishes this was a satisfying meal. Not just in filling the tummy, but with the variety of tastes and textures. Because all of the ingredients, including the herbs, were fresh, we left feeling clean, that the food was healthy. We looked forward to returning and working through the menu.

Details

Here are the details about Mexicano, at time of posting. Please check their web site for more current details.

Web site / Facebook http://www.mexicano.com.au/
http://www.facebook.com/mexicanonorthnarrabeen
Address Shop 2, 209-211 Ocean Street, Narrabeen, NSW 2101
Phone (02) 9970 8975
Open Two sittings for dinner:
6-8pm, 8pm-11pm
Reservations are essential
Menu Street Snacks: about $6
Shared Plates: $4-$13
Tacos: $13-$16
See the menu on the Mexicano web site for details.
Mexicano on Urbanspoon


 

Where do you go for good Mexican food?

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Bistro Rivage, Palm Beach

February 12, 2013 — 4 Comments

By now I’m sure you know that I love French food. Recently at the OpenAir Cinema while waiting in the queue we got chatting to the people next to us in the queue. It turns out that that day they had gone to Palm Beach to Bistro Rivage for breakfast (a specially catered event), and I had gone to Palm Beach, to The Boat House. It’s funny that I have driven right past Bistro Rivage many times, on the bend just before the Palm Beach Golf Club / the park leading up to Barrenjoey. And so I just had to get to Bistro Rivage to see what it was like. How close was it to a French bistro? Was it just a restaurant with French-style food, but not really close to being a French bistro?

Bistro Rivage - outside 2

If you know Palm Beach, I’m sure you recognize this. About 5 months ago Bistro Rivage took over the premises from another restaurant.

Bistro Rivage - outside 1

I didn’t get to the previous restaurant, but I suspect the decor remains as it was.

Bistro Rivage - room

The Food

The meal had to begin with some kir royal. Also served were some baguette slices which were crispy on the outside and soft in the middle.

Bistro Rivage - table

The menu is traditional bistro fare, well balanced to be sure to provide something to suit all palates and levels of hunger.

Today I wanted to sample all three courses, so for Entrée chose the Tranche de Saumon avec Haricot Verts (salmon slice with green beans and sauce tartare).

Bistro Rivage - salmon

The salmon was so light and tender, melting in the mouth, served with a dill-based tartare. Lovely.

The Bistro Rivage mains includes classics Duck Confit and Steak Frites, plus others such as an organic chicken salad in light provencale spices.

Normally if there’s duck on the menu I’ll choose that, but the special dish today was coq au vin. I’ve cooked that and wondered how it would compare.

Bistro Rivage - Coq au Vin

The duck was served as a plate with 4 kipfler potatoes and then with a crock full of the chicken mixture. I spooned some of the chicken and mushrooms and eschallots onto the plate with the potatoes. The dish was as rich-flavoured and luscious as I was hoping. The serve was so generous that I could eat only half.

Now, what to choose for dessert? The tarte tatin was recommended, and I decided to go with that.

Bistro Rivage - tarte tatin

The tarte tatin, accompanied with a vanilla ice cream, was one of the best I’ve eaten in a long time. The apple melted in your mouth, and was wonderfully caramelized. I hesitate to use superlatives because they can set unrealistic expectations, so I’ll just say this: it was very good.

Bistro Rivage - dessert

A suggestion was made to try the RinQuinQuin peach liqueur with the dessert. And I’m so glad I did try it with the dessert and coffee. Sometimes liqueurs and dessert wines can be too sweet, but this was light and a perfect accompaniment to the tarte tatin. Apparently the RinQuinQuin is made by combining white wine with infusions and distillations of peaches and peach leaves, for six months to a year.

The coffee, too, was just what I wanted: good strength long black coffee, strong but not bitter.

Conclusion

Based on one visit only, Bistro Rivage provides traditional French bistro meals, with excellent service. Admittedly it was a quiet day, and so all patrons received plenty of attention. I overheard some people at another table commenting that it was the best meal they’d had in a long time, and these were people who had travelled over the years and knew what to expect in a French meal. I’d agree with them. Now I’d like to return and see what it’s like on a busier day, and to try more items on the menu, with every dish sounding tempting.

Cafe Lyon in Lindfield has bistro-styled food, modernised, also very good. At Bistro Rivage it’s more traditional bistro food.

I hope Bistro Rivage does well. It provides another option for good food on the Pittwater Peninsula, and worth travelling to for some scrumptious French food.

Details

Here are the details about Bistro Rivage at time of posting. Please check their web site for more current details.

Web site http://www.bistrorivage.com.au//
Address 1 Beach Road, Palm Beach, NSW, 2108
Phone +612 9974 1159
Open Friday-Monday: lunch and dinner
Live music Sundays 1-4pm
Menu Entrées: $18.50
Plats: $29.50
Desserts: $14.00
For the details, see the menu.
Bistro Rivage on Urbanspoon


Have you discovered any good French bistros / restaurants lately? Where?