105 Pitt St
Sydney NSW 2000
Will you look at that, it’s my birthday again! It’s a pretty big decision every year as to where I should celebrate, but because my birthday unfortunately fell just over 2 weeks before a major exam this time around, I’ll admit I didn’t do nearly as much research as usual. Instead I just chose to have a lower-key dinner at Mejico, which I’ve been interested in trying out for ages, and have heard some pretty good things about.
It’s somewhat of an open secret that Sydney just isn’t all that great with Mexican food, but the modern spin put on it by Mejico had me interested and optimistic. After all, just because the food isn’t strictly authentic, doesn’t mean it can’t still taste good.
I knew Mejico was a popular destination for celebrations and large groups, but I wasn’t prepared for just how enormous the restaurant was. The front of the restaurant was taken up by an expansive, glittery bar, whilst the tables extended deep into the building. The decor is a combination between industrial chic and stereotypical Latin-American, but the bright pops of colour amongst the dark concrete worked well, feeling both hip and on-brand.
Predictably, the place was heaving on a Saturday night, filled with everything from couples on a date, to massive families downing margheritas in sombreros. The waitstaff seemed a little over-worked and harried as a result, but they were always chirpy and helpful whenever we needed a hand.
I love it when a restaurant has a good non-alcoholic drinks menu. We sipped on The Cure ($8) – a classically refreshing concoction of ginger, citrus, and mint, and the Silk Stocking ($8) – a flirty mix of grapefruit and lychee. Floating in both drinks was a suspension of chia seeds, and whilst that may seem a little odd, the slipperiness was a welcome textural addition, and made the drinks extra-slurpable.
I had heard great things about the signature Guacamole ($15), assembled and smashed table-side. Unfortunately this was probably the blandest guacamole I’ve ever had, with the usual citrusy zest replaced by an indistinct sweetness, and not enough salt to bring out the flavours. And whilst plantain chips were an excellent idea in theory, these were stale and just frankly not very good. A big disappointment for sure.
I’ve always nursed a soft spot for Jalapeno Poppers ($16, 3pcs), and these definitely hit the spot. Hiding under the super crunchy coating, each chilli was stuffed with an oozy, salty, and creamy three-cheese mix. But the real hero was the accompanying chipotle mayo, which had a deep smokiness, and a welcome tanginess to cut through the richness and the spice. I ended up slathering this on pretty much everything we ordered, and it was never a bad decision.
Another popular dish was the Corn Lollipops ($14, 3pcs), but like the guacamole, they were more gimmick than substance. Grilled, skewered, and served over an insipid jalapeño hollandaise with a scattering of decorative popcorn, this was a far cry from the classical Mexican elotes – a flavour bomb slathered in chipotle mayo and fresh queso, and seasoned with generous amounts of chilli and lime. This was improved significantly with the addition of the chipotle mayo, but it’s definitely not worth ordering either way unless you really love plain grilled corn.
Things looked up again with the Spicy Pork Belly Taco ($14, 2pcs). These were only tacos in the loosest sense of the word, but they were good enough for that to not be a problem. The pork was smoky and tender, the indulgent flavour and texture well-balanced by the tangy crunch of apple and pickled watermelon. These may not have been traditional, but they were nevertheless a winner.
Moving onto the larger dishes, we were recommended the Charred Black Onyx Beef ($28), with the promise that it was ‘very very good’. And whilst I enjoyed the smokiness of the meat, there were some unappetisingly mangled-looking pieces in the mix, and the accompanying sauces tried to do too many things at once, ultimately failing to complement the beef as a cohesive whole.
A pleasant surprise came in the form of the Melon Salad ($12). Besides being as pretty as a chalice of jewels, it also tasted fantastic. The chunks of watermelon and fennel were marinated in a mixture of citrus, onion, and mint for a distinctively Mexican flavour, and each bite was a crisp, refreshing taste of summer. This was an unexpected combination of savoury and sweet, but one that worked remarkably well. I’m keen to try my hand at recreating this at home.
The Sticky Date ($14) won me over after I spied it sitting indulgently on the table next to us, but this definitely looked better than it tasted. The spiced cake was relatively bland and definitely on the dry side, and there wasn’t nearly enough of the coconut caramel to give it some much-needed moisture. The highlight was the fresh shards of honeycomb, but all up it was a disappointment.
Similarly, the Crunchy Fried Banana ($12) was underwhelming. It was literally 4 fried bananas with zero frills, piled unceremoniously onto a plate. The accompanying coconut ice cream and caramel sauce were great, but one scoop was just not enough for that amount of banana.
Mejico turned out to be a bit of a roller coaster ride in terms of the food. There was an almost equal distribution of yummy dishes and complete misses. I can however say that for a restaurant that is so popular, absolutely nothing about it wowed me, barring the melon salad. It’s a fun place for a meal, and the menu is large enough to have something to please most, but the food itself is far from impressive as a whole.
Rating: 12.5/20 – chipotle mayo, the real mvp.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.