Shop 1, 1-3 Charles St
Canterbury, NSW 2193
One of the most disappointing meals I’ve ever had was at a now-defunct restaurant called KOBA. I had been so excited for its promise of Korean and Mexican fusion, yet they fell so far off the mark in execution that it still stings to this day. This explained my mixed feelings when I first came across Vecino, another Korean-Mexican fusion restaurant, and what appears to be the one and only of its kind in Sydney. I was keen to see the concept finally done justice, yet I was afraid of being disappointed for a second time. Thankfully in the year or so it’s been open, Vecino has garnered some very positive reviews indeed, so it was with cautious optimism that I went in.
For those who have never come across the combination of Korean and Mexican, it may sound like an entirely dysfunctional concept. However if you think about it, it’s actually not that bizarre. Not only is Korean cuisine already known for utilising cheese in its dishes, both cuisines are also known for a heavy hand with spices, and meats cooked over a flame. Tweak the details a little, and everything comes together just so.
First impressions of Vecino were already an improvement on KOBA. The interior blends all the current trends – neon, industrial, and indoor plants – into a cohesive whole, while the menu promises an eclectic mix of dishes. In addition to tacos, burritos, and burgers, there was also a respectable Korean fried chicken menu, as well as a selection of interesting sides. There’s also a fun-looking drinks list, full of interesting concoctions that don’t take themselves too seriously.
One of the most popular items was the Signature Kimchi Burrito ($16), which can be served either in a bowl, or with a soft flour tortilla. I opted for the latter, and was rewarded with a hefty wrap, stuffed full of kimchi fried rice and smoky pork, along with the usual burrito trimmings. This was a treat to eat, the hearty filling of sweet-yet-spicy rice and meat mellowed out by the melted cheese, sour cream, and guacamole. Funnily enough, whilst I would’ve liked a little more salad to keep things balanced, Chris wanted nothing more than a burrito full of rice and pork. Either way it’s a tasty burrito, even if you’re not a fan of kimchi, as the flavour never got overwhelming.
Normally I would’ve tried some of the tacos, but I was craving burgers something fierce that day. So despite having heard rather lukewarm reviews about the Wagyu Beef Burger ($17.5), I decided to risk it. They must’ve changed the recipe fairly recently, because I found this to be more than satisfactory. The beef patty wasn’t anything show-stopping, but it was thick and juicy the whole way through. It was set off nicely by the slice of melted American cheese, and there was plenty of sauce to hide any rough edges, even if BBQ and mayo is a slightly unusual choice. In fact the only real negative thing I have to say about it is the odd decision to place onion rings inside the burger, which made it clumsy to eat, and didn’t really add anything; caramelised onions would’ve been a much better choice.
I was extremely tempted by the desserts, especially by an impressive-looking bingsoo at the next table, but alas, I was full by this point. Although I had come into this meal feeling a mite apprehensive, I was won over by the cohesive and tasty flavours in the dishes that I tried. Topped off with enthusiastic and thoughtful, yet unobtrusive service that extended throughout the entire meal, Vecino is a solid recommendation for anyone looking for something a little different, yet undoubtedly fun.
Rating: 13/20 – vindicated.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.