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Sunday, October 8, 2006

Guzman Y GomezGuzman Y Gomez Taqueria (With Pictures!)
Sydney's lack of decent Mexican food has been well-documented. After another okay (but not excellent) dinner at Baja Cantina in Glebe Friday night, I was about ready to throw in the towel. Imagine our surprise then when we happened upon the Grand Opening of Guzman Y Gomez Taqueria in Newtown yesterday! We stopped for a minute to talk to one of the founders, a genuine Noo Yawker named Steven. He told us with pride how he'd actually brought one of the best chefs in Mexico to cook here in Sydney, and how many of the staff (which included some lovely ladies) were Mexican as well. We were loaded down with worms though, so we made a mental note to come back another time.

We lasted about 24 hours. We walked over to Newtown today and debated over whether a "taqueria" would survive on King Street. On the plus side, cheap and cheerful ethnic takeaways seem to do well there. On the negative, they're in the Cursed location on the corner between Newtown Thai and T2 (where Pasta Shot and a dozen other concepts have bit the dust over the past few years). The fitout and branding looked pretty slick to me, which might work or might not. The Snook thought it might look too "American," but I countered that Gloria Jeans and Crumpler seem to be doing pretty well there these days. So with trepidation, we arrived to see what all the fuss was about. And DUDE, there was a LINE out the door!
 
The odd thing is, there were literally about ten people running around the tiny kitchen. I think working out the inefficiencies in the food production is going to be their first major task. We probably waited fifteen minutes or more just to give our order - a lot of Aussies needed to be handheld through the menu items, and Steven was also trying to stall the line to keep pace with the kitchen - and then it probably took another five or so to get our food. Their main menu items are Tacos (11 different varieties), Burritos (9 varieties), Quesadillas (7 varieties), and sides. (And there are three different salsas as well.) So while it looked simple, it really wasn't. There are way too many choices. That's my first critique. It might speed up the kitchen assembly line if the options are simplified.

Anyway, we told Steven to give us half a dozen tacos in whichever salsa combinations were best. He also upsold us on a cup of chili. The place was too packed to stay though, so we took the whole lot home to unpack. Here's what we got:

The Whole SpreadRiceD.F. Steak and Onions Taco
Pork Adobado TacoGYG's Famous ChilliPrawns in Yellow Mole Taco
Fish 'Baja' Style TacoPork Guerrero TacoChicken Guerrero Taco


Disappointingly, everything was a bit cold by the time we got it home. Nevertheless, we persevered. The highlights of the taco selection were the Pork Adobado and Prawns in Yellow Mole. Overall, though, I wasn't really impressed. Nothing even seemed very spicy, even though I knew he'd used the hot tomatillo salsa on at least a few of them. We were left wondering if they'd gone light on the spiciness out of concern for the Aussie palate or something. I could taste the dry rubs and everything seemed very nice, but the flavour could've been ramped up about tenfold. The only taco I didn't care for at all was the "Baja" Style Fish. It just seemed really dry and weird. It might've been better with, like, a tablespoon of salsa, I guess. The rice had some greenish spice on it - the menu says it's "sofrito" - but I didn't quite get if we were supposed to eat it straight or spoon it on the tacos or what. The tacos all just seemed a bit interchangeable and bland. (Could the kitchen staff have forgotten the salsa altogether? There's not a lot in these pictures. Next time I'll ask for extra.)

The chilli - which may well be this recipe here - was good though. I'm used to Tex-Mex chilli, so this sweeter and smokier version was nicely different. (Still not very hot though.) The meat was tender and shreddy, while the cheese and onions were a nice touch. The absolute best menu item of all though? The tortilla chips. They call them "Totopos," and they're friggin' FANTASTIC. They made me realise how crappy the grocery store Doritos-type chips I've had here have been. Crisp and salty with just the right amount of grease... Heaven. So even if I can't bring myself to pay $3.50 per taco again, I can definitely see myself stopping in for chips and salsa. They were that good.

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Comments
 
You know Crumpler is an Aussie company, right ? Any good Veggie options on the menu - I saw the place today, and was attracted to the bold use of yellow ;)
» Lara [www] » 2006-10-08 18:57:22
 
Mmmm! Guess I'll be having quesadilla for dinner tomorrow night!
» Miss Helen [www] » 2006-10-08 21:34:54
 
Sorry, bad choice of words. I meant "American" in the sense of "slick high-concept chain store". Not that GYG is one, but it's got that sort of strong branding that makes you think of one.

Plenty of veggie options, actually. I've got the menu in front of me. In tacos, there's "Peppers and Onions" and "Tofu Zacatecas." Same in Burritos. Quesadillas have plain, grilled mushroom, peppers and onions, and black beans. They also state that they don't use any lard and the only things cooked in oil are the tortilla chips and fish. So it's healthy too!
» Kris [www] » 2006-10-08 23:17:58
 
Nice! I wonder where he's getting all his "authentic" ingredients from...
» tori [www] » 2006-10-12 03:02:05
 
Oh, I have been drooling in anticipation for that place to open. Even with your somewhat lukewarm review, I think it's gotta be worth a try over Newton's Cocina.
» ARJ [www] » 2006-10-17 12:30:59
 
I think I know why your food was bland: We ate there the other night and the salsas were given to us in different little tubs for takeaway. I don't see any in your photos. The guy at the counter told us to add the salsas and sauces when we got home. Did you get any of the little tubs.
» Malcolm » 2006-10-19 09:48:38
 
What? Really? No, we didn't get any little tubs! Okay, so that must be it. We didn't have any salsa at all! Granted, it was their second day of operation so everything was a bit frazzled. I guess we'll have to give them another shot.
» Kris [www] » 2006-10-19 10:07:22
 
The salsas and sauces make the difference.

They have a little green one that was quite serious and I can imagine that the food would be a bit dead without it.
» Malcolm » 2006-10-19 10:47:21
 
Not a bad feed but if you order a burrito forget the rice because it's just plain boiled and tell them not to grill the tortilla because, well, it just isn't right.
» Anonymous » 2006-10-28 21:50:45
 
Well, I was doing some research about the place, came accross this. As a Mexican it does not give me much confidence to go and try it... But I am going to have to do it. BTW, traditionally, green tomatillo salsas are not generally very spicy, at least to my palate. for spicy salsa you want to try something that has habanero chiles, so if you see a salsa that says 'Habanera" or something to that effect, treat it with the respect you would show to 15 century royalty: touch with only a couple of finger tips and barely grace it with your lips. Anyway, once I taste Guzman y Gomez I will post again.

Hasta luego.
» Octa » 2006-11-06 11:14:35
 
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