Owners Peter Lew and Nicole Galloway have given new life to the former venue of Viva Bar Pizza and before that, Zachary's Pizza.
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From the outside, a simple white exterior with a rather basic "Barrio Chino" sign gives no inkling as to what to expect on entering. But once that heavy door swings open, a long, luxurious bar welcomes us to what can only be described as a Mexican paradise.
The new outfit is both complimentary to the original fixtures and at the same time refreshingly re-designed to be beautifully light and relatively unembellished. Untreated wood tables follow a uniform layout and work with the white-washed walls which soften the factory-like space of concrete flooring and open brickwork. The restaurant's space is welcoming – albeit large and relatively minimal – that evokes simplicity with quaint touches such as potted plants on each table. It is a far-cry from the usually cluttered and crazy features that one would usually connote with a Mexican restaurant and a change that I love.
Now, I have to admit, I'm not very educated in this cuisine so I brought with me my ‘Mad-For-Mexican' best friend to get my facts straight (and make sure I wouldn't get wooed by any so-called Mr Margaritas). But wooed I did and so did she. The menu embraces true Mexican "street food" with all the classics such as carnitas (crispy braised pork) tacos, baby pork ribs and tuna tostadas. We are told that the menu places emphasis on sourcing, where possible, natural and wholesome ingredients and while I was initially sceptical, on my first mouthful – there was no denying it. From the straight-from-the-sea seared tuna that is elegantly placed on crisp, warm tostadas to the fresh creaminess of brightly coloured emerald guacamole. All the food is fresh and tasty.
Initially I had thought Barrio Chino would simply be fantastic place for a margarita and a bowl of guac' n' chips but... it is more than that. From our first dish of tuna sashimi tostadas with chipotle aioli and crispy leeks to the zingy squid and fish ceviche, there is nothing basic about it. While the restaurateurs' of Barrio Chino don't claim to be fine-dining of any sort, each dish naturally oozes class and elegance.
The vibe is exciting, without being crazy and the place has character, without being over-the-top. This charming Mexican restaurant is a welcome addition to the Sydney dining scene.