Los Vida quietly opened on Level 6 of Westfield Sydney, mere days before Christmas 2014. The vibrant Mexican restaurant brings a range of authentic dishes spanning the entire country.
Los Vida, Sydney
Los Vida breathes new life into the space that was previously occupied by Xanti Greek restaurant. Step past the tortilla machine and the exposed kitchen with all the theatrics and you’ll find yourself in a welcoming space reminiscent of an elegant Mexican bistro. Vivid blues and reds accentuate a subtle décor with timber, cactus beds, cosy booths and a striking centrepiece with overhanging terracotta pots that you can’t stop admiring.
You won’t find kitschy items often associated with many Mexican venues such as skulls and sombreros. The subtlety is intentional and Los Vida has a sophisticated yet casual vibe that hints that you are in for an experience unlike what you know of Mexican food in Sydney.
The drinks list features a selection of artisan spirits with a Tequila and Mezcal focus. You’ll find quality spirits such as Bruxo, Coralillo, Banhez, Alacran and Don Fulano ranging from $10 to the $25 for the exquisite Bruxo Tobala Mezcal. Mexican beer includes Pacifico, Corona and Dos Equis. A modest wine list offers wine by the glass ($9) but it is the Margaritas ($15) that tempts with a choice of three.
The Margarita Clasica is a sessionable cocktail, well-balanced and goes down well with several of the menu items. The Passionfruit Margarita adds subtle fruit and citrus notes while the Cucumber and Jalapeno Margarita strikes the perfect balance of tequila, refreshing cucumber and a good bite from the jalapeno with a half salt rim. The cocktail list is evolving, and you can expect more interesting varieties to come that feature Mezcal.
Chef Pablo Galindo heads the kitchen and brings his experiences from successful Mexican restaurants such as Rojo Rocket, Mr Moustache and Mejico. You won’t find burritos or Tex-Mex. The dishes aren’t laden with too many ingredients but pack a lot of flavour and textural elements.
The food menu tempts with many options and while at first glance it may appear familiar, there are several dishes that challenge perceptions of what we associate with popular Mexican cuisine in Sydney. The prices are competitive with mains capped at $16 and includes gluten free and vegetarian options.
Start with Table Totopos ($10), a choice of creamy guacamole with avocado, lime, coriander, garlic, chili, paprika and jicama with pomegranate; an irresistible bean dip with pinto beans, black beans, olive oil & red jalapeno topped with queso fresco, or pico de gallo, a zingy mixture of tomato, red onion, chipotle and coriander with lime. They come with a serving of blue and yellow corn chips and taro chips, and go well with the Margaritas.
Chicharron De Queso Y Chorizo
Chicharron De Queso Y Chorizo ($8) brings the wow factor to the table and is not one to be missed. Elegantly presented, you’ll find some of the tastiest house-made chorizo meat topped with guacamole. The wedges first appear as biscuits but are indeed fried cheese made from a combination of Parmesan and Monterey Jack cheese. This is a moreish dish, salty, cheesy, crispy and with the right amount of heat. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself ordering another serving. This dish is one of the favourites.
Hibiscus Flower Flautas
The next dish is a delicacy in disguise. Resembling spring rolls, the Hibiscus Flower Flautas ($12 for 3 pieces) are made of hibiscus flowers wrapped in crunchy corn tortillas, topped with salsa verde and queso fresco. “Hibiscus is used extensively in Mexico,” co-owner Octavio Gomez-Haro explains. “They are beginning to feature in cooking and are set to become the next trend”. The hibiscus flowers are imported from Mexico in a dry form and once cooked, they impart a delicious sweet and tart flavour. Bite into those crunchy cigars for a taste sensation.
The Ceviche ($15) is zesty and vibrant with fresh tuna, leche de tigre (a combination of chipotle and mayo), jicama, cucumber ribbons and chives with pistachios. The clamato-infused tapioca adds a textural element to a light and moreish dish.
Tacos (L-R): Lamb, Beef, Mushroom, Fish
Tacos are always a favourite and Los Vida offers a choice of seven ($5 each) which, if tempted to order the lot, you can do so for $30. Top picks are the earthy and almost meaty Mushroom Taco Adobo with mushroom, chicharron de queso, peppers and queso fresco with chipotle mayo, and the Fish Taco made with beer-battered barramundi, zesty lime, cabbage slaw and 3 style jalepenos with chipotle mayo. Tacos are available with corn (gluten free) or plain flour tortillas.
Ancient Grain Salad
The Ancient Grain Salad ($10) may be dubbed too healthy but even if you’re not friends with salad, this one hits the spot. You’ll find a zesty mixture of quinoa, baby broccoli, kale, butternut pumpkin, corn kernels, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, parsley, jalepenos and pomegranate with tequila dressing. The tequila flavour is subtle but this is one salad that brings together a harmony of textures and flavours with a balance of sweetness and a touch of heat. For just $10, it makes a great lunch option whether to enjoy at the restaurant or takeaway to eat at your desk.
If you think the Ancient Grains Salad is “too healthy” for you, order the Beef Ribs ($15) and watch the jaws drop at neighbouring tables. The meat falls apart with the fork and melts in the mouth with a chipotle glaze that is slightly sweet and balanced with a touch of heat. The radish and red onions with pickled habanero add a welcome sharp bite.
Pork Belly ($15) takes on a sweet flavour with guajillo braised pork and caramelised oranges with habanero crema. The meat is rich, tender and unctuous, and the crackling is crispy and well-seasoned.
Patatas Bravas ($7) bring a platter of cubed fried potatoes and sweet potatoes with a brava sauce and a good dose of garlic aioli with chives. These can only be described as dangerously good – once you start, you can’t stop.
To finish, the Churros ($12) are light as air which makes the cajeta (syrup made of sweetened caramelised milk) and chocolate sauce less sinful.
Los Vida’s ethos is to bring authentic and healthy Mexican food to Sydney and it succeeds with a variety of dishes where the flavours, textures and presentation work in harmony. Despite enjoying a feast, the food does not feel heavy. If you think Mexican food has had its time in Sydney, Los Vida will challenge that perception. The flavours are clean yet robust and balanced and the experience will be one that invites you to return with your friends and work your way through the rest of the menu.
If you work in the CBD, Los Vida also offers a takeaway option so you can dream about that trip to Mexico while eating at your desk.
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Level 6, Westfield Sydney
188 Pitt St Sydney, NSW 2000
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