I really like websites like Bookarestaurant or Dimmi. They are so efficient. They make the whole reservation process a lot easier and swifter in the event you try and book somewhere and you can’t get in, then you have a whole list of other places to could try instead – all about efficiency.
An added bonus on Dimmi is an occasion flash sale where you can book a place and get 50% off your food bill. Bargain central! Now I happened to look at one of their emails the other day and noticed a flash sale for a place in Northbridge called Big Els Latin American Fusion. I quickly rushed to make a booking because I recalled recently seeing a few pics of someone else’s recent visit to Big Els and it included a particularly intriguing cocktail. It was called the Heisenberg and it was a plastic bag full of pale blue crushed ice. Now if somehow you haven’t been hooked on the wonder of the tv show that is Breaking Bad the novelty of this drink would be lost on you but as a fan I couldn’t wait to give it a go. And also…. watch Breaking Bad! Best series I have ever seen, but I digress :)
So we booked for a week night at Big Els and headed in to Francis Street. Interesting fit out, quite the striking entrance with the flashy mural, think racy Mexican chic. Appears to have been a Japanese restaurant in its former life so there’s quite that feel with the restaurant along with the rather stark contrast of the flashy Mexican style art adorning the walls, slightly dark with all the skulls but well countered with the bright crates along on the roof. Definitely an interesting look but it worked and my focus was much more of what was cooking in the kitchen than on decor.
With our 50% of discount it really provided a solid impetus for us to be a little lavish on how many dishes we’d order, plus well we were both pretty hungry. So we went with four dishes for the Tapas Menu, knowing we needed I save room to try the soft tacos for which big Els was renowned.
Mexican Style Guajillo Popcorn Prawns – Dusted with Guajillo salt and served with Jalapeno Tartare ($12.00)
Quesadilla – Flour Tortas crisped with Arbol, Jalapeno and Jack ($11.00)
Ceviche – Raw salmon cooked in citrus and herbs and served atop a crispy tostadita ($18.00)
Cascabel Chicken Wings – Deep fried chicken wings seasoned with rattle chilies and served with a side of chipotle mayonnaise ($10.00)
I had spied the Heisenberg on the menu but we opted to start with a brewski – a Dos Equis XX Special Lager ($7.00) to be precise. Reminded me of our honeymoon where we spent a week in Cancun and we’d start out mornings with a Dos Equis…. Ahh good times. The food seemed to appear in a flash. No faulting the speedy service and everything was piping hot! The Mexican Style Guajillo Popcorn Prawns were tasty little morsels in their well seasoned crumb and they went very nicely with the accompanying jalapeno tartare, with its pleasantly mild spice.
The Quesadillas had a fairly simple filling but that simple combination of ingredients worked a treat and they had been toasted to a crispy perfection. Like a very flat toasted cheese sandwich with a little jalapeño zing, we eagerly polished off all the quesadilla pieces.
Third to make an appearance were the Cascabel Chicken Wings . A decent serve and they too arrived red hot! Plenty of flavour in the crispy coating and the dusting of spice. Just delicious and well worth the messy fingers after polishing them all off.
Next up was the Ceviche and it was quite refreshing after the other hot dishes. Plenty of citrusy goodness and the salmon pieces were so wonderfully tender and well paired with the few crispy tostadita that were included.
Now despite the delicious line up of tapas dishes we had worked our way through we thankfully still had room to try some of big Els signature soft tacos.
Big El’s Special Soft Shell Tacos – Handmade Masa Harina Tortilla shell served with a fresh plain Guacamole, a layer of the meat of your choice topped with one of Big El’s fresh made salsas, and finished with one of Big El’s famous sauces.
So we decided to order 5 soft tortillas which came with 2 meats, 2 salsas and 3 sauces. We chose:
Big El’s crispy chicken Big El’s Mexican slow cooked pulled beef
Mango and Jalapeno Salsa Oven Roasted Tomato and Garlic Salsa
Garlic Aioli Chipotle Mayonnaise Twin chilli roasted paprika sauce
So I put together two delectable combinations for myself, one chicken and one beef and left the other 3 for GG. Both meats had been slow cooked and prepared with an interesting combination of herbs and spices. I was particularly partial to the mango salsa, it provided a good contrasting sweetness to any of the spicy kick from the meat. After finishing two I was feeling fairly comfortable with just enough room to sample a Heisenberg. My inspiration for the visit so I had to try it.
I’ll admit that I wasn’t that sold on it, would probably have preferred another beer. Probably sweeter than I expected and it was more hard work eating spoonfuls of ice than just partaking in a more standard beverage. For the novelty factor though, it did the job though.
I had enjoyed Big El’s. Tasty food, decent serving sizes and while perhaps it wasn’t as authentic as other places around town, we had enjoyed our visit. I could see it being quite a fun spot for a bigger sized group too, so if you are looking for a good, lively spot for some Mexican fare then say hello to Big Els!