Big El’s Latin American Fusion, Northbridge
Not being the most adventurous eater on this planet, I haven’t really tested and tried a lot of different cuisines that are now popping up all over Perth, Latin American being one of them. Big El’s is a new joint that has opened up in the growing foodie scene that is Northbridge, taking the venue that was once Sake Bar, the Japanese restaurant. Ever keen on taking advantage of yet another 50% off total bill Dimmi offer, I booked for three on a Wednesday night. Firstly, I wanted to enquire regarding what specific variety of Latin American food they provided and was informed that it was a blend between Mexican and Spanish cuisines. Hurray! Two of my favorite cuisines ever!
There is a distinct feeling of Japan when you walk into Big El’s – specifically the doors, the booths and the front entrance which looks a bit like a pagoda terrace. They’ve done well to try and Latin American-ize the old Sake establishment, adding in bright coloured chairs and crates in green, red and yellow with a loud “Mexico” sign decking the front. My sister is running a bit late so my friend and I are shown to our booth, given menus and glasses of ice with a pitcher of water in a skull. Pretty cool (literally cool, it was absolutely boiling that evening and the water did well to soothe the heat).
For drinks we went for a jug of strawberry margarita, which was deliciously icy and fruity. We were given little margarita glasses with black straws poking out of them, the carafe of margarita giving us about a full drink each. My only complaint with it would be that the margarita glasses were a bit on the small size, so I felt that the jug perhaps wasn’t really value for money. The owner recommended that we try the “Down the Rabbit Hole Cocktail” which came with a flaming passion fruit. As exciting as it sounded, we could already feel some effects from our margaritas, so we stuck to water for the rest of the night.
One of my sister’s friends had recommended to us the Ceviche ($18), so we got a load of that. It came in a little pan, with a generous amount of fresh raw salmon cubes. It was doused in an acidic citrus dressing, tart from the lime. The acidity balanced out the creaminess of the avocado, which was also abundant in the dish. Bites of tomato and red onion mingled with the salmon; the tostadita (aka corn chips) creating a satisfying crunch. One of them was peculiarly dark in colour; tostaditas apparently come in three colours! The ceviche was my friend’s favourite dish of the night, as she is massive raw salmon fan. I also thought it was a great starter to the meal!
Being a soft taco lover, I was so keen to tear into a few of Big El’s Special Soft Tacos (5 for $30). The three of us had 5 soft tortillas which came with two meats, two salsas and three sauces. Meat-wise we went for the crispy chicken and slow cooked pulled beef. The chicken was indeed crispy as fore-mentioned, sliced into tender strips. The slow cooked pulled beef was suitably shredded and moist, my preferred of the two. Our sauces included the silky smooth garlic aioli, the spicy chipotle mayonnaise and the potato’s companion which was starchy with smoky bacon nuances. The two chosen salsas were equally delicious – a chunky oven roasted tomato and garlic salsa with a bold bolognaise taste, and the mango and Jalapeño Salsa, chunky and crammed with avocado once again. The mango added a fruity kick to the works!
The tacos came out like a multi-dish platter for self-assembling, though we got a special demo from the waitress showing how to put it all together. Simply put, spread and dunk the ingredients in the tortilla! Our party fixed up our tacos with varying levels of success, my sister packing hers ’til it burst and mine resembled a shriveled shell because clearly I was being very stingy with the fillings. There were a great deal more sauces, salsas and meat then there were tacos, so we ended up picking at the rest of the taco condiments before the waitress came by to whizz away our empty plates. I really like the broad range of different flavours on offer from the optional salsas and sauces, and it was a nice twist on the typical Mexican fare.
The elotes callejeros aka Mexican street corn ($8) was something else. Although corn is a dish that is hard to stuff up, Big El’s elotes callejeros was sensational, and in a league of its own. Smeared with a thick amount of butter, charred slightly, and doused in Big El’s secret spice mix (with a good amount of paprika it seemed!), it was a wonderful combination. My sister especially loved the grated parmesan it was covered in. We all tore into it, unceremoniously spilling kernels onto the table. My sister said she would be happy to devour another three of these, making impressive comparisons to the corn she had at Mamasita’s in Melbourne.
All of us were filled up by the end of the night, content with the three dishes that we had ordered. Approaching the 7 pm mark, the place was starting to crowd up and we left before things got too noisy. The service was catered by a comparatively young service team, who were good at looking after us throughout the night – never were we forgotten and they were excessively patient with our indecisiveness! We paid for our 50% discount off total food bill, coming up to a total of $52 for three people. Super cheap! While it’s not the best Mexican I’ve ever had (La Cholita is a worthy adversary), Big El still churns out some good dishes. A great addition to the multicultural Northbridge scene.
Rating: 6 out of 10.
Address: 71 Francis Street, Northbridge 6003
- Open for dinner Tuesday to Sunday (and ’til late on Friday and Saturday) from 5.30 pm.
- We enquired about dessert (sadly there was none), but the owner informed us a new menu would be coming out on the 4th of January 2014, with at least ten new items and desserts included!
- Will be open for lunch in the new year, with an ever evolving menu.
- Bookings available!