Review: El Capo (Surry Hills)

Last Saturday my sister invited me lunch at El Capo. The restaurant is smaller and more casual than what I was anticipating. Most of the tables are very small two-seaters, which makes it difficult to have more than two plates on it at once.

For an almost takeaway looking place, the beverage menu is impressive; it features Latin American beers, wines and spirits mixed with a few Australian and Kiwi wines and “key” Latino cocktails (pisco sour, mojitos). Gladys was keen on trying a Mexican beer and ordered a Tecate. Unfortunately, she found it a bit tasteless. On the other hand, I had a glass of excellent Tomero Rose 2010 from Mendoza, Argentina. Hard to go wrong with Argentinian wines.

Tomero Rose 2010, Tecate

Tomero Rose 2010 Mendoza, Argentina ($10.50), Tecate beer ($6.00)

We shared a salad and two mains. The Popeye’s salad sounded like a boring plate of spinach, but was way more than that. Apart from the ingredients mentioned in the menu (a delicious mix of cabbage, raisins, tomato, quinoa and leaves tossed in aioli) it had hazelnuts, my favourite nuts *happy face*.

Popeye's salad

Popeye’s salad ($7.00)

Our first main was a duck mole: twice cooked duck, black Oaxacan mole sauce served with steamed tortillas. The duck was good, well cooked and nicely seasoned. The almost crispy fat on the side was a little bit too greasy for my taste. The raisins, chopped shallots and pickled red onion brought freshness and flavour balance to the dish. But the sauce, the soul of the dish, was… well, awful. It tasted like burnt plastic. It wouldn’t be fair to compare it to the mole poblano I had in Mexico because it may be difficult to get the same ingredients here. But I’ve tasted an awesome mole-style sauce in the pato con chocolate dish that I had in La Bodeguita Del Medio, so there’s no excuse.

Duck mole

Duck mole ($15.00)

The duck sat atop plain white rice and came with a side of steamed tortillas. White rice is the least evil of grains, so I eat it once in a while as part of a cheat meal. Thankfully I normally avoid corn, because Gladys told me the tortillas were not nice at all. She only had one.

Steamed tortillas

Steamed tortillas

The other main was the sweet pork neck: braised pork neck, sweet potato and guajillo sauce. The pork and sweet potato were tasty and generous in size, once again the pickled red onion brought freshness (not sure about the pumpkin seeds, though), but the sauce was bad. Our conclusion is that both sauces came out of a jar, and probably from a not very good brand. I’d rather eat freshly made sauces, even if some ingredient substitutions are required.

Sweet pork neck

Sweet pork neck ($15.00)

It always makes me a bit sad to eat not-so-good Latin American food in Sydney, because people who haven’t been there get the wrong impression. On the bright side, someone who travels there will find local food exponentially better than what they’ve experienced over here, and may, hopefully, spread the word.

El Capo
52 Waterloo Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
(02) 96992518

4 thoughts on “Review: El Capo (Surry Hills)

  1. What a bummer that your meal was a bit…of a blah event. I’m intrigued by this place as it offers food I’ve never tried before – tossing up now whether I should check it out or not.

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