Sons of Baja

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285 Elizabeth Street, North Hobart
03) 6231 5493
Open: Monday and Tuesday 3.00pm to late, Wednesday to Saturday 11.00am to late.

These days, we’re all fluent Spanish speakers with words like nachos, guacamole, tacos, empanadas, tortillas, quesadillas and so on rolling effortlessly off our tongues. But, for many years, the only place in Hobart where you could practice rolling the double ‘rr’s of burritos was at the long standing Amigos in North Hobart. That was as close to Mexico as Hobart got.

Then Taco Taco and Funky Cactus popped up. Followed by Frank restaurant’s Tex/Mex/south-of-the-border-influenced food before we experienced a minor Mexican wave with three Mexican eateries opening in less than two months – Zambrero ‘Mexican with a Mission’ in Liverpool Street, Pancho Villa in December and, the latest, Sons of Baja a month ago.

And, no sooner had I reviewed Pancho Villa and the day after eating at Sons of Baja, the Mercury’s Taste section ran a double page spread on ceviche, South America’s famous dish of raw fish.

So, there we are, if you didn’t know before, food is as fashion-driven as hemlines.

The good news is that, although both are Mexican, Pancho Villa and Sons of Baja are two very different establishments. Both, of course, have plenty of mescals, tequilas and cocktails available from their bar, but the décore and atmosphere at Pancho Villa are dark, Day of the Dead moodiness while Baja is open, bright and breezy with a celebration of Frida Kahlo’s bright colours and art on the walls.

As you would expect, there are plenty of different chillies at both but, whereas the chef at Pancho Villa has pulled back on the heat of his dishes, Baja is fairly full on. By way of compensation, at Pancho the bottled sauces on each table offer authentic Mexican/Texan heat and complexity while the three at Baja are produced in Melbourne and two of them were disappointingly thin and simple.

Baja’s owner, Rob Hodgson and business partner Trevor Pterson- ex manager of Tasman Quartermasters – spent 18 months planning Baja with input into the menu provided by consultants Chris Quinn and Mat Hidding of Taco Taco fame. Quinn and Hidding are heading off on their first visit to Mexico in March and no doubt will introduce some menu changes on their return.

Meanwhile the hand-cut tortilla chips and tacos taste nicely of the corn masa from which they’re made, the guacamole was delicious as was the re-fried bean quesadillas accompanied by a beautifully flavoured tomato salsa. Pink ling ceviche was the only disappointment of the meal. Beautifully presented but, instead of a play on sweet and lime citrusy sour, the dish was unbalanced by far too much of a dominant and overpowering chilli heat – even for me.

However, the best of the night was the tender and perfectly cooked, spice-rubbed skirt steak to share in a mix of pickled cabbage and feta offset by the delicious sweetness of smoky, charred sweet potato and smoked almond crumbs. Great cooking and great composition.

There are 12 beers on tap available in 285ml or 500ml pours, three picklebacks and a concise wine list offering drops from the mainland, Argentina, NZ and USA from which we selected a very enjoyable Argentine malbec for a bargain $38. Along with a few other Tasmanians, there are a Glen Shian sparkler, riesling, sauv blanc and pinot noir from Hodgson’s family vineyard at Relbia.

Corn chips and guacamole $10; quesadillas and ceviche $14; steak $28.50; churros $10

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