Ok ... Nuevo Latino, so nuevo that the creases have yet to be ironed out yet but don't let this put you off! Choose a quiet week night and prepare to be patient.
Our particular CBA Friday night started off well. It was a lovely evening so eschewing the wheels, we took a leisurely stroll to Barkly Street to check out the latino delights of this newly minted restaurant.
It being just a bee's dick shy of 6pm, we had no issues securing a table, although it started to get pretty packed soon after that.
The kitchen, which you can peek into, was already a hive of activity, but the 2 guys manning the floor seemed a little listless.
Given the layout of the entry into the restaurant, we weren't quite sure where to stand and wait to be seated. A stand with the menu just in front of where the bottled water is kept should alleviate some of this confusion. Alternatively staff should give clear acknowledgement to people who have just arrived. So we know to wait until you have finished attending to a table. Sometimes its the little things ...
The menu here is exciting. Not quite the lengthy thesis of El Rincons past, but that is a good thing. I prefer a small but well executed menu as opposed to one that reads like United Nations dossier.
As always there is a tussle between ordering too much and not being able to sample enough. A modicum of sanity prevailed and we decided on a couple of smalls, a couple of mains and possibly a dessert.
It took us awhile to get the attention of our waiter in order to place our orders, and then he rather ineptly tried to remember them without the benefit of a notepad. It was almost Fawlty-esque the way in which our water and cutlery were delivered to the table. And our drink order seemed to have disappeared into the ether. We had to change it anyways because the bar wasn't quite set up to do more than unbottle and uncork. Although there were jugs of Sangria going round.
The first dish to arrive was a main (?!) - no biggie since we were sharing anyways. Tamales!!! Or is that Tamali? As mentioned previously, Tamales are surprisingly hard to find given the glut of tex-mex-latino joints in this town. Nuevo's version is delicious, and comes served with a spicy cabbage mix that shits all over most other tepid coleslaw offerings that are the accompaniment du jour under Melbourne's Dude Food cloud. The accompanying salsa has the beginnings of a great sauce, but could have benefited from a little bit muy picante.
Next was the Bacalau croquettes!! I have had a lot of Bacalau croquettes in my lifetime, including my own (which ahem ahem I think are still the best because I use green chillies in the mix) and I can safely say that Nuevo's are pretty darn amazing. And extremely moreish!! I could just kick back with a cold beer and a plate of these on a sunny summer evening and it would be as close to heaven as you could get. (Mental note to self - #makethishappen!).
Our next dish of Grilled Corn Kernels claimed equal placing in the deliciousness stakes. I'm not sure whether the intense smoky flavour was a case of culinary serendipity because it was right on the very edge of being burnt! Delicious. Another heavenly beer snack for that warm summer evening!
Our final main was the Carne Asada. Now this is not my usual goto dish as I find that the various components that make up this dish are simply plonked on the plate and require very little sophistication in the kitchen beyond that. And the Carne aspect is just an excuse to charge an additional $5 or so. We ordered it this time round because we were in the mood for some protein. And it turned out to be a good choice. Far from being pedestrian, Nuevo Latino's Carne Asada is good!!! The salsa, the salad and the guac all melded together in a refreshing blend of flavours that worked so well with the accompanying soft corn tortilla which was in itself lightly seasoned for a change. In fact, and this is going to sound contradictory, but the skewered meat was pretty much an afterthought, and I could have easily enjoyed the dish without it.
We're still missing Besito and that Colombian Hot Chocolate and Cheese stunner. We pondered asking whether Nuevo had something similar, but decided to check out the Churros instead. Perhaps there are regional differences when it comes to this not so humble fried dough decadence. Nuevo's Churros were slightly doughy, almost uncooked. But there was still definite crunch on the outside and the melted chocolate was of quality. I still prefer Sabroso's, so maybe check out both and see how they measure up for you. Perhaps its a question of personal taste.
Anyhoo, Nuevo Latino if you manage to maintain the quality of your food, boost your bar offerings and tweak your front of house service a smidge, then you're a welcome addition to this neighbourhood!! For punters who haven't been, give these guys a chance. The food is great so lets be a little accommodating while they find their hospitality feet.