Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tales from a crumbling metropolis: Hong Kong food blog

A year ago, my husband and I visited expat friends in Hong Kong. It was the trip that sparked my food blog as upon returning home, I realised that most of the photos I had taken were of food!

From raw meat hanging in a dirty alleyway, to congee steaming in a big pot, to high end haute cuisine in a Macau casino, to soup dumplings, to dim sum, to drunken pigeon, to dining in a private kitchen hidden in an office building, to poncing around the old school China Club, it was the food binge of a lifetime.

To see the foodblog photos and commentary, click on this facebook link and be prepared to drool!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Double double toil and trouble: Culinary sorcery at Ortiga

Ever since it opened, Ortiga has received accolades galore.  The likes of Gourmet Traveller, food columnists and food bloggers alike have fallen under the spell of this restaurant.

Ortiga is in the spot that Isis used to be, on Brunswick Street.  Upstairs is a nice lowlit tapas bar, the striking feature of which is the delicious jamon and other cured meaties hanging in a glass case - just a hint of things to come!

But the real magic happens downstairs, hidden away in the secret bricklaid cooking dungeon where you can observe the the culinary wizards of Ortiga gathering around a cauldron filled with... well I'm not sure but it smelt bloody fantastic.

I was fascinated by that stockpot.  It was massive.  MONSTROUS!  I'm pretty sure there wasn't any eye of newt going into it, but there was some sort of unnatural sorcery going on - no doubt involving pigs (considering the large amount of pork related foodstuffs available on the menu).

The menu at Ortiga is Spanish inspired with an emphasis on sharing.  Another plus is the wine list which is amazing - albeit a little long.  So long in fact, that your average punter (i.e. me) gets a bit lost in it.  Luckily they have a very knowledgable and helpful sommelier to assist you with wine match suggestions.

Another wonderful thing about Ortiga is the complimentary puffed pork crackling for you to munch on with your pre-dinner drink.

I for one think that complimentary pig fat should be a staple at all restaurants, but for now we can only find it at Ortiga.

What you need to know before dining at Ortiga is that if you've never been before, you need to order the suckling pig with pumpkin and sage foam.

And the beef cheek...

Don't believe me?  IT'S BRAISED IN PEDRO XIMINEZ!  Here's a closeup:

Not to mention the slow roasted lamb shoulder.  But be careful with the accompanying lemon sauce, it's potent and should only be applied sparingly.

Believe me you'll be gnawing on bones by the end of it.

Another recommendation from me is to order one of the jamon plates.  They are NOT cheap ($36 and $55!), but the taste of the cured meat is divine.  Included on the plate is jamon iberico de bellota, which is jamon made from free range Iberico piggies that roam the border of Spain and Portugal, feasting on nothing but acorns for the last part of their lives.  The diet and the exercise they get gives a very unusual and amazing taste to the ham.  Who knew that acorns could make pork taste so good?

And finally dessert.  I'm not sure what this was called but it's the one with the deep fried donut in it.  Partnered with a delicious ice cream and a thick dark wicked chocolate mousse this is to die for.

So there you have it.  Delicious Spanish food sorcery.  Get yourself a bank loan and fall under Ortiga's spell.\Ortiga on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A virtuous feast: Chef Shinichi's Signature menu at Sake

I first heard of Sake Restuarant when Shaun Presland (the executive chef of the Sydney restaurant) appeared on Masterchef in one of those challenges where a chef is pitted against a contestant in a brutal culinary battle.  I was pretty impressed by Shaun because he peeled a chinese radish vertically in one long thin slice with nothing but a ridiculously sharp knife and a mischievous whiteboy grin.  Not only that but he reduced the Masterchef contestant to tears (well.... his dish did).

After seeing this sobfest on TV I got excited when I heard Sake was coming to Brisbane's Eagle Street Pier with head chef Shinichi Maeda - of Noosa's "Wasabi" fame.

So what's the story? Well it's modern Japanese cuisine with a casual feel. There's a focus on share plates that are brought out sporadically during your meal in the order the kitchen chooses. There is an intimidating sake menu, but don't worry there is plenty of wine available too. There's also a bit of a Mexican twist on some of the dishes too which I just love - case on point, this fabulous kingfish sashimi with jalepeno sauce is like WOW.

My absolute fave on the menu is the popcorn shrimp though.  Crunchy tasty and delicious!

I recently had the absolute privilege of being invited to sample Chef Shinichi's new signature menu with a group of food bloggers.  Now I've got a confession to make here.  When I started this food blog last year, it was in the secret hope that I would one day get invited to restaurant openings and menu tastings.  That's not to say that that was my only motivation.  The blog also provides a means of justifying the obscene amount of food and booze I ingest on a regular basis (I do it for my readers ok?), not to mention, a forum to voice my many (many) and varied uninformed and ignorant opinions on eating and drinking.

The signature menu is a new thing at Sake in which Chef Shinichi treats guests to a 9 course modern Japanese degustation with matching sakes chosen by Sake's resident sake sommelier, Miriam McLachlan.  There are various banquets at various prices, but the signature menu will set you back $115 (without booze).

I'm going to make a big call here.  This was the best Japanese food I have ever had in my life.  And it was so goddamn healthy!  There was barely a carb in sight!

So let's begin. 

After suckling on a deliciously refreshing Chu-Hi made out of lychee syrup, soda water and shochu (a Japanese distilled spirit which can be made from barley, sweet potato and rice), we were led to our private dining room where our tantalising food journey began with an amuse bouche of amberjack and sato-imo soup. 
The little sashimi bite on the spoon was soft and so fresh, having only been caught that morning.  The sato-imo soup (it's a type of taro) was warm, savoury, thick and delicious. 

Next up were the kumamoto style oysters (from Coffin Bay) topped with a bonito dashi jelly and golden flying fish roe, with Hervey Bay scallops topped with Ikura salmon caviar and ponzu sauce. 
I love entree dishes that have a ludicrous amount of ingredients in them.  It's like there's a party in your mouth and everyone's invited!

After slurping down these lovelies (and I had to stop myself from licking the scallop shell for fear of embarassing myself in front of the other food bloggers) they brought out some cool, glistening southern blue fin tuna sashimi.  Actually I had no idea it was all tuna until I read the menu afterwards - 3 different colours and 3 different textures, from different parts of the fish. What a magical animal!

Throughout the meal we were treated to 3 different sakes that were all expertly matched to the courses.  I'm the first to admit that I know sweet fuck all about sakes, but I do like them.  The first time I tried sake was in the sushi train at the top of the Wintergarden when I was an articled clerk.  A friend and I ordered warm sake with our sushi for shits and giggles and were surprised at how boozed we got on this potent stuff.  So much so that we giggled our way back to the office and had to close our doors all afternoon so as not to alert our supervising partners that we were a tad soused. 

I've always liked the umami rich warm hug of sake.  It's kind of like drinking salty liquid rice.  But I was pretty surprised at how different the sakes we were served that night tasted.  One of them (Kozaemon Yamahai Junmai Banshu Yamadanishiki) was the traditional style I was familiar with, but another (Amabuki Daiginjo) was actually quite sweet on the palate, with more savoury notes on the back end.  Sake offers sake flights for a set fee where you can sample a few and see what you like.

The next stop on our protein binge was a plate of crimson, just seared venison tataki. 
These luscious morsels of red meat were dressed with crispy ginger chips, kumquats and pickled pear and plum sansho pepper dressing.  Red meat tataki is my current food fling and seeing this just-seared meatstuff come out on the plate was a real treat.  I love how raw meat is so soft and squishy on your tongue and I love how Japanese restaurants are not shy about serving it.

All the while the food bloggers were tentatively and awkwardly getting to know each other.  Some seemed to know each other already, and it was good to put a face to the blog in some cases.  Unnervingly, someone struck up a conversation about a bizarre food ingredient that I'd never heard of.  Usually I am the person at the table doing that!  Another person seemed to know all the chefs around town.  Another person knew Matt Preston.  Was I out of my league here? 

Next was a delicate shiitake mushroom and tuna marrow consumme featuring a slippery Mooloolaba spanner crab and yellow fin tuna dumpling. 
Again I had to restrain myself from slurping the remainder from the bowl at the end!

We were only just halfway through!  Next was quail galantine stuffed wth yama-gobo and shiitake mushrooms, coated wth orange soy glaze and served with poached golden beetroot leaves and pickled golden beetroot. 

Quail on quail was always going to be good, but the real surprise was the piquant pickled beetroot leaves.  I'll confess I stole 2 of the rolled leaves before any of my food blogger compatriates could get a chopstick in....

We weren't sure if we could handle any more sweet delicious meats at this point, until we saw they were bringing out the medium rare shar wagyu sirloin with white sesame and ginger-miso emulsion, confit sato-imo and onion bulbs.  This was accompanied by a winter salad of fresh persimmon, kumquats, daikon, celery, minza, spinach, renkon and radish with ginger and guava dressing.

I know I know my BlackBerry camera is a piece of shit, and my blog has the production values of a 14 year old's Facebook profile, but you get the idea.  I've got to admit I felt a little intimidated by other food bloggers there who brought out proper cameras including one with a proper SLR.

Finally, after a palate cleansing Kozaemon Kabosu drink we moved onto the chocolate garden dessert which featured dark chocolate bavaroi, served with chocolate sand, quenelled white chocolate sorbet and chocolate liqueur jelly.

As I slurped and scraped through all of the chocolate based noms on the plate, the real standout was the chocolate liqueur jelly.

It was a fabulous evening and it was really good to get to know a few of the other foodophiles around Bris-vegas.  Any other restaurant PR types reading this - I'm happy to be bribed to blog about your restaurant, but only if the food is as delicious as at Sake!
Saké Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Den of Iniquity

Maybe it was the fact that we were buzzing from drinking frozen margaritas at Guzman's.  Maybe it was because one of the couples we were with don't get out much and were keen to keep our casual Sunday night dinner going.  Whatever it was, something wicked led us to Freestyle Tout at Emporium, or as I like to call it, "the Den of Iniquity".

We thought we'd just have a little look at the menu.  How bad could it be to have just one little peek?  We could stop if we wanted to.  Sure we could. 

Oh but we were wrong.  So very wrong.

For those who haven't ventured into Freestyle Tout's evil lair before, you should know that you will come out a changeling.  Or rather, you will come out so hepped up on chocolate, sugar and fat that you won't quite know where you are.  You may also come out perturbed by the fact that you have done something that you're not proud of.  Something you may not want to talk about.

As Brisbane's premier dessert bar, Freestyle is a dark place, a sinful place, and oh so very naughty. 

Perusing the dessert menu, it was saucy, rich and self indulgent.  Utterly gratuitous.  And we liked it.  I mean they had sticky date pudding and churros and mousse.  And crumble.  And tart.  And cheesecake.  And brulee.  On the same menu.  WERE THEY FUCKING SERIOUS?  Yes they were.  These people were depraved.

Before we knew what we were doing, we were ordering straight off the dessert menu.  We knew it was wrong but it felt so right.  As we waited for our orders, feet tapping nervously on the floor, the conversation topics turned saucy, rich and self indulgent too.  From who's dating who, to relationships, to marriage, our fellow dessert degenerates delved deeper and deeper.

And then the iced chocolate arrived.

Eyes almost popped out of heads as a hushed silence fell on the table and cheeks flushed.  The thing was massive.  Perverted.  They had tipped half a bottle of chocolate topping into it.  At this point we became a little uncertain.  Had we stumbled into someplace we didn't belong?  Could we handle what was to come? 

Before long the next order came out.  The Lindt Chocolate Saucy Pudding.

This obscene creation is probably one of the best things on the menu at Freestyle.  I mean Lindt chocolate is like edible porn on its own.  But use it to make a pudding.  Top it with chocolate ice cream, a white chocolate swirl decoration and surround it with an oozing pool of white and dark chocolate sauce.  That is just twisted.

And then there was the Chocolate Deluxe Sundae.  Simple.  Devious.  Deviant.  A shard of chocolate crassly sticking out of it. 

My husband hunched over it, his arm around the perimeter, protecting it from attack by neighbouring dessert eaters.  Or should I say lotus eaters?

And then the White Chocolate Raspberry Brioche Dumplings arrived.

What kind of miscreant bakes raspberry brioche laced with butter, turns it into a dumpling fit for frying, kinkily inserts white chocolate inside it, deep fries them like a simple donuts and rolls the precious parcels in SUGAR!!!??  Someone with a serious dessert addiction.  Then to serve along side it both white and dark chocolate sauce with raspberries?  Pure dastardliness.

As the chocolate, sugar and fat quickened our pulses, conversation topics plumbed new depths.  Before we could stop we were talking sex.  From positions to sex toys, to porn.  It all came out, uncontrollably as we stabbed madly at our desserts at fever pitch.  Giggles escaped lips.  Eyes rolled in heads.  And spoons moved mechanically back and forth from plate to mouth.

And then as quickly as it had begun, it was over and we were left sheepishly licking the chocolate sauce from spoons, fingers and chins. 

Like the morning after, it was all a little bit awkward and embarrassing.  After hastily getting the bill and quickly making our separate exits, without meeting each other's eyes, there was pause for thought.  One thing was for certain.  We would never speak of our encounter with Brisbane's Den if Iniquity again.

Freestyle Tout on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sunnybank sojourn: A real Brisbane Food Adventure!!!

I'm always on the lookout for new food adventures around Brisbane.  My favourite stomping ground at the moment is Brisbane's Asian mecca: Sunnybank.  I used to think Chinatown in the Valley was where it was at, Asian style.  But Sunnybank is a lot more authentic and features a whole lot more choices in Asian cuisine.  From Japanese to Vietnamese to Chinese to Malaysian - Sunnybank has it all.

Recently I've taken to heading to Sunnybank on a Saturday or Sunday lunchtime with a few friends to get my dim sum on, or try out the pho at a hole in the wall noodle place in one of the shopping enclaves.  Afterwards with bellies fit to burst, we tend to stray into the Sunnybank Plaza or Market Square to fossick amongst the $2 shops and food stores and to see how Sunnybankers kick it on the weekend.

During one of these afternoon sojourns we stumbled upon a few gems in Sunnybank Plaza which must be on your to visit list if you're planning an excursion down Sunnybank way.

Ma Baker

We were first drawn to this place cos it sounds funny IT'S MA BAKER!!  Yehyeh!

It's pretty close to MOS Burger so I recommend you check this place out for dessert after you've had your yakiniku rice burger meal deal.  Grab a tray and some tongs and you can put together a delicious array of Asian bakery treats to take home for your eating pleasure!


If Ma Baker hasn't quelled your appetite and you need more Asian bakery delights, head inside Sunnybank Plaza and check out Breadtop.  These Asian style bakeries are pretty ubiquitous these days and are springing up all over Brisbane - including in the Myer Centre and Edward Street in the City.

I mean where else can you get a cake shaped like a cute doggy?

Or a bamboo charcoal roll that "eases the digestive system, helping discharge impurities and unhealthy substances from stomach"?  Just tasted like burnt garlic bread actually.

Hotcake House

But nothing could have prepared us for the unbelievable deliciousness of piping hot Tokyo pancakes from Hotcake House!!!

It's situated right near Landmark inside the shopping centre opposite Sunrise Butcher.  The cheery staff stand there all day churning out these tasty pancakes, filling them with gooey delicious centres such as chocolate, strawberry, coconut, redbean and even corn.  YUMYUMYUM!  You just cannot go to Sunnybank without eating these treats.  Chocolate is definitely my favourite:

OH YEAH!!!  "It is either to eat with hot made cake or after keep in the fridge" according to signs at the establishment.  My advice is eat them hot and as quickly as possible!
Hot Cake House on Urbanspoon

Sunrise Butcher

And the final stop in your Sunnybank Plaza excursion should be my new favourite butcher "Sunrise" just opposite Hotcake House.  This place is FANTASTIC!  Not only do they have delicious chinese roasted meats glistening and dripping with fat in the front window...

...but they have the sexiest and CHEAPEST array of pork and beef I've ever seen...
Not only that, but they have a good range of frozen crocodile meat, spatchcock and quail as well as dried de-boned duck.  Definitely where I'll be going to get the meats for my next dinner party!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Something funny is going on at Bar Alto

Bar Alto (http://www.baralto.com.au/) has been around for a good while and is the more casual dining option at the Powerhouse, where your average Brisbane urban wanker can go and see bands, plays, comedy acts and all manner of other artistic endeavours.  I'm told that it is owned by the same people who own Ortiga (YUM), but because it operates out of the Brisbane City Council owned Powerhouse arts centre, the Council restrict them in terms of pricing which is why you can get mains under $30.  Maybe so starving actors can engage in some fine dining without breaking the bank?

I've eaten at Bar Alto twice now, and both times the food and service has been pretty good.  And certainly EXCELLENT for the price.

But here are two tips for you:
  1. If you sit inside, you will come out smelling like a fish and chip shop as there isn't a lot of ventilation and the deep fryer gets a real work out here
  2. If you order off the a la carte menu, you will have food envy of those who order off the pasta menu
What began as a very tame birthday dinner for a pregnant friend of mine at Bar Alto, became a raucous, saucy, booze fuelled adventure that eventually led us to the Brunswick Hotel on karaoke night (*shudder*).  Throughout which I remained stone cold sober.

Much to my chagrin, a lot of my friends are beginning to become sensible, stable, responsible types with mortgages, spouses and babies.  Hell, even the gay couple I'm besties with have bought a neat as a pin townhouse in inner northern suburbia and want to adopt a Cambodian baby.

That's not to say that I'm against those things.  I married at 21 and have my own (frighteningly large) mortgage.  And these days, my idea of a good Friday night consists of spending it on the couch with a bottle of red, and some takeaway, watching reruns on Tivo rather than out on the town, lurching from a cheap Asian BYO to the nearest nightclub in the Valley as in earlier days.

The night began innocently enough.  I was running 40 minutes late, mainly because I had to drive myself and I am both an awful driver and somewhat challenged when programming a GPS.  The guests were ravenous and I was none too popular for turning up late.  I was also surprised to find that a few of them were a little tiddly already. 

I shared an entree with a friend: the veal sweetbread and pigs trotter milanese, green apple agrodolce ($19).

For the uninitiated, a sweetbread is basically a little gland from a calf, lamb or pig either found in the neck, tongue or cheek of the animal.  The meat is quite sweet, hence the name.  These were good, but not exactly healthy, what with all the deep frying.  Not that I was complaining.

Having learnt my lesson about pasta vs a la carte at my earlier visit, I ordered the agnolotti dal plin: porcini ravioli filled with slow braised oxtail, wild mushroom and chestnut brodo ($27).  I was not disappointed.

For sides we ordered a salad, chips and these zucchini fritters ($7).  Yes folks, just what I needed: something else deep fried.  These were a big hit at the table.

With my nostrils full of deep fryer kitchen smell and my mouth full of rich, fatty, buttery and dark agnolotti, I felt more than a little disoriented.  I became even more so upon witnessing the embarrassing debacle of epic proportions the dinner was turning into.  A friend who had recently stopped breastfeeding seemed to be channelling her former, younger self and making lewd comments at the waiter, while one of the gay couple was making lewd comments about all of the women of the table (well ok, that is not actually that unusual).

As predicted, those who had ordered off the a la carte menu were suffering from serious food envy of my dish and I had more than a few offers for taste swapsies.  There were those of our party who were taken in by the amazing description of the rabbit fagottini with pancetta, buckwheat polenta, tarragon and almond butter ($29). 

While tasty, it was a little on the small side.

While chowing down on this fat laden fare, our table grew more and more raucous.  Was it the wine?  Was it the lack of ventilation?  Was it simply that a few of us now conservative types just don't get out that much anymore?  Who could say.  

Even more interesting, however, was the tip from our waiter that the table next to us had been a table of swingers who had all but propositioned him during the meal and given him a hug when leaving.  It seemed we weren't the only table of boring 30 somethings trying to spice things up a little that night.

And then there was dessert.  A friend recommended the chocolate budino with hazelnut ice cream as the best thing on the dessert menu.  And who can argue?

It was cooked perfectly and oozed its innards out onto my plate when I dug into it with my spoon.

Not to be outdone by the swingers, a few of our table tried to hug our waiter as we left the restaurant.

And while I can't blame Bar Alto for what happened next at the Brunswick Hotel, truly where the glitterati of Brisbane come out, I think they had something to do with it. 

There's just something funny going on at Bar Alto.
Bar Alto on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Guzman y Gomez vs Mad Mex

You have probably noticed, like I have, that Brisbane has recently been inundated with some interesting new Mexican fast food options.  This is good news to lovers of Mexican food like me who are more than a little disappointed by Brisbane's offerings to date.

This post compares two of these new entrants: Guzman y Gomez (http://www.guzmanygomez.com/Home) and Mad Mex (http://www.madmex.com.au/), both situated in Fortitude Valley.

Guzman y Gomez: Ruler of the smokehouse

Guzman is an Australian taqueria chain with seven stores in Sydney, and now one at Emporium, which is always bustling with activity.  It's named after the founder's two childhood friends who cultivated his love of authentic Mexican food.

Most people in Brisbane agree that Guzman is the best Mexican in Brisbane, and it is hard to disagree.  What's not to like about the great location, cheap frozen margaritas and tabasco on tap?

That's right people, they have pump packs of types of tabasco that you've never seen before!  I have managed to snaffle green tabasco and garlic tabasco at obscure delis before, but I've never found habanero tabasco and *drum roll* chipotle tabasco before EVER.  This stuff is like crack to me.  I have to restrain myself from putting my mouth under the nozzle.

But it's not just the condiments that make Guzman kick ass, mexi style.  It's the fabulous fillings and array of crowd pleasing dish types that you can mix and match that really gets you.  You can choose from chicken guerrero (spicy or mild), steak chipotle, beef guerrero, pork chipotle, barramundi and vego.  Make sure to add a dollop of guac.  The bbq and smokey taste pervades throughout.  Did I mention I liked smokey anything?

A good way to start off here is to order the quesadillas because you can get a 3 pack, and try out 3 different fillings.  Otherwise, go with nachos, tacos, burrito or naked burrito (i.e. no tortilla).

You order and pay for your food and beverages at the counter, take your drink and a ticket and wait for your meal to be brought out to you.  Be sure to watch out for your number being called, otherwise another ravenous patron may just steal it from you.

The burritos here are a neat little package, they come out with cute newspaper style wrapping, encased in tinfoil, kind of like a South American easter egg! 

You unwrap your shiny present and inside you find a bundle of cal-mex goodness.

It's all pretty delicious, but I would recommend the other meat fillings over the barramundi pictured.  Although I've got a mate who swears by it, I have just never been a fan of seafood in a burrito.  I hope to change my mind when I head to California in September this year!

Guzman y Gomez Mexican Taqueria Fortitude Valley on Urbanspoon

Mad Mex: Subway hepped up on tequila?

Mad Mex is a franchise quickly proliferating Australia with its Baja Cal-Mex takeaway food, founded by a Californian born couple who were frustrated with the lack of modern Mexican food available in Australia.  Looking at their website, their mascot bizarrely appears to be a cross between an Evil Kneivel-esque cage fighter and a gimp. 

Their Brisbane outpost is in the Brunswick Street Mall in the Valley and is perfectly located to capture the late night party crowd, and give the existing market (until now dominated by kebab vendors and New York slice) a run for their money.

The first thing that hits you when you enter Mad Mex on a Friday night though, is the resemblance it has to a Subway.
Honestly, it's a little off-putting as the waiters slap beans, shredded meat and guac all over your burrito in a similar style to the pimple faced kid that serves you your meatball sub around the corner.

If you're lucky, you might get to sit at the bigger table inside (which is pretty small) under this beer bottle light chandelier while you're serenaded by the soothing soundtrack emanating from the RG and Kaliber across the mall.  If you're really lucky you might get to see some Gen Y's on pills punching each other in the face in the middle of the mall.

Now I've got to admit, I was actually surprised how much I liked the burrito here.  Like Guzman's you choose your style (taco, nachos, burrito etc.), your filling, but also your salsa - and of course add guac.  I chose the slow roasted beef.  As they slapped more and more on this sucker, I was concerned it would be too big to wrap.  I was wrong.  These people knew what they were doing.

There was no neat little Guzman style package - this was a Baja monster, ready to take over your digestive tract with reckless abandon.

Once you started eating this thing, you just couldn't stop.  We all seemed to enter into some kind of trance, focused on getting as much of this sloppy, juicy burrito into our bodies in as short a time as possible.
I mean just compare this to Guzman's photo.  There were no delicate smoky flavours and complimentary tabasco.  This thing was rough, ready and precisely the kind of thing the lovechild of an Evil Knievel style cage fighter and a gimp would choose to eat. 

I washed the burrito monster down with a $5 margarita (that is NOT TYPO PEOPLE).  And I've gotta say, the margarita shat all over Guzman's frozen version.  There was salt on the rim, it was sour, it was good.  I bloody loved it.

The other advantage Mad Mex has over Guzman is that it has dessert options.  And I'm talking churros.
Now they did dispense the churro mixture from a soft serve style contraption straight into the boiling oil. But hell - we couldn't stop munching on these deep fried sugared sticks dipped in warm chocolate.  Our resident pregnant lady went back for seconds!

Mad Mex Fresh Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon


So there you have it.  If you're wanting a casual, tasty, Mexican dinner with friends any time of the week, head to Guzman y Gomez and add lashings of tabasco.  If you're wanting to line your stomach with some rough and ready Baja-Mex and throw down a few tasty margaritas before heading out and getting shitfaced in the Valley, try Mad Mex. 

With both options, remember, black beans cause gas.