Since the arrival of Mr Taco Truck in Quarry Bay, followed by Taco Chaca, Brickhouse and Chicha, Hong Kong’s Latin American food trend is showing no signs of abating. And, of all these restaurants, the latest venture by Buzz Concepts is perhaps the most ambitious. Occupying a prime space on Wyndham Street, Socialito (Mexican slang for a gathering place) is a three-part concept boasting a sleek taquería at the front, leading into a dining room which later turns into a nightclub with a bar and DJ booth.
The facade, done in a sleek canteen style with steel counters and writing on the walls, features a bar where customers can grab a bite or a specialty cocktail (try the Micheladas, $80 – a freshly squeezed lime juice and Tecate beer with a chilli salt rim). Note that the restaurant only takes reservations for parties of six of more – so if you’re dining with less, just hang around the bar while you wait for a seat.
The setting is much more formal once you step into the restaurant, with rich mahogany tones and elegant tiled floors dotted with sparsely placed tables. When we drop by for dinner, we decide to share everything and our waitress takes extra effort in recommending the best dishes. We start with the ceviche acapulco ($140) made with fresh octopus, oysters, shrimp and avocado, mixed with a tangy chilli sauce and diced tomatos. It’s reminiscent of the popular ahi poke from Hawaii and the plump pieces of seafood are perfectly balanced with the sauce.
Next up is the cauliflower almond soup ($90) poured piping hot into a bowl with dried almonds, caramelised apples and pickled cauliflower. It’s creamy and rich but the accompanying morita chilli is a touch too spicy and overwhelming. However, all is forgiven with the arrival of the wagyu tacos ($135) – a seriously decadent take on the popular Mexican comfort food. A soft homemade tortilla envelopes tender slices of marinated skirt steak and the whole affair is topped with fresh guac, salsa and crispy onions. It’s a meal on its own and we can imagine how good it would feel scoffing this down at the bar outside with a Sol beer chaser. Pure delight.
For the main course – or ‘platillos grandes’ – we try the achiote mangalitsa pork ($220), which is tender, succulent and served with sweet potatoes and cilantro. We’re told the pork comes from Hungarian farms and though the well-done serving may be on the dry side, the extra jus poured on top makes up for it. We pair this porky goodness with a side dish of off-the-cob esquites ($70), which translates into sweet corn kernels grilled and tossed in spicy mayo with lime.
Full from the hearty portions, we’re only able to tackle one dessert and go for the king banana ($85). The presentation is sublime, a long plate featuring sour cream sorbet, fried milk bananas, cumin crumble and banana chips. It’s designed to be mixed and eaten altogether, allowing the various textures and tastes to mingle on the tongue. Mexican desserts often run the risk of being too heavy and sweet but this sorbet treat is creamy and light.
With its reasonable prices (there’s also no service charge) and deliciously hearty food, Socialito manages to deliver chic and cheap in one cool package. This is definitely a great spot to while away the evening with a few drinks and bites and we guess that’s precisely what the owners are aiming to do – create a place with Latin spirit and a laidback pace. Leslie Chan
Shop 2, G/F, The Centrium, 50 Wyndham St, Central, 3167 7380; socialito.com.hk. Taquería : Mon-Tue midday-midnight & Wed-Sat midday-2am. Restaurante: Mon-Sat 6pm-11.30pm. Closed Sun.
Ceviche acapulco $140
Cauliflower almond soup $90
Wagyu tacos $135
Achiote mangalitsa pork $220
Off-the-cob esquites $70
King banana $85
10 percent service charge $0
Total (for two) $740