The Mexican wave (of food), continues with hot newcomer Socialito. Taking over Prive’s former location on Wyndham Street, Buzz Concept’s latest and boldest venture is a three-in-one package of ‘taqueira, restaurant and discoteca’. Hoping to embody the essence of the name and replicate a Latin-American social vibe on the streets of Hong Kong, Socialito aims to provide a space for people to mingle, play, eat and drink.
The 50s-style shiny, metallic taqueria (taco-stall) out front is brightly lit and playful and serves up an array of tacos, gorditas, tostadas and tamales. You can stroll in, pull up a stool for a quick bite, quench your thirst with one of their margaritas or just grab a take-away. Don’t be fooled by the laid-back, funky exterior however, as a discreet silver door on the left gives way to a sleek and dark, formal dining area. The softly-lit bar at the back draws you into a sophisticated space of high ceilings, wrought-iron gate features, plush leather seats and dark-wood panelling, evoking images of old Mexico. After dinner, this space transforms into a club from 11.30pm, Wednesdays to Saturdays, complete with DJ booth set up and the tables converting into bar tops.
As I perched at the bar waiting for the rest of my dinner companions to arrive, I got a head start in drinking and tried one of the fun and original Specialty Cocktails created by Eric Stephenson, bar manager of Lily & Bloom. After three sips of my delicious, refreshing Zumbido (Havana Club 7 and Denizen Rum with passionfruit, honey and lime), and later a Sociarito (Jalapeno infused Alacran Tequila with lavender-honey and peach bitters), I found these cocktails pack a punch too. Beware of drinking one of these on an empty stomach! I loved the Zumbido with its Mojito-like tones and the Sociarito was a perfect blend of sweet balancing out the fiery tequila.
Soon after, dinner was in full swing and we started with the Lobster and Swordfish ceviche topped with coconut chili sauce, pickled shallot and herbs served with cucumber noodles. Pieces of the seafood combo were fresh and delightfully fleshy, the sauce and shallots adding a lovely zing, while the cucumber noodles gave it a cleansing after-taste. Next up was the Cauliflower Almond Soup. A visual crowd-pleaser, the soup was poured into bowls of pickled cauliflower, caramelized apples, almonds and morita chili at our table, leaving us to clamber for action shots. As soothingly thick and creamy as it was, the soup was a tad oversalted, but had a lovely blend of pickle with a subtle hint of heat.
Our next two dishes were a triumph though, the Wagyu Tacos presented with a flourish, eyes feasted on the line up of fresh homemade tortillas encasing tender beef slices topped with salsa, guacamole and crispy onions. The Seared Pork Belly surrounded by a sea of green peanut mole was flavoursome and succulent, the outside seared perfectly. The mole itself wasn’t as distinctive in taste as its colour, but I loved the chicharrones (fried pork rind) and the accompanying sautéed onion and jalapeno.
Our mains of Grilled Scottish Salmon and Seared Duck Breast were both competently prepared. The salmon was evenly grilled but still pink and moist inside and we enjoyed the shimeji, queso fresco and potato puree with the green pumpkinseed mole. The Seared Duck Breast had an attractive presentation, with slices on black beans arranged on a long plate separated by little islands of corn tortitas atop corn puree. The duck was moist and wonderfully seasoned but I felt the dish was slightly let down by the black beans which were a little dry and glutinous and the corn tortitas which didn’t really add enough dimension to the dish.
Washing down our mains with a couple of gulps of our cocktails, we eagerly awaited the desserts. No matter how full you are, you must try the King Banana. This ridiculously cool-looking dessert with arrangements of fried milk bananas, sour cream sorbet and King banana chips on cumin crumble was a delight to the taste-buds. The cumin crumble was a great savoury contrast to the sweetness of the bananas and the sour cream added a faint tang to the ensemble.
The Molten Chocolate cake was equally sublime. The sponge gave way to the sexy ooze of warm chocolate and I adored the contrast of the cold coconut semifreddo that it came with. I was also intrigued by the Candied Ancho Chili fried chocolate that added decorative detail. The fried chocolate was achieved through mixing tapioca with molten dark chocolate, then solidifying, dehydrating and deep frying it. Clever stuff.
And so ended the evening; my dining companions and I a touch merry from the cocktails, and stuffed to the rafters with Mexican food. Although I find the three-in-one concept commendable I do feel people may be confused as to what Socialito has to offer, especially as the taqueria is so prominent. Would diners be more interested in the casual or the finer dining side of this establishment, I wonder? Another issue is finding the restaurant! I myself couldn’t find the door to the dining room at first and although the door is marked “Abierto! Pase Usted” (which means “Open! Come on in”), it doesn’t really help the non-Spanish readers!
That aside, the menu and the cocktails are exciting and I think Socialito will be enjoying a steady stream of fans flocking to the taco stall and dancing to La Bamba, drink in hand.
Chopstixfix rating: 3/5
Socialito, Shop 2, G/F, The Centrium, 50 Wyndham St, Central, 3167 7380; www.socialito.com.hk. Taquería : Mon-Tue midday-midnight & Wed-Sat midday-2am. Restaurante: Mon-Sat 6pm-11.30pm. Closed Sun. Limited number of tables available for reservation for groups of 6 or more.
You can also read this review on Sassy.