And here I was thinking this blogging caper was all about the food?
At Sons of Baja I also received an education!
Come quiz nights, geography is my ‘thing’ right. Don’t even try and argue the point. Coming a close second is obscure 90s pop culture, but that’s a story for 8 paragraphs time…
Before Google Earth came along and put the world at everyone’s fingertips there was a thing called an atlas. You know, one of those book things that get your Gen Xers and older all gushy and doe-eyed? Yeah well, I’m Gen X and I love the feel of paper on my palm in the morning!
I love the feel of paper on my palm in the morning!
This isn’t a recent affectation either, it’s something that has stuck with me since childhood. Whether it was a bookcase full of old encyclopedia Britannicas (I was uber-jealous of anyone so lucky!), or simply a box of tatty old Readers Digests in the shed at the back of my grandma’s garden, hours would be lost poring over the ink impregnated pages.
It was also a great way to escape dish washing duty!
Perhaps it’s a legacy of all the travelling we did as children, from Indonesia to Burma to Papua New Guinea, but of all the books it was the atlas that really caught my eye.
Arbitrary lines on a page separating black from white, Buddhist from Christian, rich from poor. Some straight as an arrow, others convoluted ribbons like the rivers they aped. And in some far-flung corners of the globe, grey and cross-hatched, hinting at turmoil, uncertainty and internal strife.
Yet unlike a book that transports you into the mind of the author, with an atlas you’re talking reality. Who’s walking that street right now in the middle of New York City? Is there a bakery in the middle of the Black Forest? Are they awake yet in Moscow and have the winter snows arrived?
Unanswered questions, with unnecessary answers.
You can probably tell I’m a geography nerd.
<obscure 90s pop culture> Propellerheads tried to convince us to eat the dust of Baja California.
</obscure 90s pop culture>
Personally, I prefer a taco. However, this song reinforced what I now consider to be a rather embarrassing geographic assumption, that Baja was simply a North American district somewhere south of Los Angeles.
It isn’t. It’s actually Mexican!
Canvas umbrellas and patio settings to my left (a great casual option for families or larger groups), an extensively stocked bar in front of me framed by a large map of Baja California (my latest atlas of interest), and slightly more formal table settings to my right, a place for ever-so-slightly more intimate dining with floor to ceiling views of a buzzing Elizabeth Street.
We were a group of five and our instructions were simple, “Feed us!”.
Eyelids were neither batted nor battered (thank goodness), and what followed was a procession of dishes from across the varied menu.
Ceviche was a ‘must’, and we weren’t disappointed by the two variations presented; pink ling ($14) and salmon (not a regular menu item). The glazed eyes and groans in response to the crispy salmon skin were testament to its salty perfection!
The grilled corn with chipotle mayo and parmesan quite the surprise packet. Messy, but finger-linkingly moreish!
The tacos were good ($6-7 each), but I did feel a little underwhelmed. My yard stick for tacos is now the Taco Taco food van, and considering the close links behind the scenes between the van and Sons of Baja I was expecting a similar quality. There must be something about chrome and cold Hobart nights because for me the van wins hands down!
In saying that, on a subsequent visit I tried the spicy fried cauliflower taco and the battered fish taco and found these to be both spot on and presenting a nice point of difference.
Lamb and chicken quesadillas were next ($14 each), and if we’re going to be doing comparisons I’ll say that these were even better than those we tried at Pancho Villa, the more up market Mexican option a few doors up the road. Succulent, well seasoned meat entwined with cheese, nestled inside a feather light tortilla with a hint of crunch.
The baked oysters…? Not a fan. But that isn’t a Sons of Baja issue, that’s my palate talking.
We also enjoyed a serve of their chicken mole and tamarind glazed salmon, with churros to finish the evening on a sweet note. Sadly, by that time of the evening the lights were low and the camera simply an oversized and completely useless accessory, so no photos.
There were also hints of an unsteady hand, as I’d just consumed a sensational and extremely spicy mezcal pickleback…but I prefer to blame the light!
Now here is where things get interesting. If I was to base my final opinion on this experience I couldn’t give them anything less than a 4 out of 5. The food was great, the ambiance excellent, the service friendly and effective, despite being unexpectedly understaffed. In all ways a really nice night out with a bunch of good friends.
The sting in the tail was the return visit, this time with the silent clown in tow.
The food? In all but one dish the standard was excellent, however the spice rubbed skirt steak really let them down and it’s the one we were both looking forward to the most! The potential was lurking there, wanting to be unleashed, but the steak itself was barely lukewarm. The spices were incredible. The sweet potato smoking hot and working in beautifully with the pickled cabbage, feta and smoked almond. Without the steak though it was an empty finish to our meal.
Unfortunately, the service also was completely different to my previous experience.
There was confusion after being seated by one member of the wait staff, with a different team member questioning us a few minutes later whether we had simply walked in and picked this table for ourselves. Ah…no.
This seemingly disjointed service continue throughout, with excessively long wait times between opportunities to order (we had indicated we would be grazing and reordering depending on whimsy and hunger), and then when we were attended it was with the same questions we had already answered during their previous visit.
To top it all off it was only through ordering both the tequila and mezcal picklebacks that I realised I’d actually been served the wrong one when I ate there with the group (I’m a total tequila n00b, otherwise I’d like to think I would have picked it up on the night!). Delicious nonetheless, but still…
It was a bit of a dampener on my original experience, and it suggests that a third visit is required. Not such a bad idea really! Perhaps we should indulge in their $5 Tuesday Tacos…
Whether it’s your final destination for the evening or simply a pit stop en route to a big night out, the small but tasty bites, casual vibe and clever seating options at Sons of Baja make for a great option.
These guys love their Mexican and the passion did shine through during my first visit. I know that one of the team has recently returned from a holiday to Mexico, so here’s hoping we see some exciting new tweaks to the menu in the coming months!
If you’re looking for other Mexican options in town, there’s also:
- Pancho Villa – Upmarket with an excellent cocktail selection. Click here for our review!
- Amigos – Hobart’s original Mexican restaurant and very family friendly
- Taco Taco – One of Hobart’s first, and best food trucks to hit the streets. Click here for our review!
- The Funky Cactus – Another great food truck serving up delicious Mexican food
- Pacha Mama – A regular at the Farm Gate market every Sunday. Click here for our review!
Sons of Baja is located in North Hobart at 285 Elizabeth Street.
Drop by their Facebook page here – Sons of Baja on Facebook
Monday and Tuesday: 3pm to 11pm
Wednesday to Saturday: 12pm to 11pm