It seems as though the Drink’n’Dine group has always got a new project in the works. After opening House of Crabs and The Oxford Tavern late last year, their latest venture is Chica Linda at The Carrington in Surry Hills. While I’ll miss the Spanish-influenced paella onigiri and morcilla stuffed squid at Beba Y Cene, Chica Linda serves up some spicy, robust and earthy flavours from South America, Central America and the Caribbean.
It’s not just the food that’s had a Latin American twist applied to it – the cocktail list also features pineapple, jalapenos and of course, tequila. The ‘Hot Lady’ cocktail – a name that is quite appropriate that Chica Linda means exactly that in Spanish – is a sweet concoction of guava and tequila, while the Panamargarita packs a punch with salt and jalapenos.
It’s hard to ignore a drink that lists ‘fire’ as an ingredient. Even though it’s a weeknight, we promptly order some Burnin’ Passion shots for the table and go a little snap-happy at the fire burning out of the passionfruit cups. The shot itself seems to be quite variable, with some people spluttering at the strong taste of alcohol and others downing the sweet passionfruit and vodka mix easily. We suspect that the fire element comes from a high-proof spirit which allows it to burn for quite a long time – but it also means that it can taste quite alcoholic if there’s too much of it!
These chicharones are a great drinking snack. The puffy, light deep fried pork rinds are sprinkled with a chilli seasoning and served with a tangy guasacaca sauce.
I’d heard all about arepas from Charm after her trip to Colombia so I was keen to try these out. Arepas are a small, round flatbread made from ground maize, and can be filled with a variety of things. At Chica Linda, you have a choice of arepas filled with shell crab, smoked pork, and grilled cheese. The crunch of the soft shell crab is accompanied by a spicy hotsauce and creamy avocado, while the smoked pork arepa has a sweet honey chipotle glaze and pickled slaw.
Another small plate is the flamed longaniza – a long chorizo-like sausage which is rolled up into a scroll and grilled. It’s packed full of spices and flavour and topped with some cubed pineapple and aji chilli.
Moving onto the larger, family style plates, we have the king crab diablo. It’s a jumble of orange king crab legs doused in a spicy paprika gravy. The sauce is super tasty, and even though it gets hotter with each mouthful, I can’t stop eating it. King crab meat is probably one of the easier ones to extract out of the shell, but we’re thoughtfully provided with shell crackers, seafood picks and scissors to get through to the sweet flesh.
The achiote smoked chicken is a whole chicken on a plate served with a tomatillo salsa. The skin of the chicken is lightly browned from the seasoning and there’s a gentle smokey flavour throughout the tender flesh.
My favourite family style dish would have to be the roast pork. It’s a huge serving of juicy pork that’s topped with a colourful salsa of tomato, corn and black beans. Be quick to get a piece that has some crispy crackling on top!
We’re lucky enough to try all of the sides on offer as well. The green and red tomato salad with jicama, chia seeds and cheese was a refreshing vegetable side to counteract all the meat. The coca cola rice and beans actually does taste a little bit like coca cola, with a slight sweetness that went well with the paprika sauce from the crab.
There’s also a quinoa salad with fresh orange pieces, sweet bursts of pomegranate arils, barley, and a dollop of labna on the side. The two colour fries are gone in a flash – a colourful combination of sweet potato and cassava chips with a spicy mayonnaise dipping sauce.
Don’t forget to leave room for dessert which are also Latin American inspired. The chocolate milk cake is a dual layered affair of mousse and cake. I found the texture of the mousse layer a bit gelatinous, but loved the combination of passionfruit, chocoalte and marshmallow.
The hands-down favourite dessert was the guava empanada. It’s almost like an apple pie with a flaky puff pastry holding an apple and guava filling, and topped with dulce de leche ice cream and plantain chips. Next time, I’m getting one of these all to myself!
Penguin says Feed Me dined at Chica Linda courtesy of the Drink’n’Dine group.
563 Bourke Street
Surry Hills NSW 2011
Ph: +61 2 9360 4714
Open Monday to Friday, 6pm – 11pm; Saturday to Sunday, 9am – 11pm