Houston… we have a taco.
Despite its funky internet website that many call it a pain in the backside, it doesn’t stop this 2-year-old Mexican restaurant doing a roaring trade up here on the Central Coast in NSW. Locals and Sydneysiders are lining up on most weeknights and weekends, resulting a Mexican wave along the coast that has no sign of slowing down. Rojo Rocket is hard to be missed with its prime location right next to a roundabout that leads to Avoca and Kincumber; if the large mural of a Lucha Libre Mexican wrestler at the entrance doesn’t catch your attention, the pointy tip of an erected large red rocket will definitely make you to have a double take with a “what the?” moment as you driving past.
Rojo Rocket is a joint venture between Nigdali Reed and Adrian Reed, the backbone of this restaurant who brought the true Mexican cuisine (not Tex-Mex) to this part of town, whereas Big Day Out’s owner, Ken West and his partner, Cathy Rechichi are obviously the driving force to make punters raving from the concerts to the restaurant. Mixed reviews, the always fully-booked crowd and bad timings have been restricting me from visiting this restaurant, but “Why cook Wednesday? $3 taco special” is the draw card that I simply couldn’t resist and finally make an effort to visit this place, come long The Pom and That Designer.
It is an absolute maze inside Rojo Rocket. The floor plan of this restaurant is more complicated than the Pentagon. A former resident house has been converted into a large space that fits no more than 15 tables with tight kitchen and narrow bar right at the back. But that doesn’t stop the expansion of capacity and spreading the tables out onto the verandah, left, right and centre.
And, if sitting up is not your thing, then you are always welcome to kick off the shoes and climb up on the lounging booths, do a spread eagle on the day bed and lay back on puffy pillows. But you do have to book or be there early to claim a spot if you want to be treated like royal.
But if you prefer to just rock up without booking, then there is always the outdoor casual seating on the upper level with the first come best dressed system. I actually like this part of the restaurant which is lot more spacious, casual with a good Mexican vibe, the table cloth alone will have me start dancing to La Cucaracha in no time.
There is no table service for the outdoor seating – so grab the menu, order the food from Adrian (owner) behind the counter and booze from the bar. Sangria by the jug is my kind of fiesta, the white sangria is a refreshing summer concoction of white wine, lemonade, orange flavoured triple sec, vermouth and a handful of canned lychees. I do find the sangria is a little watered down with pumps of soda water, but I am thirsty and ready to party, skull it down to the last drop. The red Sangria we ordered next is a lot tastier and boozier of unadulterated red wine simply spiked with granny smiths, lemon and orange wedges.
Tonight we hit the tapas menu and the cheap tacos, more than enough to share and willing to leave the mains behind. We kick start with some jalapenos rellenos. These babies are good… 3 large jalapenos chillies are stuffed with beef mince and sweet sultanas, then lightly egg-battered and deep fried to form a crispy golden armour; served with creamy walnut sauce on the side.
Alitas Borrachas, these chicken wings are marinated in homemade agave syrup, mescal and chiltepin chili then slow grilled to a smoky charred. There are bags of flavours in these chicken wings from the marination. Despite chiltepin usually has over 100,000 to 250,000 Scoville heat scale, these chicken wings are actually not at all that spicy but just enough to leave a slight burning sensation on the back of the tongue.
The tacos are $3 a pop and we only order one taco of each flavour (except the potato version) to sample, a sensible move to save stomach space so we can order more food from the menu. The lamb taco is shredded lamb meat slowed cooked in a spiced adobo sauce, topped with onion slices and a tangy tomatillo sauce. The pork taco is more or less the same, tender pulled pork served with a zingy pineapple salsa. But my favourite has to be the the fish taco, a small fish fillet is battered then deep fried, topped with onion, capsicum and a rich mayo salsa.
Without knowing what this dish is, the mention of pickled cactus on the menu is enough to make me order the Ensalada de nopales. I’m glad we made the right decision and it turns out to be our favourite dish of this evening. The salad is healthy mix of diced pickled cactus, tomato, onion, coriander, avocado and fetta cheese, served in a crispy tortilla cup that we happily snap the edges off and use as saucers for the salad, what a genius creation! It is also my first time trying cactus, these prickly pears had been boiled and pickled to remove their nasty sliminess, it tasted like jalapeno with the texture of capsicum, it is surprisingly quite appetising.
We also order quesadillas as filler to cap the night off. Four slices of flour tortilla are filled with melted cheese and chorizo slices, served with tomato salsa on the side. It is a dish best to enjoy when is still hot, as we find the quesadillas a tad cold by the time it arrives at the table and the melted cheese already set back to a firm yellow glue between the tortillas. We managed two slices before turning the rest into Frisbee.
Rojo Rocket is a nice addition in the Central Coast food scene and they definitely know how to party. If you are planning on a big Mexican night out at Rojo, then leave the car keys at home and Rojo Rocket will provide transportation and offers Miss Sabrina, a wildly decorated 9 seater 1976 Cadillac Hearse (I call it the coffin car) to give you a lift in exchange for a small donation service fee.
I like this joint, they can rojo my rocket anytime!
Rojo Rocket 366 Avoca Dr Avoca NSW 2577 P :02-4382 2255 Opening hours Wed - Fri, Dinner only 6pm till laet Sat, lunch & dinner, 12pm-2.30pm, 6pm till late Sun - 1.30pm to 8.30pm $3 TACOS specials is on Wed and Thur night only.