Nu'u By Nativo

Jackie McMillan
10th Oct 2023

Oaxacan food in a mezcal bar in Glebe? Colour me excited! While we dived straight into quaffing mezcal from carved bowls (jicara) made from calabash (pumpkin) rinds, mezcalinas are a gateway to loving this diverse spirit. The cocktails each highlight flavours in their chosen mezcal. For me, the herbal profile of Maria Sabina ($23) with cucumber, ginger, basil and smoked rosemary shone. My dining companion liked the salt-rimmed Juana Cata ($23) showing citrus with tamarind, lemon peel & agave worm. In the straight mezcal, 5 Sentidos Arroqueño by Tio Pedro ($28) was smoky and vegetal, while De Leyendas ‘coyote’ ($26%) spoke of candy & cacao. Sadly, from a list of just six mezcal, some were unavailable. 

No matter, Manuel Diaz’s dishes are easily Sydney’s most exciting Mexican offering to date. Earthy, nutty mole spread over corn tortilla stuffed with shredded chook — enmolada ($19) — cut by watercress and grated queso fresco, made me want to weep. Bright lime and mezcal vapours makes toloache ($26) ceviche of diced prawn, snapper & creamy avocado, a good contrast. Bone marrow beans and chilli-marinated pork are piled onto a disc of grilled maize dough under leafy greens & grated cheese in the round and savoury memela del mercado ($23). For a bright burst of heat, tetela ($18) — a grilled maize triangle stuffed with slow-cooked pig — sits on a tangy salsa molcajete (salsa in a stone mortar). Try a heavier Oaxacan salsa, pasilla, made using chipotle and adobo with the al pastor (pork) skewers ($24). 

With the only dessert, Oaxacan flan ($14) sold out, we ended our meal with snapping - fresh smoky green beans and crumbled chorizo — ejotes chorizo ($12) — chorizo and cocktails. Drink service, even in the tiny space, lags behind the kitchen so order before you finish your current drink. From the house list, the habanero-rimmed spicy Margarita ($21) is genuinely spicy; the smoky jaguar ($23) with whisky, black tea, pedro ximinez & honey came up tasting like fancy cola to me. Service is the only hole at Nu’u by Nativo: ineffective communication with the kitchen allows its frenetic pace to overwhelms table real estate (and the diner) and food to go cold. Eat here anyway: just order plate by plate.