Howard Chen
16th Jul 2023

Since I’ve been in Australia, there’s been two prominent waves of Mexican restaurants popping up in Sydney. The first in the early 2010's when fast casual spots like Guzman y Gomez and Mad Mex (both started by Americans) started taking off and then during COVID-19 when quesabirria tacos started taking off thanks to social media.

The first wave was much more Tex-Mex than authentic Mexican, which has a much heavier reliance on shredded cheese, beans, grilled meat, and flour tortillas. The second wave was a fad. Traditional birria tacos from Jalisco are typically made with goat, and sometimes with beef or mutton. It wasn't until the 1950's where a taco stand in Tijuana started using beef since it was cheaper than goat and added more liquid that we now have the well known Tijuana style beef birria we know of today. In between the 1950's and now, cheese was added and the taqueros made their way into LA and boom, a new food sensation was born.

It's no surprise to anyone here that Mexican food here in Sydney isn't great: we have great produce, there are many people who have had authentic Mexican food, and it's not for lack of trying. So what gives? Sometimes things are lost in translation - like places using a blender to make guacamole, and sometimes it's simply poor seasoning. Most of it simply comes down to the tortilla. Corn tortillas here are simply mediocre, and that's because Australian corn isn't great. I'm more than certain over 70% of shops here use La Tortilleria and if everyone is using the same tortilla nobody is going to stand out.

When I stumbled upon Olotl and saw that they make their own white corn tortillas with masa from Mexico I had to check it out. Just opened in the Tramsheds with a limited menu with their full menu to come 25 July 2023, Olotl is the Aztec word for the "heart" of corn and the owner has been in Australia for 20 years. She recently brought her mum over from Mexico and she is helping her in the kitchen and she also has her son at the register so you know the vibes.

I ordered:

$6 - Mole Verde

$6 - Cochinita Pibil

$6 - Sincronizada (quesadilla sandwich)

The tortilla? Pure yes. The tacos? The flavours were excellent, especially the cochinita pibil, not to mention they weren't stingy with the portions. I have no doubt I will be back when the full menu goes live. The salsas, ranging from chipotle, habanero and guacamole, were also incredibly tasty. I can't wait to see what specials come along.