Sunday, 9 March 2014

Big El's Latin American Fusion

Tonight was my monthly catch up session with JL, Jae and ML, as usual JL was responsible for choosing where to eat and decided on Big El's Latin American Fusion which is located where Sake Bar used to be in Northbridge. 

When I walked in, I didn't get much of a greeting but I was shown to my seat where Jae and ML were already seated and had already chosen what they wanted so it was up to JL and I to quickly choose our dishes...we were hungry! We decided to only order 6 dishes because we were unsure how big the servings were and could always order more if we needed to.

Our order
Elotes Callejeros (Mexican street corn dusted with Big El's special spice mix) $11
Tempura Jalapeno Poppers (Mulato dusted jalapenos stuffed with Big El's cheese trio, with a tempura swirl finish) $9
Salvadorian Pupusa (Handmade dumpling 'El Salvador Style' with traditional Masa Harina, pulled beef, black beans, and Big El's cheese trio topped with chipotle mayonnaise) $10
Dominican Republic Style Queso Fresco Platter (Deep fried cheese platter with Haloumi, Camembert, Mozarella, Queso Blanco, Queso de Frier) $14
Peruvian Lamb Cutlets (Peruvian style spice crusted lamb, with lime, garlic, and assorted herbs) $18
Huaraches with Spanish Style Chorizo (Handmade Masa Harina 'boat' topped with guacamole, shredded Spanish chorizo, black bean salsa, and garlic aioli) $11

Our food arrived quickly and before our drinks...

Food and presentation - 3.5/5
The food at Big El's was nice, nothing amazing but it was good enough to stimulate the taste buds. Let's start with the corn.

I quite liked the spice on the corn, although it did get a little salty after a while so it was good that I shared with JL. The jalapeno poppers were nothing special, just jalapenos stuffed with cheese, it didn't really do too much for me. 
Elotes Callejeros $11
Tempura Jalapeno Poppers $9
The pupusa was not bad and interesting as I didn't really know how to appreciate the pastry which to me wasn't very good pastry. The fried cheese was tasty but it would've been good to know exactly which cheese was which.
Salvadorian Pupusa $10
Dominican Republic Style Queso Fresco Platter $14
I really liked the lamb cutlets and huaraches which were both very tasty. The lamb was perfectly cooked and marinated and the sauce on top just made it even better. The huaraches were really nice, I liked the different textures on the 'boat' and the combination of the guacamole, black bean salsa and the chorizo was just so tasty.
Peruvian Lamb Cutlets $18
Huaraches with Spanish Style Chorizo $11
Service - 1.5/5
One word, gobsmacked! What is wrong with these people? The owner's customer service skills (or lack of) was absolutely shocking! I mean they weren't rude, just not interested or professional. I walked in smiled at the staff (there were about 4-5 of them at the counter) and they all looked at me and just wasn't interested to greet me (I was not impressed), one of them did come out and take me to our booth and she did have a smile on her face. The owner came by and asked whether we were ready to order and we said we're still looking and he was like 'oh okay' and walked off, not a 'okay I'll come back in a few minutes' or something along those lines. When we were ready to order, he came by with his iPod sized device which meant it looked like he was playing with a phone when he was taking our order and it didn't help that he looked uninterested. I rattled off our food order and added my cocktail at the end, there was no acknowledgement from him and JL, Jae and ML didn't really know when it was time for them to order their drinks as he just stared and didn't say anything like 'would anyone else like to order drinks' or something along those lines. We didn't like his slouch and he was way too arrogant or too cool for school but he wasn't cool. Our food came out long before our drinks arrived which was another issue I had. The staff did not clear our empty plates even when we put the empty plates right at the end of the table and they had just put down more dishes; the staff were unprofessional, they did not tell us what they were delivering, it was just a drop and run and none of them looked like they enjoyed their job (not many smiles). When we asked for the bill, the waitress wanted to take away our glasses of water, seriously can you do that after we leave, she started taking the glasses then asked 'oh do you still want these?' - well I don't want it now that you've taken it away! The owner did come over with the EFTPOS machine and asked us how the food was (which was nice of him) and when I asked him if he was the manager, all he said was 'No I'm the owner' and then there was awkward silence. Oh my goodness, I was giving you an opportunity to redeem your lack of service and engagement, the least you can do is make some small talk and say hope to see you all again soon or next time! You and your staff seriously need to consider doing a course in customer service! Rant finished! Makes me so angry!

Atmosphere and decor - 1.5/5
They didn't put in much effort for the renovation and had kept a lot of the fittings from when it was Sake Bar so it didn't feel very Latino and still had that Japanese influence. I did like the crates on the roof and the big Mexico sign at the front but apart from that there was a lack of Latino. We felt that they didn't put much effort in the fit out of Big El's Latin American Fusion and this lack of effort is also reflected through the owner and staff who were really not putting much effort into their job. The art was tasteless, it just wasn't nice and we were quite repulsed. We sat in a booth (left over fitting from Sake Bar) which was quite bare (i.e. no decorations) and we felt quite isolated but I guess it didn't matter too much as the atmosphere was quite subdued. You could feel the staff disinterest and the patrons which I'm sure came here for a good time were unable to create a nice vibe, it was not a happy or enjoyable atmosphere and we left as soon as we finished our food even though we weren't full and wanted to keep eating but the sad atmosphere and bad service was just too much for us to handle.

Another thing to note was that they must have bought all the plates from Sake Bar because I recognise the serving plates which I guess if you didn't know isn't too Asian but for me it's enough to show the lack of commitment. Although, I did like how our cocktails were served and the new water glasses.
My cocktail - The Genie, Aladdin's Genie
Value for money - 3.5/5
Minus the service, atmosphere and decor, the price for the quality of food served was actually reasonable.

We won't be coming back.

Taste Test Total Score - 10/20

Address: 71 Francis St, Northbridge WA 6003
Telephone: (08) 9328 3380
Reservations: Yes

Opening times
Monday: CLOSED
Tuesday to Sunday: 12pm - late (closed between 2pm - 5:30pm)

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