The beef taco at Ghostboy Cantina has some people convinced they're eating a handheld pho, a tumble of beef brisket, onion, Thai basil and crunchy bean sprouts. Ghostboy Cantina would have to be one the city's quirkiest new openings, a surprise pop-up deep in the bowels of one of Chinatown's lesser known food courts. Toby Wilson (ex-owner and ex-head barista at The Wedge Espresso in Glebe) switched from coffee to Mexican, promising "tacos no authenticos" and a sense of humour - the oft used "gweilo" by Cantonese to describe foreigners translates roughly to "ghostman" or "ghostboy".
Ghostboy Cantina at Dixon House Food Court
Dixon House Food Court has always been one of my favourite places to eat. Its basement location, closely packed stalls and tables, harsh lighting and dated decor are the closest thing you'll find in Sydney that resembles the hawker markets in South East Asia.
Ghostboy Cantina is the weird kid in the all-Asian neighbourhood, a commonality of stalls that trumpet rice and noodles with 30 different options promoted with backlit photos. Instead of trying to fit in, Ghostboy Cantina does the opposite, bucking the photo trend and offering a minimalist menu on a lightbox backdrop.
Toby Wilson in the kitchen
The corner stall opposite the bar used to be a Vietnamese place then Korean. The woks in the back of the kitchen are eerily still but Wilson makes high use of the grill and deep fryer.
Peking duck pancake tortillas on the grill
Wilson's Asian-style taco is underpinned by the vessel itself - the tortilla. Most people don't realise he uses Peking duck pancakes, toasting them lightly on the grill and then sandwiching them together for reinforced stability.
Adding parsley to the cauliflower taco
The assembly line is quietly efficient, an organised mise en place enabling tacos to be pumped out with speed.
Asian tacos, corn and fries
The tacos are served on Asian melamine plates, all jostled together on a standard issue black tray.
Beef taco $6
The beef taco yields a saucy jumble of brisket, Thai basil, bean sprouts and raw diced onion dotted with salsa verde and salsa roja. A squeeze of fresh lime makes all the difference, and the Peking duck pancake, blistered with brown patches from the grill, is thin enough so the wrapper doesn't overwhelm the filling.
Adding salsa verde to beef tacos
Pork taco $6.50
It's the addition of sweet yellow peaches that really make the pork taco, the meat marinated in an East meets West mash-up of five spice and chipotle.
Cauliflower taco $5
But my surprise favourite is the cauliflower taco, florets singed a deep golden brown that come through with an intense and satisfying nuttiness. It's vegans ahoy with this one too, sauced up with a macadamia cashew cream and sprinkled generously with chopped coriander.
A cardboard carton of fries gets an umami boost from seaweed seasoning.
The salad offers a virtuous counterbalance to the fries, a mountain of shredded green papaya and carrot with Thai basil leaves, coriander and fried shallots. Our only quibble is we find the dressing a little bland on this one, tasting like weak lemon juice and not much else.
Seasoning the corn
But really, who wants salad when you can have buttered corn? There's a generous smear of butter on this whole ear of corn, dusted with seaweed and garnished with fresh coriander.
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2/22/2016 05:43:00 pm