Once the quiet, purely residential area, Mid-Levels has seen a number of restaurants opening over the past few years, giving it more of a villagey feel. Mosque Street, in particular, now has a row of little restaurants and takeaway spots, which have just been joined by the latest newcomer, XOCO, a “Mexican cantina and bar.”
I have eagerly anticipated XOCO’s opening, very excited about the prospect of having a Mexican restaurant so close to home. Thankfully, the construction process wasn’t a long one, and I only had to walk past the boarded up façade for a number of weeks before it opened last weekend.
With a space much larger than its Indian neighbour, XOCO has managed to cram tables pretty closely together to accommodate at least 30 diners. The earthy, terracotta décor, with its simple wooden tables and chairs, definitely does remind me of a casual South American (I’ve never been to Central America) eatery, and the friendly service complements this.
One glance at the menu, however, and you know that you can’t expect authentic Mexican food here; much like many “Mexican” restaurants in our fine city, the food at XOCO is Tex-Mex at best. It does, however, claim to serve natural food, using quality ingredients, so at least that’s something.
We started our meal with the Atlantic salmon ceviche. I would personally call this more of a tiradito than a ceviche, but, either way, we could probably have done without it. Although the salmon was fresh and came nicely presented with pomegranate seeds, buttery avocado and fresh coriander, the whole thing didn’t have a great deal of flavour and desperately needed more acid running through it to warrant its title.
The quesadilla with organic Gunthorp grilled chicken was tasty enough, generously topped with pico de gallo, freshly-made guacamole and sour cream. We were very impressed by the guacamole, which was pleasantly chunky and nicely seasoned. The quesadilla itself, however, could have had a bit more seasoning and perhaps some chopped chillies to give it something extra, but it was nothing that a good sprinkling of Tapatío hot sauce couldn’t fix!
XOCO’s tacos a la plancha with Yucatan pulled pork truly showed the restaurant’s lack of authenticity. These over-flowing tacos (thankfully made with corn tortillas) were served on a bed of “Mexican” rice, black beans and salsa, which made them impossible to pick up and eat how a taco should be eaten, and generally a bit of a hassle. They tasted pretty decent, although, again, Tapatío was generously administered to give it a nice kick.
Desserts are apparently all baked freshly in the restaurant, so these vary on a daily basis. On the day we visited, it was orange madeira cake, which I think tasted a fair bit better than it looked. Although the texture was rather crumbly, it wasn’t actually as dry as I had feared, and the little chunks of orange zest running through it were very pleasant.
Prices at XOCO are a little higher than I expected, given that it isn’t right in the middle of Soho. You can expect to pay at least $200-300 a head, without drinks (the restaurant still doesn’t have a liquor licence). Service is friendly, but very slow and it seems as if some of the staff have never worked in a restaurant before. If you’re looking for authentic Mexican food in Hong Kong, good luck; you should probably just go to Mexico. If you’re content with average Tex-Mex comfort food in an unpretetentious and convenient setting (at least if you’re a Mid-Levels dweller), then XOCO might just about fit the bill. It might be a while before I give XOCO a second chance, but either way, it’s nice to have another dinner option so close to home. Welcome to the neighbourhood, XOCO!
G/F, Ryan Mansion
31-37 Mosque Street
Tel: +852 3620 2323