I'm nothing if not an avid fan of Anthony Bourdain. I watch his food and travel documentaries religiously, and when in Hong Kong enjoyed being a fanboy as I ate the Michelin-starred dim sum of Tim Ho Wan and the incredible roast goose of Yat Lok - two eateries that featured in Hong Kong episodes of either No Reservations or the Layover. When writing about the inaugural Food Truck Rumble in April, I mentioned Roy Choi whose Korean/Mexican fusion food has made him and his food truck business Kogi stars of LA's culinary scene. With Perth becoming increasingly hip to global trends, I assumed the Korean/Mexican trend would eventually find its way here; little did I realise at the time of writing that it had already arrived just a few months before, and that it was called MIX. After being hipped to its existence by some friends, it didn't take long for Alissa and I to find our way down for a Friday night dinner.
Located in Equus Arcade, MIX is an unassuming and fairly small casual eatery. Its an easy one to miss if you don't know what you're looking for, and there are only a small handful of tables for dining in. Interesting, MIX is located across the way from Noodle Forum, a noodle shop that specialise in another dish featured in an episode of No Reservations - 'handmade' noodles made with the bamboo pole method. The fact that Bourdain fanboys and fangirls can try these unique dishes just seconds away from each other (in Perth of all places!) is reason enough to rejoice.
Wearing their influences on their sleeve and showing that their knowledge of this cuisine is well researched, their counter featurings photographs of Mexican/Korean fusion food in their regular food truck setting - including a shot of Roy Choi's famous Kogi Korean Tacos.
We placed our order at the counter and sat down. After a short wait, the two buckets of chips were the first to arrive. The Spiced Chips (left) were well seasoned, being a good mix of spiciness and saltiness and cooked in a manner that largely maintained their crispness throughout the meal. This second point is really important to me as I hate an otherwise good bowl of chips being ruined by the soggy quality of those that had the misfortune of being at the bottom of the pile.
Even better though were the Sweet Potato Chips, which were some of the best cooked we've had since the artisanal selection from Typika in Claremont. Sweet potato is a lot harder to get crispy on the outside than regular potato chips, yet MIX achieved the right balance of crispy exterior and fluffy smooth interior. As a Sweet Potato Chip fan, Alissa was well impressed before our mains had even arrived.
MIX offer a number of meal deals. Wanting to get a broad sample of the flavours they had to offer, the 5 Tacos for $20 deal seemed like a good way to try their entire taco menu in one go, and we ordered one each of their Pork, Fish, Tofu, Bulgogi and Chicken Tacos with their Roasted Hot Salsa for good measure. Being soft white corn tacos, one would think that at least some of their dishes would be gluten free but with the parenthetical dietary advice of '(GF)' no where to be found on their menu, its probably best to ask them if you do have allergies.
Alissa loves pork, so it was not at all surprising for her to select the Pork Taco as the first to sample. Filled with pulled pork, this taco was one of the more traditionally Mexican of the lot, though pickled Cucumber Kimchi was a clear sign of the Korean influence on the dish. Alissa thought the spicy sourness of the Cucumber Kimchi worked well at providing acidity in a similar manner to coleslaw in the Pulled Pork Po' Boy we ate at Po' Boy Quarter in Melbourne. I agreed with Alissa's assessment, but the comparison to the Po' Boy was a double edged sword; the smokiness of the Po' Boy was not present in the pulled pork, and while a very good dish in its own right, I think that extra smokiness would have knocked this one out of the park. Still, this ended up Alissa's second favourite behind the Bulgogi.
While a fan of seafood, Alissa is not always convinced by fish dishes. She was however impressede by MIX's Fish Taco, served with a wasabi sauce and coleslaw. The fish within the taco was incredible soft and tender, reminding us of the Fish Jijimi we ate at Modern Korean restaurant The Gaya. Served with the coleslaw, the dish had a lovely creamy flavour that complemented the texture of the fish beautifully. The wasabi sauce was a bit subtle for my palate, but then again I tend to like overdoing wasabi so it was as much a personal thing as anything else.
The Tofu, Avocado and Fetta Taco sounded like the weirdest combination of the five, but it worked. The tofu used was a firmer style, and its haloumi-like texture allowed it to work in tandem with the fetta in a surprisingly effective way - especially considering that these ingredient come from such different and disparate culinary traditions. The avocado got a bit lost in the mix however; I'm sure it was there but its buttery fattiness was overshadowed somewhat by the cheese and tofu interplay and the spiciness of the salsa.
Alissa and I agreed that the Bulgogi & Kimchi Taco was the best of the five, and that was in spite of beef being a meat that is far from my favourite and one I have environmental issues with eating. Bulgogi as it is is a very flavoursome way of preparing and cooking beef (being thin slices of marinated meat that is then grilled), and its spicy, umami-rich flavour worked as a perfect substitute for the usual beef of a beef taco. In some ways I preferred it to many of the beef tacos I've had (which I've always felt were inferior to pork), and I liked the sour note of the kimchi and the slightly coarse texture of the corn taco alongside the meat. Of the five, this taco best showed off Korean/Mexican fusion's culinary potential.
We finished on the Spicy Chicken, which was my second favourite of the five. Stay true to its Dude Food roots, the chicken tasted a bit like the chicken you'd find in a kebab shop, but with a slightly more Asian flavour to its spiciness. The kebab shop point of reference was heightened by the chicken being served in what is ostensibly a type of wrap, and it had a lovely late night snack quality to it. I felt like this would be an awesome candidate for an upsize to one of MIX's Burritos - something I'm gonna have to do when Alissa and I make a return visit.
The Verdict: Very Good
To find a Mexican/Korean place like MIX in Perth was a pleasant surprise, and considering that the very filling combination of 5 Tacos and two sides of Chips came in at $31, its a very good value too. It wasn't necessarily the best Mexican or Korean food I've ever eaten, and its Mexican references were more bastardised US Mexican rather than legitimately Central American flavours. Still, being a fusion cuisine we were never expecting anything traditionally legit; the main thing to note was that the flavour combinations worked successfully enough that Alissa and I would definitely come back - especially since we have a sneaking suspicion that their Burritos and Quesadillas are potentially even better than the tacos.