Koh Chang's favorite Mexican joint lands in Thonglor.
Established about eight years ago on Koh Chang, the Barrio Bonito quickly earned itself Tripadvisor's no. 1 for the island's restaurants.
Now its Mexican-French owners, Mariana Villalobos Torres and Julien Chardonnet, have brought it to Bangkok at The Commons community mall. Torres, a self-taught chef from Mexico city, controls the kitchen, turning out authentic native dishes from her family's recipes including guacamole (B220) served in crispy corn tortilla cones and quesadillas (B200).
The short menu rotates daily, but you can usually expect burritos, tacos and queso (cheese fondue) with different fillings and toppings like homemade chorizo, slow-cooked pulled pork, beef and lamb.
To drink, their bar stocks a list of tequilas and also rolls out creative margaritas, whether green and spicy (with cucumber and jalapeno pepper, B260) or fruity (with pomelo or mango, passion and strawberry, B250).
Their takes on the Michelada (spicy beer cocktail, B140) lead to funky varieties like the Mangoneada that features mango, chipotle and lime (B180), and the Tamarindo Michelada, made with habanero chili sauce and tamarind (B180).
Established almost a decade ago on Koh Chang, Barrio Bonito is recognized as one of the top restaurants on the island, as evidenced by countless gushing tributes on Tripadvisor. Fair to say, many were excited to see the Mexican restaurant open in Bangkok at the turn of the year. Good news is it mostly delivers on the hype.
Unlike at other new-wave Mexican openings like Mejico and Touche Hombre, you won’t find too much talk of fancy twists or high-falutin ingredients; just full-flavored Mexican tacos, burritos, ceviche and other antojitos (appetizers). The guacamole (B220), served in crispy corn tortilla cones inside a cardboard egg carton, transcends gimmickry with a blend of avocado, cheese and pomegranate that’s smooth and tasty.
Here, it’s all about small plates, and we mean small. Even with sensible ordering, you can get through most of the menu. The mini burritos (B140/1 piece) burst with well-seasoned beef but are gone before you know it. Better yet is the chalupitas de chorizo (B240/3 pieces), a mouthwateringly salty morsel of homemade chorizo and beans atop a flaky corn tortilla—better make that a double order.
The relatively hearty cold shrimp salad (B320) benefits from plump shrimp and a tamarind- and habanero-laced tomato dressing. Unfortunately, the overly dry lamb barbacoa tacos (B140/piece), with their daubs of non-descript peanut sauce, do not pack the same kick (though there’s little the scorching salsa verde can’t fix).
Dominated by a painting of the iconic Day of the Dead female figure with a skeleton mask, this is one of the more characterful kiosks in The Commons’ mess hall-like “market zone.” However, a bar counter and handful of awkwardly high tables can’t stop dining here from feeling like an upscale food court experience, for better or worse.
Our last visit on a Friday night saw the place heaving as an acoustic duo whipped up the raucous sense of occasion you find at Seenspace down the road. What the mall’s open-plan setup won’t give you is the intimacy of a standalone like Tacos & Salsa—though the Mexican-French owners make their presence felt with warm greetings and helpful explanations of the menu.
On the plus side, you can top up your meal with, say, a tiramisu from Peppina (Barrio Bonito doesn’t do dessert) or an esoteric imported beer from Beer Cap (if the excellent mezcal and tequila cocktails, from B250, don’t do it for you). Barrio Bonito serves down-to-earth Mexican fare in a communal setting that’s fun, if perhaps a bit full-on. Corkage charge B300.
This review took place in November 2016 and is based on a visit to the restaurant without the restaurant's knowledge. For more on BK's review policy, click here.
|Address:||Barrio Bonito, The Commons, Thonglor Soi 17, Bangkok, Thailand|
|Open since:||December, 2015|
|Opening hours:||daily noon-11pm|
|Live music, Parking available|
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