New restaurant: Mr. Pancho

By Jocelyn Richards, December 5, 2014

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If you are like the rest of Guangzhou and satisfy your Mexican fix waiting in line for a burrito from that stand on Jianshe Liu Malu, it’s time to come in from the rain. The celebrated Mr. Pancho is stepping up its game with a spacious new sit-down restaurant located just around the block.

Radiant doesn’t begin to describe the sunny ambience that awaits inside this fresh establishment. Rumored to have designed the homes of celebrities back in the day, the owner has put his past experience in interior decorating to good use, bringing authentic Mexican energy to the scene with vivid yellow walls and checkered tablecloths. All light fixtures, framed artwork and ceramic dinnerware are imported from Mexico – as are the avocados, which ensure that the kickin’ guacamole does justice to its homeland.

Like many Western restaurants in China, Mr. Pancho veers a bit from its themed cuisine, but we’re not complaining. The eatery cooks up everything from Colombian and Middle Eastern dishes to Italian pasta, pizza and even Chinese fried rice and zongzi – glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaves.

For beverages, the iced hibiscus tea with lemon (RMB28) is refreshing but stronger than your average tea. Ours came a shade hotter than hot pink. To combat the blast of hibiscus, start with the plate of Nachos Pancho (RMB48), which piles cheesy tortilla chips topped with fresh salsa, drizzled sour cream and guacamole. Spice lovers may be disappointed to find that Mr. Pancho doesn’t offer authentic Mexican hot sauce or make its own – guests will have to settle for Tabasco.

If the nachos don’t knock your Tex-Mex craving, dip your spoon into the tangy tortilla chicken soup (RMB45), guaranteed to hit the spot with a perfect combo of hot and sour. The hearty Frijoles de Faustina (RMB78) will also serve as a delicious pick-me-up. An adaption of classic Mexican chili, this dish features red kidney beans and stewed beef ribs that quite possibly constitute the juiciest red meat we’ve ever tried in China.

Other highlights include the Mashawi Beirut – named after the capital of Lebanon, not beer pong – which combines expertly cooked barbecue beef, lamb, pork, chicken and salted golden potatoes on a sizzling platter (RMB98). Guests should be aware that some meat dishes are served raw, so consider double-checking with your waitress if the thought of uncooked beef has you running.

Chances are you’ll be too stuffed for dessert, so don’t feel too bad about missing out on the orange cheesecake (RMB58), which is only tasty as long as it remains chilled.

Mr. Pancho does a decent job with a wide variety of cuisines, but it’s their barbecued beef that will keep us coming back.

Price: Approx RMB150 per person

Who’s going: The young and ravenous

Good for: Barbecued beef and Mexican comfort food

// For listing click here.

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