Los Vida is Sydney’s newest Mexican chain, and by Mexican we don’t mean burritos, nachos and chilli con carne. We mean traditional Mexican. Los Vida has just opened its third and most ambitious venue, a massive three-tier, 200-seat restaurant-bar blend serving strictly non-Americanised Mexican food and an impressive range of Mexican-liquor-based cocktails.

Co-owner Mark Dopson says Los Vida’s inspiration is his desire to move away from the American-style Mexican Sydney’s become accustomed to. “It’s really been an LA-style cuisine and influence. A lot of people aren’t aware of the subtleties and differences.”

Other co-owner, Octavio Gomez-Haro says most Mexican food is exported from Oaxaca, the region just south of Mexico City. “We’ve taken a whole-of-Mexico approach; we've taken elements of northern Mexico, the south and the coast,” Gomez-Haro says. Los Vida’s menu has northern-style barbeque beef brisket, fish tacos and ceviche from the coast, and mole coloradito sauce from the south. The mole provides a rich base to Los Vida’s enchiladas. “It has 32 ingredients,” says Gomez-Haro. “It's very complex, there’s everything from cacao to chili in it and it’s all made from scratch.”

The kitchen is run by Pablo Galindo Vargas, whose previous work includes stints at Mejico and Mr Moustache. The range of house-baked tacos balances a few fresh ingredients topped with one of Vargas’ homemade sauces. We like the grilled barramundi glistening from a tangy Yucatan marinade with rojo sauce, lime and pineapple.

The bar is the new site’s biggest draw card. Run by Rodigo Vega and Ben Magee, formerly of Hello Sailor and The Norfolk respectively, it’s punching out tangy, summery cocktails and an impressive range of mezcal, a traditional Mexican spirit made from maguey, a kind of agave plant.

“We want to make it very vibrant,” Gomez-Haro says. “In Mexico when you eat, you dance. If you eat something too heavy, you won't get up and dance.”

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Los Vida Crows Nest
419 Pacific Highway, Crows Nest
(02) 9439 8323

Mon to Sun 11am–11pm