There are lots of kingfish ceviches out there in Sydney, so it takes a special one to stand out. If you order the ceviche at Manly’s Tijuana’s, which opened in June, you’ll be thinking about it long after you scrape up that last spoonful of leche de tigre. It’s a concert of velvety textures, sour sweetness and salty spice.

“It’s our number-one-selling starter by far,” Tijuana’s owner Nick Bracci tells Broadsheet. “It’s never going anywhere,” says head chef Eduardo Miranda.

Peru’s most iconic dish is a strange bestseller for a restaurant named after a Mexican city, but the intermingling of Peruvian and Mexican dishes, ingredients and techniques at Tijuana’s is a natural expression of Miranda’s past. He was born and raised in Lima but has spent much of his career cooking Mexican. “Peruvian and Mexican food go together,” Miranda says. “They complement each other – they’re similar but also very different.”

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Almost every dish at Tijuana’s spotlights one country, while the other’s cuisine makes an interpolative cameo appearance. The chicken anticucho skewers, a Peruvian staple, are topped with a Mexican jalapeno puree. On the other hand, elotes, the quintessentially Mexican grilled corn street snack, come topped with togarashi and spring onion – a nod to Peru’s Nikkei food, itself a fusion cuisine. This culinary game of cultural tag continues across the menu up until you hit the taco section, which is pretty much straight Mexican. There are four distinct options, but the birria – and the ramekin of beefy consommé that arrives alongside it for dipping – is the rightful star.

Like the best Goosebumps books, your experience at Tijuana’s can play out in several different ways. You could just park yourself in the starters section, get an ad hoc share plate thing going, working your way through a selection of plates including tuna tostadas; panko-crumbed eggplant; and prawns cooked in white wine and mezcal served with slices of toasted baguette. Or you could take the tried-and-true entree, main, sides, dessert route. (If you do, the most popular choices are the grilled octopus and the barramundi fillet.) Many others just go through round after round of tacos and Margaritas – or Pisco Sours, to keep it interesting – even when it’s not Tuesday.

Despite opening in the thick of winter, Tijuana’s screams summer. The menu may walk a tightrope between Mexico and Peru, but the vibe of the narrow 76-seat space is pure Tulum-meets-Cabo. The textured white rendering on the walls and reed-thatched ceilings are reminiscent of adobe-style architecture. And the creamy upholstery and accents, soft lighting and conga line of cactus along one feature wall give the entire restaurant a leisurely coastal-luxe feel. If Venroy had a restaurant, it would probably look a lot like Tijuana’s.

You wouldn’t know this is Bracci’s first venue, or that most of the fit-out and design work was done by him and a few munificent mates in just five weeks. After a 17-year career spent wearing every different hat in the hospitality industry, opening Tijuana’s is the culmination of Bracci’s long-time dream of owning his own spot. Miranda, who arrived in Sydney in 2017, had also been itching to strike out on his own. When his long-time friend Bracci asked him to come aboard, it was an easy call.

“I did the menu straightaway, I’ve had it in my head for a long time, ever since I’ve been sponsored in this country,” Miranda says. “Literally, it took me 10 minutes to write it down – I’ve been doing someone else’s food for a long time, I thought it was time to do my own.”

Nearly every kitchen in Sydney is made up of chefs who’ve recently arrived in Australia. It’s exciting to think about the menus they’re dreaming up right now, which they’ll let rip once they have residency and can do their own thing. If Tijuana’s is any indication, there’s a lot to look forward to.

Tijuana’s
1a/4–8 Darley Road, Manly
0438284484

Hours
Tue–Thu 5pm–11pm
Fri & Sat midday–11pm
Sun midday–10pm

tijuanasmanly.com.au
@tijuanasmanly