This week, Jesus Catalan Meneses, ex-journo turned blogger and very Mexican Taconnoiseur is back to give our readers the inside scoop on Mexico City’s best restaurants. Whether he’s writing, researching social media, travelling, cooking or finding the greatest places for tacos, quesadillas, and enchiladas, Jesus’s love for Mexico can only be matched by his love of Mexican food.
Forbes Magazine says Mexico City is the fourth best city in the world to eat well.
Well, I say it’s the first one on the planet and I’m here to prove it. This is, after all, the complex, crowded and flavorful capital of the country whose gastronomy was the first in history to have been declared a world’s heritage.
The D.F. (acronym of Distrito Federal – Federal District-) is, therefore, home to hundreds of heroes who rescued traditions, ingredients and recipes out of every kitchen, mountain or fishing town. Undoubtedly, one of Mexico’s biggest treasures is its cuisine, so this is an open invitation to find them all and eat the entire city bite by bite. Here are a few tips on where to start next time you visit:
Azul Condesa (Address: Nuevo León 68, Colonia Condesa, www.azulcondesa.com)
The most imponent temple of Mexican fine food. Long live the absolute king of our cuisine, chef Ricardo Muñoz Zurita, who has thoroughly researched all over the country for years to create the concept. Fascinating like an anthropology museum, the ancient recipes served here are – thanks to the purity and quality of every ingredient – truly spectacular. Normally, you should go for the duck dumplings showered with black mole and blackberries; but August is an excellent month to try Chiles en Nogada, a dish that includes the three colours of the Mexican flag: it consists of a green pepper stuffed with meat, covered with white, creamy walnut sauce and shiny red pomegranate grains. It will explode in your mouth. For dessert, surrender to the chocolate tamal stuffed with almonds and raisins. It will take your breath away.
Dulce Patria (Address: Anatole France 100, Colonia Polanco, www.dulcepatriamexico.com)
While Azul Condesa’s atmosphere is happy blue, this cozy restaurant’s is bright pink. Planned with extreme detail and passion, absolutely everything here is beautiful in a Mexican colorful way. Part of the gorgeous boutique hotel Las Alcobas, pray to the Aztec gods that you run into chef Martha Ortiz Chapa: not only she is a feast for the eyes for she is sort of the embodiment of Mexican femininity, but also because of her evident dedication and obsessive perfection. Chef Ortiz is not only proud of her authentic Mexican cuisine, but her establishment, right down to the illuminator, decorator, architect, and art director (herself)… are all Mexican born and raised.
Beyond the pretty presentation of each plate (you will suffer to think you are to slice those gorgeously embellished, delicate creations with a fork), lie equally adorned unique Mexican flavors. Don’t miss the ‘tuna star with vegetables streamer bathed on spicy sesame oil’s rain’, and at the end have no fear: randomly pick any dessert you like from the menu. You can’t go wrong, they are all really marvelous.
Café de Tacuba (Address: Tacuba 28, Centro Histórico – walking distance from Bellas Artes Palace-)
Great place for breakfasts. ‘Novia’ is the Spanish word for Bride. After your first visit to this place you will inevitably be delirious for a novia (!!!), as it’s also the name of a wonderful sweet bun covered with butter and sugar that is only served here. Founded in 1912, they say a nun’s ghost wanders like a fleeting shadow around this picturesque, exquisitely-decorated Mexican colonial building, moving tables and pulling tablecloths out. Worry not, unless you do not order the legendary Enchiladas Café Tacuba (chicken-stuffed tortillas bathed in a wonderful salsa made out of green pepper, spinach and corn with lots of cheese au gratin on top of it). Watch out, what you find on the table is not vinegar but strong Mexican coffee extract that will be blended (to your taste) with hot milk in your glass to produce one of the best café con leche‘s you’ve ever tried. http://www.cafedetacuba.com.mx
El Huequito (Address: Pennsylvania 73, Colonia Nápoles – near the World Trade Center -, www.elhuequito.com.mx) While in the city, don’t miss the oportunity to visit an authentic taco shop. This is – in my opinion – the one that offers the best Tacos al Pastor (‘Sheperd style’ tacos) of the universe. This iconic dish from the city consists of marinated pork cooked vertically in a similar way to schawarmas or kebabs (it is, in fact, a result of the Arab influence in Mexico), served on a warm tortilla and oftenly sprinkled with chopped onion, cilantro and even small pineapple slices. Taconnoisseiurs always add a bit of lemon juice and spoonfuls of salsa (be careful, it’s spicy). This informal yet pleasant place that claims to have invented Pastor’s recipe (go figure) is an excellent option if you’re somewhat concerned about eating at typical street stalls. If you’re a meat lover order the Pastor Especial, or the fried cheese filled with pastor. The tortilla soup is perhaps the best in the city and the melted cheese with chistorra is fabulously decadent.
Biko (Address: Masaryk 407, Colonia Polanco, www.biko.com.mx)
A fancy option in the heart of Mexico City’s shopping district that will blow your mind. From its impressive high-end elegant decoration to the grandeur of the dishes masterfully created by chefs Mikel Alonso and Bruno Oteiza, this is probaby one of the most exciting hot spots you’ll ever dine in. S. Pellegrino knows it and declared it the 46th in the world. Get ready to eat true works of art based on Mexican basic and traditional products reinvented using the latest culinary techiques and a touch of Basque cuisine. Lose your mind to the delicious lamb gorditas -an unforgettable delicacy- or the re-fried codfish. This is also an ideal place to experiment with Mexican wine, the people who serve are warm and friendly and will be happy to recommend you the best matches to your choice dish.
Other food cathedrals you cannot miss:
Charro (Address: Vicente Suárez 30, Colonia Condesa, www.elcharro.mx) This attractive concept gives Mexican street food a touch of sophistication and brings it to a trendy ambiance at the center of the city’s most bohemian neighbourhood. The green chiles stuffed with flank steak are unforgettable. If thirsty, order an exotic giant glass of mixed fresh fruit water (and the Margaritas are excellent).
JASO (Address: Newton 88, Colonia Polanco, www.jaso.com.mx) The fortunate result of the marriage of (American) JAred and (Mexican) SOnia is a remarkable feud of excellent taste, decorated to please every sense and with desserts to die for. Ask for Sonia’s artisanal ice creams and/or handmade madeleines. They’re good. SO good…
Tuna (Address: Moliere 42, Colonia Polanco) Don’t let its name deceive you: ‘tuna’ in Spanish means prickly pear. World-famous chef Ricardo Sandoval offers a powerful fusion of Mexican and Asian food: a festival of strong exciting flavors. Ask for the beef ribs, cooked for more than 8 hours. If you’ve got the time, come back the next day to the next-door neighbor Oca (located in Moliere 50, www.ocarestaurante.com) for the most innovative and original treats of the city. THIS JUST IN: TUNA IS NOW CLOSED :(
Pujol (Address: Francisco Petrarca 254, Colonia Polanco, www.pujol.com.mx) Make sure you make a reservation. Mexican modern cuisine at its best. It already made the S. Pellegrino list, propelling the now somewhat haughty chef Enrique Olvera to a well-deserved celebrity status. Go for the tasting menu.
Pablo El Erizo (Address: Montes de Oca 6, Colonia Condesa, www.pabloelerizo.com) Small and simple with a sea-inspired decoration, the freshness of the seafood cooked Baja California style will seduce you. Perfect for a sunny day (beer in hand), the shrimp aguachile is magnificent. Order the grilled octopus with potatoes and oregano-scented black beans: the soft superb texture combined with the Mexican touch is unbeatable.