Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Restaurants: Do You Get What You Pay For?

                   Lunch Today: Pork Belly Ramen from Nómada cocina de interpretación

I don’t write about a restaurant because it’s expensive or inexpensive. I write about a restaurant for one reason… because it has good food. If it happens to be reasonably priced, that’s a bonus.

Our readers come from every income level; they are both locals and visitors; some from Mexico City who travel here on the weekends just to eat and to support the local economy. They all have one thing in common: they love good food. Most of them would rather spend their money on food, eating out or cooking a high-quality meal at home, than anything else. Count me in that group. I love to eat.
So what’s expensive when it comes to dining out?
I ate breakfast at Moxi on Sunday, considered to be one of the most costly restaurants in San Miguel, probably because Enrique Olvera, one of the best chef in Mexico, collaborates there.
If Moxi is one of the most expensive restaurants in San Miguel, why is it I spent only 65 pesos for a breakfast of yogurt, a plate of superb, in-season fruit and delicious, homemade granola? I’ve eaten other bowls of yogurt, fruit and granola around town but none of them like this one.
The breakfast was one of the least expensive, healthy meals I’ve eaten in SMA. It was also one of the best. What added value do you place on a meal with a pool view or fine china instead of paper or plastic? A cloth napkin instead of paper? Many people prefer those extras, especially when they can get them for no additional cost.
Want another good meal?
The shaved Brussels Sprout and Kale Salad at The Restaurant is 120 pesos and the best salad I’ve ever eaten anywhere. The Restaurant spends a lot of time sourcing premium ingredients that go into the bowl. The fact that I get two meals out it is an extra. That puts my cost at 60 pesos a serving or $3.53 USA. Where else can you get incredible quality like this for that price?
Can you taste the difference between a tortilla made with maseca and one made with heirloom corn? I go to Centli, a restaurant in Mercado Centro, because the owner, Manny Flores, acquires heirloom corn at a small farm outside of SMA to make his tortillas. Although Centli is the same price as other restaurants in town, you can taste the difference. Which one would you rather have?

The cornerstone of Mercado Centro is Chef Marko Antoine Cruz Sanchez and Chef Sofia Antillon’s beautiful restaurant, Nómada cocina de interpretación, where the now infamous and much celebrated tasting menu every Wednesday is just $390 pesos for 6 courses. I like the price but more important, Nomada uses the best ingredients you can buy. Experience the taste and you’ll agree that this is the best $390 pesos you’ve spent, even if it’s the only meal you eat out all week.
We all know there are vendors in SMA that charge “gringo prices”. When I first moved to San Miguel, I took a cooking class from Chef Paco Cardenas at Petit Four. I paid more for his program than I would have at some of the others but, as part of his class, he introduced me to all of his primary purveyors. From the get-go, I’ve paid mexican prices for most of the ingredients I buy every day. Value, not price, saved me hundreds of dollars over the past three years.

So what do all of these restaurants have in common? Good food.
If you think you can’t afford a restaurant, take another look. The $65 peso breakfast at Moxi surprised me, but then so did the $400 peso, 4-course, lunch I had at Aperi last week and the $145 peso bowl of the best Mac and Cheese with Oxtail at El Vergel.
What’s more important, quality or price? When evaluating restaurants, there’s only one place to start and that’s with the ingredients they use.
If a restaurant doesn’t use the best quality ingredients available, then you’re getting shortchanged...no matter what you pay.
Buen Apetito!
Where to Eat in SMA? One of our top posts, the Best of 2015 restaurant guide, includes a mix of high-end and affordable restaurants, dives, fondas and street food, all serving quality food.
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