Sunday, May 26, 2019

Chef Juan Arroyo Pineda Opens SMA's Latest Culinary Gem: La Doña

In the grand style of her namesake, actress Maria Felix, La DONA has arrived and she promises to be one of the most talked about new restaurants in SMA this year.

Located at San Francisco #32 in San Miguel de Allende, she’s got all the markings of a great restaurant: exceptional food, superb quality, excellent service and an affordable price point. It’s not often we do a feature on a new restaurant until they’ve had some time to work out the kinks but in the case of La Dona, there just weren't any.

About the time one of the owners was explaining the significance of “La Dona”  - a lesson of passion they leave out of college Spanish – we were sizing up the menu that offers a fresh twist on many of the Mexican classics. While most fine dining menus have far more dishes than people want to choose from, La Dona’s menu, including the wine list, is short and sweet. The dessert menu has only four dishes, all of them memorable, most notably the ever-so-light flourless corn cake and the Bunuelos, unlike the ones we’ve had in the past but now the best we’ve ever tasted - stuffed with guava “ate”, fresh cheese, piloncillo honey and orange with café de olla ice cream.

Whenever I’m asked what gives a new restaurant staying power it’s always about the food and in this case, Chef Juan Arroyo Pineda delivers a high-quality collection of dishes that are both imaginative and exciting. You'll also love the prices and most of the portions are so generous, you can split a dish with two or three people.

Chef Juan Arroyo Pineda currently has five other restaurants in addition to La Dona: Piquina San Pedro, a casual Mexican restaurant and Bistro Monsieur, a French restaurant, both in Monterrey and Bravo Butchers, a Mexican restaurant, Mylita Cocina, a rustic Italian restaurant and Central Namu, an Asian fusion restaurant, all in Villahermosa, Tabasco. His years of experience include stints at Restaurante Vegetarían, 1989- 2000; Restaurante Pangea, 2000- 2002;Restaurante Genoma and Restaurante Bardot (Grupo Pangea), 2002-2006; Horno 3 (El Lingote), 2009- 2011; Restaurante Pan Tomate, 2011- 2012; Restaurante Bardot (Grupo Pangea), 2012- 2013 and Restaurante Vasto, 2013 – 2014.
He’s managed to attract an experienced staff, all eager to learn the secrets of the master, including neXtia alumni, Chef Juan Manuel Galvan Lopez and Pastry Chef, Vichenza Salinas. Chef Juan Manuel Galvan Lopez is no stranger to the limelight himself. Last June, he was named the Chef of the Year of the Cultural Destination of Mexico at a national competition.

Miguel Sagal tops the list as the restaurant’s managing partner with far too much experience to put on paper, along with Hotel Nena owners, Paco Rosendo and Billy Mervin, who told me last year that he was going to open not the best but “THE BEST” restaurant in SMA.
We let the chef choose our menu the first two days and we selected the dishes for our third and final lunch. They included the following dishes; all of them five star:

Roasted cauliflower in a wood fire oven marinated in dehydrated tomato chimichurri with seasoned Gorgonzola cheese dressing. $185 pesos

Roasted bone marrow crusted with dried chilies and tostadas on the side. $165 pesos

Seared tuna Peruvian ceviche with Jamaican crust, avocado spheres, soy vinaigrette and Serrano pepper. $190 pesos

Laminated roasted Portobello mushrooms with citrus vinaigrette, argula salad, parmesan slices and truffle oil. $175 pesos

Pistachio crusted salmon with rustic mashed potatoes and sautéed baby tomatoes with pumpkin flower and huitlacoche. $320 pesos

Pork Chamorro cooked for four hours over low heat, barbecue style accompanied with rustic mashed potatoes and fresh purslane. $290 pesos

Chicken breast in black mole with fried plantain and homemade red rice. $230 pesos

Corn bread with Glorias de Linares sauce and ice cream of burnt milk and marzipan. $115 pesos

Homemade rice baked in different textures with a mix of three types of milk, vanilla, raisins and blueberries and caramelized pistachios. $115 pesos

Bunuelos with guava “ate”, fresh cheese, piloncillo honey and orange with café de olla ice cream. $115 pesos

So what should we expect from a chef who spent the first twelve years of his career cooking vegetarian food? The wood fired cauliflower; one of the signature dishes at La Dona and the best new dish in SMA this year.

La Dona is cooking many of its dishes with firewood. You’ll find wood fired steaks on the menu: Arrachera, Cowboy and Rib Eye and other items, including the delicious Peruivan Tuna Ceviche. So many distinctive flavors can be extracted from different types of wood so we like the fact that we can expect the unexpected at La Dona.  

Chef Juan Arroyo Pineda also has a most important, behind-the-scenes role on Master Chef Mexico - interviewing and casting the chef contestants and overseeing the preparation of their dishes during the season.

We love a restaurant that continues to surprise us and La Dona is it. Stay tuned for updates when breakfast and brunch are added in June.

Buen Provecho.

La Dona
San Francisco #32, San Miguel de Allende
Monday - Wednesday 12:00 Noon - 10:00 PM
Thursday - Sunday 12:00 Noon - 11:30 PM
Sunday 11:00 AM - 9:00 PM

Thursday, May 2, 2019

The Best Sandwiches in San Miguel de Allende

We’ve listed eighteen sandwiches that convinced us the best meal of the day in SMA can be found between two slices of bread.

With an Egg Salad, Dagwood, Bologna, Corned Beef on Rye, Tuna Melt,  Club, Gyro, Falafel, Fish, Italian Beef, Muffaletta, Patty Melt, PBn’J, Meatball, Cemita, Meatloaf, Chicken Biscuit, Porchetta, Cuban, Lobster Roll, Pulled Pork, Grilled Cheese (we’re coming Inside Café), Banh Mi, Ruben, and Philly Cheesesteak, the SMA sandwich challenge is on! We’ve now given our chefs plenty of food for thought to come up with new sandwich creations to satisfy our gringo cravings.

And while we’re busy visualizing a torta truck parked next to Chef Christian Guzman Rodriguez’s seafood truck, La Cevichera, on Potreros, we promise to close out 2019 with at least twenty five more.

Buen Provecho!

1. Sauerkraut and Bacon Sandwich@Querencia
This made-from-scratch, fermented open-face is our pick for the best breakfast sandwich in SMA. With homemade sauerkraut, a blanket of Chihiahua Menonita and a generous sprinkling of bacon, we never get an argument on this #1 pick, especially when you see the price.  

Julian Carrillo #4B
Hours: 9:00 AM - 3:00 PM Monday - Friday
Chef Esmeralda Brinn Bolanos

2. Chicken Sandwich@Birdies Burgers
The size of this sandwich alone takes some serious strategizing just to get your mouth around it. Don’t forget a bib and a hearty appetite. Food Confession? On a good day, we can do a double.

Birdies Burgers
Doce 18 Concept House at Relox 18
Daily: 10:00 AM – 10:00 PM 
Chef: Donnie Masterton

3.Torta Ahogada@Chef Sofia Antillon
This treasured, family recipe made of slow roasted pork with a blend of tomato sauce and spicy salsa has stood the test of time but you’ll have to hire this Guadalajara born private chef just to get a taste.

This dish is perfect as a solo for any fiesta; always our excuse for having more than one.

Contact: Chef Sofia Antillon
Nomada cocina de interpretacion.
Hernandez Macias 88

4.Smoked Chicken Sandwich@Bovine Brasserie
If it’s chicken you’re craving, the slow, smoked essence of Bovine’s chicken piled between two slices of toasted bread is definitely worth the wait. Pair it with their legendary French onion soup (or should we say an order of cheese with a side of onion soup) and you’ve just devoured one SMA’s most celebrated lunches.  

Faster than you can say Uriel Jonathan Frausto Tabares, keep on celebrating with a contemporary, late afternoon cocktail or your favorite glass of wine. This could easily become our favorite weekly habit.

Bovine Brasserie
Tuesday: 7:00 PM - 11:00 PM
Wednesday - Sunday: 1:00 PM - 11:00 PM
Closed Monday

Executive Chef: Paul Bentley
Chef: Miguel Alejandro Nuñez Salas

5. Beef French Dip@ Marsala cocina con acentos
The best French Dip in SMA is made the classic way: a crusty roll, thin shavings of rare, slow-cooked beef and a small cup of drippings for dunking.

Savor every bite because chances are you’ll want to do the same thing all over again tomorrow.

Marsala cocina con acentos
Calle del Dr Ignacio Hernandez Macias #48
Monday, Wednesday - Saturday: 1 PM - 10 PM
Sunday: 11 AM - 5 PM
Tuesday: Closed
Chef: Marcela Bolano

6. Shrimp Po Boy@La Prada
This soft Ciabatta is filled with fried shrimp and piled high with lettuce, pickled onions, tomatoes, avocado and tartar sauce. It’s the next best thing to eating a Po Boy in New Orleans without the cost of the trip.

La Parada 
Recreo 94
Wed - Saturday 12:00 Noon - 10:00 PM
Sunday - Monday 12:00 Noon - 9:00 PM
Tuesday – Closed

Chef: Alexandra Gutt

7. Cecina Torta@Nicascio comedor mexicano
Chef Pablo Nicasio makes magic in the kitchen, especially when it comes to creating tortas. Who else can use a simple ingredient like salted beef and take it the next level? Nicasio changes up the menu often so chances are they’ll have another torta on the menu the next time you pop in. Dig in; you can’t go wrong with anything you order here.

Nicasio comedor mexicano 
Hidalgo 28
Sunday 9AM–5PM
Monday - Saturday 9AM–7:30PM except Tuesday closed
Chefs: Pablo Nicacio and Hugo Tepichin

8. Lengua Torta@Nicascio comedor mexicano
This delicious Lengua Torta speaks for itself. Sorry, no pun intended.

Nicasio comedor mexicano 
Hidalgo 28
Sunday 9AM–5PM
Monday - Saturday 9AM–7:30PM except Tuesday closed
Chefs: Pablo Nicacio and Hugo Tepichin

9. Cochinita Pibil Ahogada @Jacinto 1930

This textbook mix of typical, Mexican ingredients adds to the delight of eating it with a knife and a fork. Luckily, it also comes with a spoon. We missed it the first time around and playfully got caught in the act of trying to lick the bowl.

Jacinto 1930
Doce 18 at Relox 18
Sunday 12:00 noon –9:00 PM
Monday - Thursday 1:00 PM–9:00 PM

10. BBQ Lamb Sandwich @Chef Armando Prats Leal at Oktoberfest
It’s no wonder this resourceful chef claims a legion of hungry followers; Chef Armando Prats Leal won the award for the best food at Oktoberfest last year. Don’t forget a helping of sauerkraut.


11. BBQ Brisket Sandwich@Smoked N Low – SMA/Dolores Hidalgo
No matter what you order, if it’s been inside Smoke N-Low’s smoker pit, you know it’s going to be authentic.

Smoked N’ Low
Carretera Dolores Hidalgo-San Miguel de Allende Km 7.4, 37700 San Miguel de Allende
Daily: 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM

12. Carnita Torta@Bautista Brothers
The only thing this famous, Mexican sandwich needs is a generous sprinkling of salt. One of the best Mexican moments you’ll experience in SMA is the delicious side.

Bautista Brothers Carnitas
Guadiana #2
7 AM – they run out

13. Pork Belly Sandwich@Buenos Aires de Campo
If we had more food festivals in SMA, we’d still never get tired of eating the remarkable sandwiches created by Buenos Aires de Campo. We’d eat this grilled sandwich every day – 365 of them - but then, who’s counting when you’re talking about Pork Belly?

Buenos Aires Bistro/ Buenos Aires de Campo
Mesones #62
Sunday – Saturday: 1:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Chef: Mariano Alvarez

14. Torta de Chilaquil @ Le Mexicain Bistro

Torta de Chilaquil is a popular dish in Mexico City and it’s our favorite dish on Le Mexicain Bistro’s breakfast menu. Don’t count the calories in this sandwich; it’s an overkill of carbs but it’s one of our favorite reasons to get out of bed. We liked this crunchy double even better when we got the bill.

Le Mexicain Bistro
Salida a Celaya #71
Breakfast Daily 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Comida Daily 1:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Owner: Mi Bistro 300, Quebrada 18-D

15. Chicken Sandwich with mole and apple salad@San Mezcal

If you catch all of the mole dripping down your chin without a napkin, we’ll personally pack you a second. Wash down this Mexican moment with a double shot of smoky mescal. Take your pick; San Mezcal has over 100 labels to pick from.
There, now, wasn’t that the quickest trip to Oaxaca you’ve ever made without going to the airport?

San Mezcal
Recreo # 88
Sunday - Monday: 5:00 PM - 10:00 PM
Wednesday - Saturday: 5:00 PM - 11:00 PM
Tuesday: Closed

16. BLT@San Mezcal 
Summer can’t come soon enough with these paper-thin slices of red and green tomatoes topped off with the usual bacon and lettuce with a smoky smear of chipotle mayo. It’s even better with a double portion of bacon. Wrap it in bacon and we’ll take a dozen to go.
San Mezcal
Recreo # 88
Sunday - Monday: 5:00 PM - 10:00 PM
Wednesday - Saturday: 5:00 PM - 11:00 PM
Tuesday: Closed

17. Pork Cheek Sandwich@Buenos Aires de Campo
This is easy: our favorite cut of meat cooked by our favorite BBQ chef is also our favorite sandwich.

People always ask me if this sandwich is really that good. The answer is always yes, no matter how many times we eat it.

Buenos Aires Bistro/ Buenos Aires de Campo
Mesones #62
Sunday – Saturday: 1:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Chef: Mariano Alvarez

 18. Apple and Brie Sandwich@Nomada cocina de interpretacion
It was a great day for vegetarians in SMA when we found our former Marchanta favorite on the menu at Nomada.
With all the layering of textures and flavors, this sandwich is a feast in itself. Besides, we like going meatless once a week. (photo above)

Nomada cocina de interpretacion
Hernandez Macias #88
Monday and Wednesday - Saturday: 9 AM - 10 PM
Sunday: 9 AM - 6 PM
Tuesday: Closed
Chef: Marco Cruz