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