Sunday, March 15, 2020

Sixteen More Reasons to Love Mexico City

I was in Mexico City for eleven days to cover for a friend and chef who was off to teach the world about healthy food. Meanwhile, I wasn’t thinking about healthy food at all; the culinary temptations of Mexico City are impossible to resist and I was there to eat.  

Reading about food is the next best thing to eating it so with cookbooks piled high everywhere in his apartment, this armchair traveler spent most of her late nights reading about food. 

With a spirited, white cat named Bella, I was surrounded by good vibes, a Blessed Virgin Mary or two, a few dozen San Pasquals and almost every great restaurant in the city. I carried over some flavor memories from my last trip so first things first – TACOS!

When it comes to food, Mexico City always speaks to me like Chicago did. When I lived in Chicago, I covered Gourmet Chicago by Bon Appetit, a premier culinary festival showcasing Chicago’s world class dining. Sabor es Polanco is one of those festivals and I attended it last Saturday. Now in its seventh year, there were over 75 restaurants represented along with many leading brands of wines and spirits. Our home state of Guanajuato was the guest state this year; promoting Las Rutas del Vino and some of SMA’s best restaurants including Marsala cocina con acentos, Bovine, Trazo 1810, and Aperi along with La Cocinoteca in Leon. 

All the way around, this was a trip where the flavors of SMA and Mexico City came together. We also had the pleasure of dining with Michelin star chef, Vincent Torres, at his restaurant, Garum. Chef Torres recently opened Oli Tapas in San Miguel de Allende.
We already have a million and one reasons to love Mexico City. And now, here are sixteen more.

Buen Provecho!

A Tacos Tour
Whenever I go to Mexico City, I’m in a Taco zone. There are so many great restaurants for tacos, I quit counting. Taste Atlas, considered the “Google Maps of food,” conducted a survey with a group of internationally-renowned gastronomic experts and chefs and they named Tacos al Pastor one of the world’s best foods. No surprise here. Cities are often characterized by a specific dish and to classify Mexico City, its dish would have to be Tacos al Pastor.

Three of our favorite taco spots in Condesa are:

El Califa
Altata 22 
We LOVED the taste of El Califa’s Tacos al Pastor; one of our favorite Mexican dishes. Also order the chicharron de queso for a fresh bite of crispy cheese; you’ll never be satisfied with just one. El Califa stays open until 4:00 AM which explain why it’s so popular with chefs. The famous, spit-roasted al pastor is the taco of choice for many of them.  

El Farolito
Altata 19 
The original El Farolito opened in Condesa 55 years ago. Another impressive al pastor, we liked the fact that they’re on the crispy side; many people we know swear by them. El Farolito has one of the city’s most extensive menus, with a variety of tacos, tortas and other dishes. Also try their Carnitas, which are finished off on the grill.
El Tizoncito
Calle Campeche 362-A
El Tizoncito started as hole in the wall in Condesa in the mid-sixties and now owns multiple locations in the city. They claim to have invented tacos al pastor but even if they didn't, they make some of the best in Condesa. We also love their queso fundido, a small pot of hot, bubbly cheese, served in a tiny pot with 3 flour tortillas. Enjoy them the traditional way: with a shake of salt and a healthy splash of salsa verde. 

Mexico City’s Favorite Female Chefs at Panderia Rosetta, Sesame and Delirio
If it’s Tuesday, it’s a great day of eating with three of the city’s most remarkable, female chefs; all of them in Roma Norte. 

First, we’re at Chef Elena Reygadas Panderia Rosetta, a bakery known for their coffee and yummy guava pastries (Colima #179) followed by Chef Josefina Santacruz’s Sesame, an Asian Street Food restaurant (Colima #183) for a lunch of Samosas with tomato chutney and curry, steamed dumplings of pork and shrimp and a steamed Bun with short rib. Finally, we’re at Chef Mónica Patiño’s Delirio, a small epicurean spot with a total Parisian feel (Monterrey #116) for dessert: Pavlova with whipped cream and berries. These three restaurant are quintessentially Mexico City. In my next life, I'm coming back as the person who sits at Delirio all afternoon and sips hot or cold Cafe Correcto: coffee, rompope and milk and watches half of Colonia Roma walk by. It’s one of our favorite things to do and we often end the day at Delirio.

I love the cafe culture in this city; it reminds me of Europe. Delirio also constructs a great torta; made of European-style charcuterie and Mexican cheeses. Almost everything offered in the restaurant is Mexican-made and organic. Try their flaky, chocolate croissant for breakfast. We need more sidewalk cafes in SMA and Delirio reminds us of that every time we go.

Tr3s Tonala
And now, for the real reason we came to Mexico City in the first place – to eat at Chef Marco Cruz’s new restaurant, in a much talked about classic, art deco building in Colonia Roma.

We know the food is good; we eat with this chef all the time back in SMA. Between the Tempura Fish Tacos, the braised octopus with hoja santa, chimichurri, chorizo, brussels sprouts and potatoes, the toasted bread with eggplant and the white chocolate mousse with berries and homemade ice cream, we got a double dose of Chef Cruz’s more than fabulous flavors. Mexico City is his home; Chef Cruz first made a name for himself here, cooking at La Estacion, a restaurant which was started by SMA businessman, Daniel Estebaranz, along with Chef-legend Enrique Olvera.

This beautiful new restaurant is always full; recently opening a speakeasy on the second level. There’s a reason why we’ve been passionately devoted to this chef since day one; he’s one of Mexico’s best. 

At Tonalá 171 in Colonia, Roma Nte., Cuauhtémoc, 06700

La Docena
Av. Álvaro Obregón 31, Roma Nte., Cuauhtémoc, 06700 Ciudad de México, CDMX

The dish: a Shrimp Po’boy; one of the celebrated dishes from this New Orleans/ Argentinean Oyster Bar, served on a crunchy baguette with plenty of tartar sauce, house mayo and lots of spicy shrimp.
We sat at the outside bar and watched one of the chefs shucking oysters all afternoon. We love the energy of this restaurant; a great place to meet people and for sure, one of the best restaurants in the city for fresh seafood.
The Chef: Guadalajara chef, Tomas Bermudez puts a new spin on the New Orleans classics. It’s one of our favorite restaurants in Mexico City.

Bao Bao Taiwanese Eatery
Guanajuato 202
On the recommendation of Chef Michael Coon, I took a seat at their sidewalk café when they opened and piled through the menu. One of the best Asian restaurants we’ve eaten at in Mexico City, we ordered a different version of the Pork and Shrimp Wontons that I always make at home. These were steamed and rolled in a special sauce with noodles and veggies. The night market popcorn chicken was also a delight. This new restaurant, open just four months ago, is a celebrated addition to the terrific, Asian food scene in Mexico City. Put the Dan Dan Noodles on your list and tell owner, Katherine Fong, we sent you; she’s as genuine as the food is.

Calle Alejandro Dumas 97, Polanco IV Sección Miguel Hidalgo 11550
We love this gourmet shop in Polanco where the restaurant always serves up one of the most interesting meals we eat. We had the Egg in a Cazuela with jocoque (made from milk with a consistency somewhere between yogurt and cheese,) zaatar and rib eye. I resisted the chocolate croissant this time; one of the best we’ve eaten anywhere, saving all of our calories for a late lunch.

Av. Pdte. Masaryk 513, Polanco, Polanco II Secc, Miguel Hidalgo, 11560
Food for the senses, every dish was art; his eye for presentation can be compared to Chef Virgilio Martínez Véliz of Central in Lima, Peru. Chef Vincente Torres was awarded a Michelin star at La Sucursal, in the Valencian Institute of Modern Art and studied under chefs Frédéric Anton, Martín Berasategui and Alain Senderens. Specializing in Mediterranean food made with Mexican products, we were impressed with the elegant, simple beauty of both the food and the restaurant.

On the menu for our 5 course tasting were 14 people and 2 chefs; all who prepared the meal. We started with a pumpernickel bread with organic butter of Queretaro and enjoyed four appetizers, all of which we really good, especially the Brioche with Beef Tartar and a souffle bread stuffed with a mushroom marinade. Then came the Turron of Foie-Gras; sauteed white asparagus, yerma marinate with truffle and a fantastic, Kampachi salad. Kampachi is a sashimi-quality fish with a clean, crisp bite and a rich, buttery flavor. It was one of my favorite courses along with the Veal Ossobuco, the cheesecake made of Ocosingo cheese served with strawberry and pepper ice cream and a balsamic reduction and the luscious Macarrons of raspberry and Litchi and Madalenas of white chocolate and goat cheese. We loved the fact that Chef Torres introduced us to so many new ingredients at this meal.
And so we add Garum to our growing list of favorite restaurants in Mexico City; it’s in the top ten in Mexico and now we know why. It was one of the most interesting and artistic meals we’ve eaten; the next course was always a surprise.
Chef Vincente Torres also owns Oli Tapas in Doce 18 Concept House in San Miguel de Allende.

Asia Bay
Av. Tamaulipas 95, Hipódromo, Cuauhtémoc, 06170 Ciudad de México
The dish: Szechuan Beef with peppers and onions made with lots and lots of meat. Come hungry; the portions are huge. Go Sunday for the duck; a show with elegant, white glove service.
The Chef: Since 1946, Chef Luis Chiu’s Chinese family has experience in Chinese restaurants in Mexico. Their family restaurant, Shanghai Restaurant, was the first Chinese restaurant in Mexico City’s Chinatown. Asia Bay is located in his family’s former residence. Serving food from Canton, Sichuan, Beijing and Shanghai, he studied gastronomy in Shanghai; his hometown.

Some tasty afterthoughts:
The Secret Doughnut Society
Calle Tabasco 262
This freshly made, glazed doughnut, dripping with maple syrup and covered with bacon was as good as the game to get it. Good luck if you can find the second door on the first try. The menu is all take out; no place to eat them but the streets.
The secret is how you get your doughnuts; a clever play on a mystery and we don’t want to spoil the surprise.
La Condesa Cupcakería
Campeche 322
With a true Dulce de Leche taste, these yummy cupcakes came loaded with a surprise in the middle: caramel, and lots of it.

Parian Condesa
Av Nuevo León 107, Condesa
One of the city's  indoor food markets offers fresh fish, organic produce, grilled meats and tasty food from its 10 stalls, including famous Oaxacan restaurant, Pasillo de Humo.

We remembered the Oaxaca Chocolate Ice Cream from last time we were here; a super- smooth, creamy frozen dessert that did not disappoint the second time around. We love all ice cream but there isn’t a flavor out there that’s as rich as Oaxaca Chocolate.

Sabor es Polanco
To anyone who loves food, we saved the best for last. I use to cover Gourmet Chicago presented by Bon Appetit; a food festival in Chicago and for a minute, I thought I was there. Now in its seventh year, Sabor es Polanco had 75+ restaurants represented along with many name brands of wines and spirits.

Our home state of Guanajuato was the guest state; promoting Las Rutas del Vino and some of SMA’s best restaurants including Marsala cocina con acentos, Bovine, Trazo 1810, and Aperi along with La Cocinoteca in Leon. Don't miss this show next year; it was the best food show I've been to in Mexico.

As a grateful guest of Guanajuato Tourism, we ate so much food our final day in the city, it was a message to finally head home but not until we've had another one of those Bailey's Ice bars; they were one of the hits of the show.