2010: The best and the worst of it
Despite the global economic crisis, 2010 was a good year for Mexican foodies, thanks to Unesco’s patrimonial thumbs up and the continued, tireless promotion of all of us in the Mexi-food world (we know who we are). I have fewer complaints than I did last year at this time, more ‘bests’ than ‘worsts’. That’s how life should be.
The best new venues of 2010:
1. Rosetta - Ok, so it’s not Mexican, but Rosetta just happens to be the best thing going in Mexico City. Despite being discovered by the high-hat Roma-slumming crowd from across town and the fact that locals can nary snag a table, Chef Elena Reygadas’ kitchen only gets better, perfecting an ideal culinary combo: great local ingredients done a la Italiana. Tanti auguri!
2. Dulce Patria – I had declared chef Martha Ortiz gone from the scene, Q.E.P.D. – years went by since she left us Aguila & Sol-less. But like Doris Day in Move Over, Darling, she suddenly reappeared from her desert island hideaway raring to go with a new snazzy venue, Dulce Patria. It’s a really fun place to take the out-of-towners and show ‘em a high-class Mexican night on the town. And the food’s good too.
3. El Hijo de la Rauxa – This little place, whose name changes with the direction of the wind, is conceived by chef /Artiste Quim Jardí, late of L’Atelier (see below). It's the best kept comida-only secret in the Condesa – experimental and eclectic albeit simple Mexican cooking – for a ridiculously low price.
4. Mero Toro – The Condesa grew up when this offshoot of the Contramar conglomerate, opened. Little arty dishes that might make Momofoku’s David Chang jealous use ingredients never too far from their home turf. As the place filled up with Prada toting trendies, quality wavered, but it seems they’ve got their act back together and are ready to take it on the road…
5. Nicos – Not new at all, this hidden 50-year-old gem, in Clavería up near Restaurante El Bajio, used to feed such divos and divas as Pedro Infante and Lola Beltran, as it is near Musart’s legendary recording studios. Recently, chef and son of the founders Gerardo Lugo Vazquez has taken over and is presenting a fascinating and unique assortment of rescued recipes that Frida’s parents might have been served.
6.Expendio de Pulques Finos - The first so-called pulquería to open in Mexico in decades is really a multi-level contemporary hipster cantina but hats off to anyone dedicated to keeping an old tradition alive...
And the kvetches:
A house is not a home: Casa Mexico bites the dust. This promising venue for ‘nueva cocina' which I tirelessly promoted, was, with its expert chef Enrique Briz, written up in the Washington Post. It was located on an unlikely ticky-tack strip in the Zona Rosa. So unlikely, in fact, that it failed to attract enough appreciative diners and ended its days pushing mediocre menus del día and six-packs to less discerning salarymen and office ladies, who will now have to return to Vips.
Other lamentable closings: O’Mei (the all-you-can-eat- Asian gluttons’ mecca),Benkay’s Sunday buffet, whose absence will cause many Japanese expats to return to the old country, and Quim Jardí’s L’Atelier, whose pizza and music were the best in town.
The barefoot Contessa: With the increasing upscaling of the Condesa, innumerable mediocre chain-like, low-class-music spewing Italian joints have opened up. Seems they’re the only type of places that can afford the escalating rents. Sad to say, they’re often full.
Just say “NON!”: Despite the fact that Unesco has recognized Mexican cuisine as ‘intangible patrimony of humanity’, endless promotion of it by Anthony Bourdain, Rick Bayless et al, and that the infrastructure of our capital only gets better and safer, tourists, frightened by the relentless bad news from the foreign media, shun the city and country and are heading for sunny Florida in ever greater numbers.
On that note, read this nice piece in the L.A. Times by Daniel Hernandez in which the likes of culinary history guru Rachel Laudan, market guide-ess Lesley Téllez and I, Good Food in Mexico City author, valiently defend our beloved D.F. street food:
READER'S COMMENTS:Gloria January 4, 2011
Great post! Food looks good too. Good photos as well, thanks for sharing. Happy New Year!
Verky January 4, 2011
Have you eaten at Naos, on Paseo de las Palmas? Expensive (comida for two w/ a glass of wine each was 1200 pesos), but it was by far the best seafood I've ever eaten in DF. I ate at Casa Mexico quite a bit. I really liked the idea behind it, but I 100% agree with your analysis. Given its location on that extremely tacky street, there was no realistic way it could survive. Hopefully that crew resurfaces in a better area.
Daniel Hernandez January 5, 2011
Laughing! Thanks for the tips and the shout. - Daniel H.
Carol R. January 6, 2011 at 9:14 AM
Looking good and I'm glad I'm not the only bitch in town...
Dennis January 15, 2011
I love Mexican food. One of the things that I notice when I visit countries in Asia is the lack of Mexican cuisine in the "Foreign" restaurants. Over there they have Italian, French, American, etc. but no Mexican food. It's a huge potential untapped market over there.
Nicholas Gilman replies:
There ARE Mexican restaurants in such places as Bangkok and Tokio, but they are of the Tex/Mex variety, i.e. gloppy Mexican food filtered through the U.S.. This is even true of Mexican places in Europe. I don't know why this is. Sad.
Penny January 24, 2011
Wish we had a Dulce Patria restaurant around here! The food looks wonderful and I am tired of fast food Mexican. I also love to brew Mexican coffee blends on my keurig mini brewing system. Mexican coffee is the best!
Andres January 27, 2011
I have eaten 3 times in Hijo de Rauxa and I can confirm that the quality/flavor is superior in comparison with the cost of the meal. It is a different type of Mexican food, but good at end. You will have strong flavors similar to "hoja santa" and very delicate touches as pastor fish or the salad topped with strawberry with grape dressing. Dessert is can be improved but it is not bad.
PAT July 3, 2011
I think the best pizza in Mexico city is at LA CICCIOLINA, Rio Nilo 90 colonia Cuauhtémoc, just a few steps to Reforma. Amazing!!