Sesame: Pan Asian that Pans Out
Mexico has never been known as an Asian food town. Yes, low-class sushi joints churning out heavy-handed Philly-laden rolls and Sino-Mex dives frying up greasy rice abound. But the “real thing” is harder, though not impossible, to find. The city is now host to several Chinese-for-Chinese venues, a couple of more than decent Indian restaurants, a bevy of Korean kitchens and enough Japanese places to bring a smile to even the most discerning visitor from the Land of the Rising Sun. Southeast Asian food is a tougher find, however.
But that’s where Sesame comes in. Renowned chef Josefina Santacruz, who runs the kitchen, loves street food. While she cooks for a living, she considers herself a 'professional eater'. A capitalina (born and bred in Mexico City), Santacruz studied at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, worked in many restaurants at home and abroad, notably as executive chef at New York’s Pámpano. She has even hosted TV cooking programs. While she loves our traditional cooking, she became enamored with food of the orient while living in New York and London and after traveling to India, China and Viet Nam, where she found that the best food was often found on the street or in markets--“Just like in Mexico!” she exclaims. Santacruz wants to share her passion for these world treats with her fellow chilangos. But she doesn’t invent nor fuse. “I hate that word fusion,” she explains, as we chat on the leafy sidewalk terrace surrounded by Porfiriato mansions in front of Sesame. “I call it ‘fusion confusion’. To fuse two cuisines well you have to master both of them. I don’t pretend to do that. What I do is interpret. Of course, no matter how traditional the recipe is, it’s going to be my interpretation of it that I end up with. I want to make sure people know this difference, between fusion and pan Asian.”
Sesame´s menu is indeed pan Asian, as almost all the offerings are simple, honest versions of the original street or fast foods of India, Viet Nam, China and Thailand. And all are done well. It’s a kitchen without precedent in previously Asian-food starved Mexico.
The décor is warm and wood filled, the furniture a pleasing mishmash of mid-century modern. Walls and menus are adorned with humorous Oriental mottos, including that curious one from India, “Blow horn, please” (this seemingly unbearable idea is seen on the back of trucks all over the sub-continent). In the evening Sesame fills to capacity, and a fun cocktail list is proffered at the bar. Daytime dining offers a relaxed, more zen, experience.
Prices at Sesame are reasonable; a light lunch will cost between $150 – 250 pesos.
Sesame is indeed “pan” but by no means “ongepotchket”. Try it, you’ll like it.
Colima 183 (between Jalapa and Orizaba), Colonia Roma
Open: Tuesday to Thursday 2 to 11pm, Thursday – Saturday until 2am, Sunday, 2 – 8pm
Guzina Oaxaca, at Mazaryk 513 (tel. 5282 1820) in Polanco is chef Alejandro Ruiz' venue for great Oaxacan cooking. It's worth a visit.
Casa Virginia is chef Mónica Patiño's latest venture, located above Delirio at the corner of Alvaro Obregón & Monterrey, the Porfiriana house is beautifully restored and home-style food is delicious Tel. 5207 1813
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