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Eating in the DF


Sneakeater
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I'm leaving for the DF on Monday for a few days of fun and frolic. Maybe I can convince my friends there to help investigate this mulato business. And my intuition tells me that it has nothing whatsoever to do with the chile.

Damnation about the churros at El Moro. We'll probably go anyway and will post back here. We'll maraud around at La Ideal too.

We're also going to La Merced, and I'll take the various lists of restos that all of you have posted over the last few months. See where we end up...

What's new at Mexico Cooks!?

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Damnation about the churros at El Moro.  We'll probably go anyway and will post back here.  We'll maraud around at La Ideal too.

Even though my experience wasn't outstanding, I would still say to absolutely go for churros at El Morro. I was there on a Sunday morning as a prelude to a visit to the Franz Mayer Museum. I don't know many restaurants that are going to have their "A" team working at 8:30 AM on a Sunday, even those that are open 24 hours as is El Morro.

The milk-based hot chocolate I had was truly quite satisfying. It's just that I've purchased better churros waiting in line in my car at the border crossing at Tijuana. Based on everything I've always read and heard about El Morro, I found the churros rather disappointing in comparison.

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7. Tezka. Tezka is, as far as I know, the only restaurant operated by Juan Mari Arzak beside his legendary place in San Sebastian, Spain. My understanding, however, is that Arzak doesn't serve even as executive chef at Tezka, but rather leaves the kitchen in the hands of a young Basque protege whose name I don't know.

So your first question is going to be, is eating at Tezka a mind-boggling experience the way eating at Arzak is? The answer to that is, no.

That will lead to your second question, does eating at Tezka approximate the mind-boggling experience of eating at Arzak? The answer to that is, no.

Which will lead to your third question, is Tezka an excellent restaurant that one would be eager to revisit? The answer to that is a resounding, yes.

Arzak beats Tezka in audacity. Tezka features all sorts of unanticipated combinations of ingredients and technique, whereas Arzak is sort of unanticipated with a bullet. And the food at Tezka is excellent to Arzak's amazing.

But here's what they have in common: unlike at (say) WD-50 in New York, the food doesn't seem experimental. Once you start eating, you stop thinking about how new and unique everything is and think only about good and satisfying it is. You don't get the feeling you're on some new frontier of cuisine; it's more like you're eating things that could be classics except that no one happened to think of them before.

I have to make a confession now: I can't really remember a single thing I ate at Tezka. I'd like to joke and say that my mind just stopped operating after 10 days of vacation, but what I really think it is, is that everything was so unexpected and different that I have no mental referents (no dishes in my memory files to compare them to), so I have no cues for remembering them. Fish appetizer, venison main, what was dessert again? It was all superlative. (I do have to say that the venison, just as a piece of meat, was about the best I've had in years. How do they make venison moist and nearly fork tender, I wonder? Without in any compromising the flavor, either.)

Is it some kind of shame that the best food I had in Mexico City wasn't Mexican? No, as I said above, Mexico City is a big cosmopolitan city. Why should the best food there be Mexican? Chances are that the best food you'd eat on vacation in New York wouldn't be American. (It's tough to get a table at Per Se.)

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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Re: Tezka

The chef's name is Bruno Oteiza

I understand that Arzak visits at least quarterly ... can we find out when????!!!!! And the name, Tezka, comes from the name of the Dark Lord of the indigenous pantheon, Tezcatlipoca, Lord of the Smoiking Mirror.

They truncated it to Texca, and then replaced the Nahuatl 'x' with a more typical-looking z from Basque orthography.

I really admire your review: I have not yet eaten at Arzak, but I understand the comparison, and it is so wonderful to see a wonderful restaurant - in this case Tezka - not be shunted to the side simply because it is not like Arzak.

Due to an unexpected alignment of stars in October, I had dinner w/friends in Yountville. A member of the party is a purveyor to the restaurant, and the chef was in that night, and took charge of our tasting menu. It went on in a blissful, yet unrelenting way. I can certainly relate to the help that a mental/sensory frame of reference can provide: I wat batting about 50 percent on that one. I was in heaven, but utterly exhausted by that meal. It took literally a couple of days to get back to balance. I cannot, nor do I understand how anyone can eat like that with anything approaching frequency.

Thank the gods for Arzak, and thank them again, and equally, for Tezka. And thanks moreover for that thoughtful review.

Theabroma

Sharon Peters aka "theabroma"

The lunatics have overtaken the asylum

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So here are two things I learned about food during this trip.

First, I think I learned something about developing a cuisine. Let's take El Naranjo, Izote, and Aguila y Sol as examples. El Naranjo is a development, you might say a refinement, of a particular regional cuisine, the result of the chef's heavy longtime involvement with that cuisine. Izote takes a bunch of regional dishes and tweaks them with "modern" ingredients and techniques. Obviously, the chef can't be "inside" all these cusines the way El Naranjo's chef is inside the particular regional cuisine cooked there. Aguila y Sol doesn't really look to the regions. Rather, it takes certain ingredients and techniques indigenous to the country and mixes them with "foreign" or "modern" ingredients and techniques from elsewhere. But few dishes really approximate any existing regional dishes. They're really trying to create something new.

I realize now that I see the El Naranjo and Aguila y Sol approaches as valid, but question the Izote approach. You can't know enough about ALL those different cuisines to develop all of them. You can develop one (El Naranjo) or you can forget regionalism and try to forge what is in effect a new national cuisine (Aguila y Sol).

(This is obviously something I'm just thinking through now, so I don't advance all this with total confidence yet. And I realize that things aren't as categorical as I'm stating, and that restaurants like Aguila y Sol don't renounce regional cooking to the extent I seem to be claiming. I still think the thrust of my comments is correct.)

The second thing I realized has to do with my approach to eating (and, indeed, other things) while travelling. Previously, I would look for the most "characteristic" places possible. This always led me to visit old-school restaurants serving very traditional cuisine. But at least in thriving contemporary cities, that keeps me away from the places that locals of my approximate socioeconomic class actually ever go to. By my (former) lights, the first place I would eat as a tourist in New York City would be Peter Luger's, the second place would be Keene's Chophouse, and the third place would be the Grand Central Oyster Bar. All decent choices (OK, in PL's case much better than decent), but hardly exhaustive of what this City has to offer. Yet, I would never go to Babbo, Wallse, DB Bistro Moderne, Sumile, Honmura On, or any others of the places I (as a resident) actually frequent. I'd be so interested in having authentic characteristic experiences that I would completely miss out on the kind of experiences actual natives have.

In Mexico City, that approach would have kept me from going to Tezka. Even though that's the best food I had in Mexico City (and certainly isn't anything I could have here in New York).

But, as I said, I've rethought.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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  • 1 month later...

My dining experiences this trip in Mexico went towards the authentic. I attempted, with an open mind/stomach, to dine in restaurants tauted as the trendiest in Oaxaca. All of them left me with indigestion. In my opinion, they were attempting authentic dishes with dumbed down flavours in an attempt to satisfy what they deem the flavour palate of the tourists. I believe the cooks are too young and have inexperienced palates to pull off what the menus and the decors suggests.

I gave up and sought out the real deal.

That was my mind set, when we ended up in Mexico City, on the last leg of our journey. I just couldn't fathom going to Izote or Tezca this year. Instead I went to the tried and true of DF, with a slight deviation.

Casa Lamm for breakfast - a swish location in the Colonia Reforma, with floor to ceiling windows were you can enjoy a bottomless cup of coffee (a Veracruz/Chiapas blend), exquisite pastries while watching the morning sunlight peak through the trees.

For breakfast - fresh mandarina juice followed by grilled tender nopal alternated with grilled panela cheese sitting pretty in a pleasantly picante green salsa.

casalamm.jpg

No day is complete without a visit for hot chocolate and churros at El Moro in the centro historico.

elchorro.jpg Open 24 hours.

Another morning finds us in Cafe La Blanca on Cinco de Mayo and Isabel La Catolica in the Centro. They serve strong coffee, just the way I like it. My partner has more adventurous morning taste buds and goes for lengua ala Veracruzana. Breakfast of champins!

cafellablanca.jpg

Fonda del Refugio,

The place was practically empty for comida on new years eve day, we still enjoyed the same exquisite food coming out of the talented kitchen with many sangritas and cazadores.

Reidel Wine Bar - this is something slightly off the authentic, regional track but worthy of a visit for anyone jonesing for grape instead of grain or maguey. The small wine bar is set inside the lobby of the Sheraton Centro Historico.

reidel.jpg

Many wines by the bottle or glass, served, of course, in the correct Reidel wine glass. A small bistro style menu is offered, with something for everyone. We enjoyed a tapas of boquerones (white anchovies) over brushchetta and a healthy portion of goat cheese and peppery olive oil.

El Cardenal

Also housed in the new Sherton Centro Historico, this restaurant is hands down the best. Superb service, excellent food, interesting wine list.

El Cardenal is renowned for their authentic dishes with seasonal specialties such as flor de maguey, with escamoles and gusanos readily available all year round.

We started with the fresh green salsa with tomatillos, cilantro and chile serano. It was brought to the table in a molcajete garnished with avacado slices and cheese. We enjoyed this while the maitre'd made Ceasar's tableside. We chose a bottle of Santo Tomas Tempranillo (2003) for our plato fuertes of filete de res with an usual mole of xoconostle and chile guajillo. Earthy and perfect.

My partner had the pechuga de pollo rolled and stuffed with huazontle, served with a salsa verde.

We finished with the sweetest espresso I've had in a long time - a perfectly pulled shot.

We couldn't have asked for a more perfect meal on our last day in D.F. This meal was preceded by a boat ride in Xoxomilco, something we have wanted to do since our first trip to Mexico, 12 years ago. It didn't disappoint.

Edited by shelora (log)
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Here is a copy of my D.F. restaurant list...sorry if there are some repeats from above posts:

Mexico City Restaurant list

Izote

Presidente Masaryk no.513 (Polanco)

Tel.5280-1671

Famous chef Patricia Quintana’s place- it has been written up everywhere and is really worth it to sample elevated Mexican cuisine. Surprisingly not expensive. You definitely need a reservation

Danubio

Uruguay no.3 (near eje Cenral Centro Historico)

5512-0912, 5518-1205

Great seafood, old-time place in centro. Try the “camarones al ajillo”!

Coox Hanal

Isabel la Catolica 83, 2nd floor, near c/Mesones, (Centro Historico)

Incredible Yucatecan food- only for lunch. Try: Sopa de Lima, Panuchos, Pan de Cazon, horchata to drink. Very cheap!

Fonda del Refugio

Liverpool 166 tel. 5525-5352 (Zona Rosa)

The old tourist standard, still good though.

Contramar

Durango 200 tel. 5514-9217 (near Plaza Madrid- colonia Roma/Condesa)

Fabulous Mex/California seafood, informal, but you need a reservation, only for Comida (open 1-6 everyday)

El Bajio

Av. Cuitlahuac 2709 tel. 5234-3763,4(Colonia Azcapotzalco)

“family” atmosphere in wierd area north of Polanco, but easy to get to in taxi. Interesting, odd traditional Mexican food. Best weekend afternoon.

Mercado de Comidas, Coyoacán

A few blocks from central plaza in Coyoacán; there is an outdoor seafood restaurant that is fabulous (look for the long,long tables) but we go for the INCREDIBLE tostada stand inside in the middle- has to be seen to believed-heaping platters of filling- even our friends from Paris were amazed.

MP Café Bistro Andrés Bello 10 Col. Polanco Tel. 5531 7100

Fusion Mexican/asian

Águila y Sol

Molière 42 and Masaryk Col. Polanco Res. Tel. 5281 8354

Alta Cocina Mexicana – high end

Tezka Amberes 78, Hotel Royal Zona Rosa

Tel. 5228 9918

Supposedly the best in the country, chef is from Arzak in Spain, expensive.

Also should be mentioned is:

Sanborn’s (in the ‘House of Blue Tiles’) accross from the Palacio de Bellas Artes. The traditional Tourist experience for the last 100 years- good for breakfast.

Cafe de Tacuba, Tacuba 28, Centro Historico-pretty, old traditional place- food is OK, but great old ambiance.

Chocolateria El Moro Eje Central Lazaro Cardenas, near calle Republica de Uruguay. Old tradicional place for Mexican Chocolate and churros 24 hours a day, down tour blocks from the Torre Latinoamericana.

Casa Lamm Alvaro Obregon at the corner of Orizaba, colonia Roma has architecturally interesting chi-chi restaurant, nice cafe, and the best bookstore in Mexico.

Bistro Rojo Av. Amsterdam 70, Colonia Condesa always excellent for French bistro food, as is

Mosaico Michoacán 10, Condesa.

Casa D’Italia, Agustin Melgar no. 6 Condesa tel.5286-2021 Excellent Italian owned by Luigi, a napolitano.

Daikoku Michoacán 25, Condesa-good Japonese, open Sunday night a plus. Photo Bistro. Condesa Citlaltépetl 23, entre Amsterdam y Campeche – excellent French bistro.

Fiesole Best Italian in the city: Av. del Parque No. 2 -5 Col. San Angel Teléfono: 5663 1913

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I attempted, with an open mind/stomach, to dine in restaurants tauted as the trendiest in Oaxaca. All of them left me with indigestion. In my opinion, they were attempting authentic dishes with dumbed down flavours in an attempt to satisfy what they deem the flavour palate of the tourists.

That might point to a difference between Oaxaca and Mexico City. It seems apparent that Oaxaca doesn't have as strong a local restaurant scene as Mexico City -- that, to an extent, almost all the restaurants in Oaxaca are directed at tourists (and must be so to survive). To put it another way, Oaxaca (like the Yucatan and, for all I know, most parts of Mexico) doesn't appear to have a strong traditional restaurant culture; locals don't have a tradition of dining out.

In Mexico City, on the other hand, the trendiest restaurants are aimed at locals, not tourists: at the DF's thriving upper middle class. "Authenticity" is a slippery concept, but I'd argue that it's more "authentic" to go to a "trendy" new restaurant favored by locals than to go to an old traditional restaurant that now relies mainly on the tourist trade.

Of course, "authentic" isn't the be-all and end-all. You might still like the traditional restaurant more than the trendy one. But not because it's more "authentic."

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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PS -- For whatever it might be worth, I found your excellent posts and recommendations enormously helpful when I visited Oaxaca early last year (and, I hope it needn't be said, disagree with you on this tangential matter only with the greatest respect).

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That might point to a difference between Oaxaca and Mexico City.  It seems apparent that Oaxaca doesn't have as strong a local restaurant scene as Mexico City -- that, to an extent, almost all the restaurants in Oaxaca are directed at tourists (and must be so to survive).  To put it another way, Oaxaca (like the Yucatan and, for all I know, most parts of Mexico) doesn't appear to have a strong traditional restaurant culture; locals don't have a tradition of dining out.

I think that the above comments illustrate that Mexico, even with its very lively street food tradition dating from before the conquest, has a food culture that is not found in restaurants. This is especially true outside of Mexico City. The great cuisine is found in people's homes with dishes lovingly prepared by mothers, grandmothers, aunts etc.

Let me make a case in point. Great Mexican food is LABORIOUS. To the extreme. (Try cooking from any Diana Kennedy book and you know what I mean) For example, I spent 1 hour last night peeling garbanzos for a Isthmian Oaxacan stew I'm making tonight for dinner. What restaurant can go to that level of labor and turn a profit? You have to do the essential steps to have the tastiest end result.

My friends and I who love Mexican food do it as a labor of love. Plus, hey, you can watch Mauricio Islas on a novela to make the labor (peeling garbanzos, taking the pedicels off pozole corn etc) more entertaining and gossip with your comadre in the process. However, this process for the most part is not and cannot be geared toward a restaurant kitchen on a massive scale.

Also, simple economics drive people to eat at home or at the simple fondas in many markets(often with delicious results), taco stands and torterias throughout the country limiting the scope of higher end restaurants in the country as a whole. However, I can say that almost all Mexicans I know try to buy/make the best possible quality food they can afford on their budget.

Caarina

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That might point to a difference between Oaxaca and Mexico City.  It seems apparent that Oaxaca doesn't have as strong a local restaurant scene as Mexico City -- that, to an extent, almost all the restaurants in Oaxaca are directed at tourists (and must be so to survive).  To put it another way, Oaxaca (like the Yucatan and, for all I know, most parts of Mexico) doesn't appear to have a strong traditional restaurant culture; locals don't have a tradition of dining out.

An excellent point and one I overlooked. Thanks.

s

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