Monday, March 14, 2011

On the Road with Lili & Ada | A blog series by two travel designers and lovers of Mexico

Culinary “Hot Spots” not to miss in Mexico

Lili: It seems as though the culinary scene in Mexico is bursting with fresh new eateries and an impressive and growing list of creative chefs making inroads in Mexico’s booming restaurant scene. Last year’s addition of traditional Mexican cuisine to UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage was a great accolade to not only for but for the importance of ancestral cuisine and its tie to Mexico's cultural identity. 

Paxia, Mexico City

At a recent fundraiser dinner event for an independent film I experienced dining at the Paxia restaurant in Mexico’s Santa Fe neighborhood. This restaurant is a must for those that want to try contemporary twists on traditional Mexican cuisine. The atmosphere is chic and the staff is warm, friendly and humorous – an uplifting combination not easily found these days. Paxia has an extensive menu offering something for anyone with dishes such as  filet mignon with a huilacoche (Mexican corn truffle) and Poblano chili gratiné, Qaxacan quesadilla filled with chicken in a black mole sauce covered with sugar, a soup from Aguascalientes with Poblano chili, hominy kernels and Qaxacan cheese and  Sea bass with shrimp in an Ancho chili butter sauce accompanied with an artichoke and Cotija cheese (hard cow cheese from Michoacán) puree. If you are really hungry try their Revolutionary Tasting Menu that features eight succulent well-sized portions and one dessert. A favorite on this menu is the “Mole carretero con filete de res”, a fillet of beef accompanied by a Mexican sweet potato-guayaba puree with fried plantains in a lime salt sauce artistically plated with a miniature carriage. Onto libations…their drink menu is remarkable and includes a range of options such as fresh fruit infused waters, tequilas, mezcals, wines, martinis (loved the “Macho” martini made of tequila, cucumber, Yerbabuena, lime, orange juice and Serrano chili) and artisanal Mexican beers. Chefs Daniel Ovadia and Ricardo Carillo are the stars that developed the menu and their wit and creativity is present throughout the dishes and atmosphere at Paxia. 

Paxia, Mexico City

Ada here: If you haven’t stopped by Dulce Patria in the Polanco neighborhood of DF, you are really missing out.  Located around the corner from the charming Las Alcobas Hotel on Masaryk and Anatole France, Martha Ortiz has done it again (her last venue was the much missed Aguila y Sol).  The food at Dulce Patria (the name gives you a hint) is a Mexican fantasy – with substance.  When asked what her goal was for this new endeavor, she responded – to be festive, to have fun with food.  And she does!  So will you.  There is a broad range of menu options, from old favorites to new stars.  Pork in mole Amarillo is a real winner, with a tang of mango.  Desserts are playful and a throwback to your Mexican childhood if you were lucky enough to have one.  The food presentation and service are sometimes playful works of art but not at the expense of quality and flavor.  The décor is also very fun – bringing Mexican handicrafts to a new level of sophistication.  The wine list (much of it Mexican) is varied and offers very good value.

Dulce Patria, Mexico City

Just returned from Merida where we had a real Yucatecan seafood dinner at Merida’s outpost of La Pigua (the original is in Campeche).  When you walk in the door you know you have arrived – it almost feels like you are in an aquarium yourself!  They really know how to turn out the freshest of seafood and fish.  The coconut shrimp are nothing less than amazing – served with warm apple compote.  It’s a terrific combination.  The river langoustine is really luscious lobster with the house (secret) sauce (something as basic as white wine, perhaps?).  A plain white local fish cooked on the grill gleams at you from the plate and is simply delicious.  Sauces, including the house habanero (and every house has one), are fresh and tasty, not just “burn your mouth hot”.  And after all of this wonderful, healthy food, the sinful crowning glory is coconut cake like you’ve never had it before.  Top it off with Merida’s hometown liquor – Xtabentun, an ambrosia made from local honey and anise.  The wine list is short and to the point.  The wait staff is funny, flexible and clever.  It all makes for a wonderful dining experience among mostly local patrons.  They make you feel like a local, too.

Casa Allende, San Miguel de Allende

Lili again: Back in San Miguel de Allende, a colonial town that I’ve been living in part-time (between commutes to Washington, D.C.!!!) is a new contemporary Mexican restaurant called Casa Allende. It’s an excellent addition in a town that doesn’t have many restaurants of this kind; it’s the only restaurant in San Miguel that is part of the Treasures of Guanajuato Quality Club (Club de Calidad Tesoros de Guanajuato). At the helm of Casa Allende is renowned Chef Eduardo Osuna, mostly known for the restaurant Casa Pontiente in nearby Celaya, who makes deliciously innovative Mexican cuisine – some favorites include glazed shrimp in a tamarind sauce, tender and perfectly seasoned duck “carnita style” tacos and their zesty and flavorful lime soup. There is a constant stream of alluring events hosted at Casa Allende, such as live music and themed food and wine paired dinners.  Its hands-down one of San Miguel’s best new restaurants and its bar is a great place to soak some lively ambiance.

Stay tuned for more travel news on Mexico from Lili & Ada!

Lili | Lillian Avilés
Flor Escapes

Ada | Adamarie King
Connoisseur's Travel