Mexico City and Puebla report
- david kaplan
Just back from a four-night weekend, two in Mexico City and two in Puebla.
Pujol (Polanco neighorhood) was the best meal we had. Pujol treats traditional Mexican ingredients to El Bulli-style food puns. Standouts include duck carpaccio with pipian, capers, and a mezcal foam, which was a nice blend of salty, fatty, and delicate flavors; a perfectly cooked lean pork chop on a bed of huitlacoche (black corn fungus) and vinegary jicama; and seared tuna crusted with spicy and smoky ground ancho chile.
Mama Sarita, a hot-chocolate specialist in the Condesa neighborhood, was a disappointment. The hot chocolate I ordered was weaker than I hoped -- though perhaps I was unrealistic in expecting a thick, dense, dark chocolate drink. Instead, it came in a big mug (to me, always a sign that the hot chocolate will be too weak), and -- although the chocolate was good quality -- it wasn't sufficiently chocolatey for my taste. The staff is sweet as can be and indulged my request for a bitter and spicy chocolate caliente. It could be that it's an excellent rendition of traditional Mexican hot chocolate, and I just don't like that style as much as the European style.
Izote: we didn't eat here. I only mention it because we booked for Sunday evening through opentable.com and got a confirmation email, only to discover at the last minute that Izote is open Sunday only for lunch. So, if you book for Izote or perhaps other places on opentable.com, you might call to confirm.
Tacos Tony -- so good we went twice. Tacos Tony, and other taquerias in Puebla, which has a large Lebanese-descended population, serves up "tacos arabe." Three things make the tacos "arabe": (1) the meat is cooked and shaved off a spit, shwarma-style; (2) the meat is rolled in pita instead of corn tortillas, though the traditional corn tortillas are also an option; (3) they put "gine" sauce on the tacos, which we realized was tahini. Mmm. I was sure that the meat was pork, but I realize that makes no sense if the tacos are "arabe", unless the Lebanese influence is Christian and therefore pork-friendly. My Spanish wasn't good enough to ask.
Ekos, the restaurant in the new China Poblana hotel (Calle 4 Norte & Avenida 2 Oriente), serves two of the best things I tasted this weekend. First was chicken wings in a thick, sweet chipotle sauce. Unlike other chipotle-based sauces I tried, this one wasn't too vinegary, and the combination of sweet & spicy gave me nostalgia for the chicken wings of my Rochester, NY, childhood. Second was shrimp on a bed of garlicky huitlacoche (nouvelle Mexican apparently uses lots of huitlacoche beds). The huitlacoche here was chunkier than I had elsewhere, and I liked the rustic texture.
La Sacristia -- the restaurant at Meson Sacristia de Compania. Though I didn't love everything here, the mole poblano was very good. Deep with chocolate, the mole was smooth and held together thickly -- no watery liquid separated out. As with many of the dishes I had in both cities, the meat was mostly an excuse to sop up the sauce.
Las Ranas in Puebla, another place for tacos arabe, is amazing. Al pastor is their specialty, they have huge skewers of it in front with a whole pineapple stuck on top so the juices run down as it's turning/cooking. A huge meal with tacos al arabe, a plate of beef, a plate of grilled cebollitas, 3 beers and one huge water set us back $11. We went there 3 times in 5 days!