Searching for both Traditional and La Alta Cocina in Mexico City
On my last few trips to Mexico City, I've been trying the various restaurants that have taken traditional ingredients and recipes and "upscaled" them. I've seen this type of Mexican food referred to as "Nueva Cocina Mexica" or "La Alta Cocina."
So far, my favorite of these restaurants has been Aguila y Sol, but I've also enjoyed Pujol, and Izote (more traditional). Are there any that I've been missing? I heard that there's a place called Alkimia which is very innovative, but I can't seem to find out where it's located
On a more traditional bent, I've had fantastic meals at La Valentina and Villa Maria and have been told I need to try Hacienda de los Morales.
I'm always looking to try new places and will be in the D.F. next week, so any additional restaurants that you would suggest, based on the above, would be greatly appreciated.
Keith... I like Los Girasoles (near the Zocalo) better than Izote. http://www.restaurantelosgirasoles.com/
Los Danzantes is a great place in Coyoacan: http://www.losdanzantes.com/eng/home.htm
Al Vino in the Las Brisas Hotel has a great Wine Pairing
The sheek Solea with its fusion cusine http://www.soleamexico.com/
Oh my God, run, do not walk, to Alkimia. It was far and away the absolute BEST meal I had in D.F.
What you need to know about Alkimia is that it is the restaurant attached to the Centro Culinario, which is a culinary school that would be the equivalent of the CIA here in the States. There is also a catering branch called Ambrosia. Ask and ye shall receive -- here is the address:
Av. San Jeronimo 243
Colonia Jardines del Pedregal
Googling for Alkimia will not work, you have to Google for El Centro Culinario in D.F., and even at that you'll have to wade through a number of bogus hits, and it will help if you can read more than a little Spanish. I think you can also find it by Googling for Ambrosia Catering in D.F. as well, but there is not a lot on-line regarding Alkimia.
I will verify that it is terribly creative and it can do that because, in part, it is a teaching institution and has funding to support the innovation. Some of the dishes I remember (it's been nearly a year) were a remarkable deconstructed swordfish ceviche, a marvelous rendition of tuna tartare and aperfectly done seafood risotto for starters.
The soup course brought forth a deliciously light sopa de tortilla which looked deceptively dull and bland when the dish was first put in front of us, but once the chicken stock was poured over the soup plate contents the whole thing just sang. It was spare and lean but the flavors were powerful and bold. Someone had a wonderful ravioli concotion. But by far the favorite dish at the table for this course was the Sopa de Espuma de Foie Gras (Foie Gras Foam Soup). A large and impossibly light noisette of foie foam arrived nestled into a very white soup dish. Beef broth was slowly poured over it from a silver pitcher. This is probably one of the most decadently delicious dishes I have ever eaten; enough to possibly make me want to write bad checks.
I remember that our entrees included duck, venison, tuna, beef and I think a shellfish (shrimp?). It was hard to say that one was better than the other as they were all stellar, but I think the venison and the duck probably were a smidge better than the others. Dessert was the weakest course and I don't remember much about them other than that they were mostly ice cream or mousse based. The one that did stand out was the chocolate mousse served in a brandy snifter with a bunch of tiny, thin churros sticking out of it; giving it much the appearance of being Medusas head.
The cooking is sharp, crisp and beguiling. Traditional Mexican ingredients are given modern and contemporary treatments, and vice versa, non-traditional ingredients are prepared using more traditional methods. But it's more than just the food that really sets Alkimia apart in the innovation department. Their presentations are just spectacular and stop just short of going way, way, way over the top. There has been scrupulous attention paid to appearance, textures, colors, shapes and angles in addition to the basic flavor/taste and aroma. Oh, and don't pass up the bread basket, the bake shop for the culinary school is exquisite.
The Executive Chef for Centro Culinario is an alumnus of both El Bulli and Le Cirque in NYC and I believe there are several other El Bulli alumni on staff as well. The list of professional food organizations supporting El Centro Culinario is luminous.
Now, I found Alkimia because of Ricardo Munoz Zurita who is a Mexican chef in D.F. He is one of 7 or 8 certified master chefs in Mexico, has written some key cookbooks (all in Spanish) including the seminal Dicionario Enciclopedia de Gastranomia Mexicana (currently pending an English translation). Ricardo's own restaurant is called Cafe Azul y Oro and is located on the UNAM campus in the Cultural Complex above the bookstore. I know college campus food doesn't inspire much confidence given what many U.S. college serve, but this isn't your basic college cafeteria fare. Comdia is the meal to go for here, where you can have things like huitlacloche, enchiladas de jamaica and the best cup of chocolate imaginable. Ricardo has his chocolate blended to his specifications in Oaxaca in small batches. The crowd at comida trends towards a fashionable business crowd and when there are performances in any of the venues that are the Cultural Complex the crowd is monied and upscale, so the food served fits those criteria.
There is a guy named Nick who lives in D.F. and used to post on the old Chowhound, I dont' know if he's still around, but he's got a great list of places to try.
I also have the link for what is basically the web site for the Mexican Restaurant Association. It's at work, and I can post it tomorrow. There are 1,734 hits for restaurants in D.F., that should keep you busy, don't you think?