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Nov 21, 2006 09:24 PM

Michoacan Challenge for Anonimo


Don't know if you have heard the name Zarela Martinez... but she is the Oaxacan naitive that first brought attention to authentic Mexican cuisine in Manhattan back in the early '80s. She remains one of the very top Mexican restaurateurs there (one of her main competitors is her son Aaron Sanchez who had a show on Food Network & battled Morimoto on Iron Chef).

Anyway, on her website she lists some recommended restaurants in Michoacan... so I was wondering if you could report on any of these.

Thanks a bunch!

San Miguelito
Casa de la Calzada
Los Mirasoles
La Casa del Portal

La Mesa de Blanca

El Primer Piso

La Mansion

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  1. Eat Nopal, of those restaurants listed, we have only been to El Primer Piso in Pátzcuaro. It was over a year ago. I had a starter of a goat cheese salad on greens, and although it was good, I can't rember the details. My main course was a Pescado en Salsa Negra, which I enjoyed. The sauce seemed to have a balsamic vinegar component. My dessert was a silly construction of 3 Mousses stacked like a child's toy. The flavors were not brilliant and the textures were rubbery.

    We don't normally eat at higher end restaurants here. The exception is Restaurant Cha Cha Cha, which offers a good mix of International cuisine with a Mexican touch.

    We also enjoy the meats at the Argentine style Restaurant Mistongo in Pátzcuaro, and the Brazilian style carnes a la espada at Amazonia in Morelia.

    Most of our meals out are at market stands or local mid-range places. (cheap!) We go to Mariscos La Güera fairly regularly. It's a good, simple, local place.

    I'll have to look up Ziracuaretiro!

    Buen Provecho,

    3 Replies
    1. re: Anonimo

      Anonimo, I'll help you out a bit.

      I at at Los Mirasoles in Morelia last year. The restaurant is located in an old converted mansion an easy walk from the Plaza de las Armas (cathederal plaza). The family that owned the mansion stilll does, but the upkeep was getting too costly so they had to find ways to make the mansion pay for itself. Mom was a trained chef the choice of a restaurant was a natural.

      They do all the things you'd find on an upscale Mexican restaurant but their claim to fame is that they also specialize in Purepecha specialties. We had white fish 3 ways as an appetizer, Churipe for the soup course and another fish done in what was billed as a traditional Purepehca preparation as the entree. It was served in what translated roughly as a "broth of vigor", meaning that the broth in which the fish entree was served was supposed to act as a restorative and to give the person eating it health and strength. At one time I did have the ingredient list for the dish but have no idea where it is now. The cooking is sophisticated and skilled. Traditional Purepechan food probably never tasted quite this refined ;-).

      The interior is beautiful without being stuffy or pretentious. Several of the rooms in the front part of the mansion have been converted to small, intimate dining alcoves. Tables are covered in linen, the china is fine, the flatware heavy and the room appointments subtle and tasteful. The front rooms open out into an interior patio. The stone walls around the patio have old niches that were originally for holding candles to light the walkway between sections of the house. The niches have been well used and voluminous amounts of candle wax allowed to drip out of the niche and partially down the wall. It gives the effect of being a waterfall frozen in time. The rest of the patio is on two levels and surrounded by lush foliage. We were there at comida, but I think this place would be quite romantic at night with the candles burning and stars through the skylights.

      Just beyond the patio is a private dining room that seats about 20 people and is frequently used for wine dinners. Los Mirasoles has an extensive wine list from most of the worlds primary growing regions, but does focus on Mexican wines, including some very, very, small boutique wineries with small production. One of the sons handles the wine selection, storage and service. I can't remember what we drank, but the 2 bottles - 1 red and 1 white - complemented the food and I do recall that the 4 of us at the table were surprised at how good the white was.

      I did not see the tab for this meal, so I don't know what it cost. I do know that our wine bill was approx. $75 - 100 USD for both bottles. I would guess that Los Mirasoles is expensive by Mexican standards and most likely high moderate to by U.S. standards.

      Service was white jacket, old-school professional and exceptionally good.

      1. re: DiningDiva

        DD, I am pleased that you could experience Los Mirasoles on our behalf. ;-)
        We don't often eat in places such as that, unless it is a very special occasion, or someone is treating us.

        Apart from Los Mirasoles, have any of you dined at La Villa Montaña? Besides its superlative view, is the food up to high standards?

        1. re: Anonimo

          Los Mirasoles is definitely a special occasion type of place. If you ever get the chance do try it. The Rose of Morelia (and you do know who I mean) said it was now considered better than La Mercedes.

          I had breakfast at La Villa Montana last year. It was delightful and lovely. Breakfast is actually my favorite meal and here, NOB, I will often have breakfast at upscale/fine dining restaurants rather than dinner, provided they're open for breakfast. It's usually much more affordable - as is the case at La Villa Montana - and more likely than not, the breakfast crew is often as skilled as the dinner one because the exec chef wants some continuity in the kitchen.

          I second your Patzcuaro recommendation for ChaChaCha and Mistongo. I actually like Mistongo quite a bit. And it's too bad that Entre Suelo y Cielo went out of business I had a very nice comida there earlier this year.

    2. Some photos taken over a year ago at El Primer Piso in Pátzcuaro. Sorry to say, I don't have notes on what others ate.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Anonimo


        The link doesn't work (404 error).

        1. re: dlglidden

          DL, the albums have been extensively rearranged since the original upload. You can find photos of El Primer Piso here, mixed in with pics of other Pátzcuaro and Morelia restaurants:

          And, despite the album title, not all are my "favorites".

      2. Thanks for the info...

        I recently began a quest for the regional specialties of Michoacan in the Bay Area... with very limited success. I was wondering if you could identify the best sources within Michoacan for the following specialties:

        Caldo Michi (Catfish Stewed with Xoconostles[Sour Prickly Pears], Vegetables, Guajillo, Chipotle & Serrano Chiles, Herbs & Vegetables)

        Sopa de Aguacate (Cold Avocado Soup)

        Sopa de Bolitas (Spicy Masa Dumpling Soup)

        Minguichi (Cotija & Serrano Chile Cream Soup)

        Sopa Tarasca (Basically Tortilla Soup with lots of Whole Beans)

        Corundas (Coarse Ground Tamal served with Cooked Green Salsa, Pulled Pork, Beans & Jocoque)... Jocoque is a thick, buttermilk tasting, yogurt consistency dairy product.

        Uchepos (Tamal made from fresh corn instead of masa)

        Uchepo de Natas (Uchepo made with skimmed milk "skins")

        Tortilla Ranchera (Like a Tortilla Espanola made from Masa instead of Potato, with Squash Blossoms, Rajas, Crema & Cotija)

        Tacos de Llarata (Poached Fish Eggs sauced with Tomato-Epazote-Serrano)

        Enchiladas Morelia Style (Guajillo Sauced served with a side of chicken, potatoes & carrots all poached then fried in the remaining Guajillo oil)

        Chupiro (4 cuts of braised meat served with Uchepo de Natas, Rajas, Crema & Tomatoes)

        Nopales con Charales (Nopales braised in Ancho sauce served with Dried Smelts)

        Chanducata (Braised stew meat in a thick Corn, Mint, Epazote, Chile Serrano, Tomatillo sauce)

        Pierna de Puerco estilo Apatzingan (Pork Leg braised in Beer, Orange Juice, Guajillo, Epazote sauce)

        Pescado en Birria (Lightly fried fish braised in Birria sauce)

        Chongos Zamoranos (Fresh Cheese Curd sauced in Piloncillo Syrup)

        Dulce de Frijol (Milk fudge with Rum, Almonds & Pureed Beans)

        Thank you very much!

        3 Replies
        1. re: Eat_Nopal

          I'll get on the assignment right away, with pleasure!
          (The correct word for the braised meats is "churipo", btw.)
          Actually, Cristina and DingDiva probably know more about these dishes than I do, but I am closer to the source.
          Corundas are commonly sold both in restaurants and at street kitchens here in Pátzcuaro. However, I have never seen then served with beans, and the jocoque has been replaced with crema.
          Enchiladas Morelia Style are also known as Enchiladas Placeras, and I am not a big fan of these. Cristina can tell you her favorite place to eat this dish.
          Uchepos are sold in the Pátzcuaro mercado, and our neighbor landlady once made some for us.
          (Does Chowhound have a private message function?)

          1. re: Eat_Nopal


            The few times I've eaten Sopa Tarasca in Pátzcuaro (and the surrounding area) the beans were not whole, they were pureed/mashed. Great soup, BTW!

            And are you asking for restaurant recommendations in Michoacán that feature those dishes or for recipes or sources for the ingredients?

            1. re: dlglidden

              Another update; on La Mesa de Blanca. Last Sunday we were joined by 6 friends for what was an outstanding meal. The restaurant was more active than during our March visit, although not running at capacity, due in part to stormy weather and the World Cup Finals.

              Memorable dishes were the really excellent Tacos de Carnitas; not cheap, but succulent. Chiles Capones; which consisted of three chiles pasillas filled with queso fresco and bathed in an exquisite salsa verde laced with cream. Ah! With this we had a basket of colorful warm tortillas hechas a mano.

              Two of us split a main course of Conejo en Tres Jugos, ender and succlent. Sra. Blanca says she prefers it a las brasas, as it comes smoky and crispy, and we will take her recommendation on our next visit.

              My wife had Sopa de Milpa, of local vegetables and she reports that it was unusually tasty.

              There was a little room left for dessert, so I had flan, which was pleasantly light and spongy, served on a plate decorated with slices of fresh fruit and a blackberry coulis.

              Prices have risen substantially since our March visit but are still reasonable, considering the setting, service and above all, the quality of the food.

              More on my blog:

              EDIT: I see I posted this update in the wrong place, but I don't know how to move it. Ni modo.

          2. A blast from the past gets a (partial) answer at last.

            Yesterday, we drove to La Mesa de Blanca in Ziracuarétiro, Michoacán and had a very pleasant meal. The very large restaurant is beautiful and the service was very attentive.
            It turned out that Chef Blanca was not in the kitchen yesterday, but the food was sometimes intriguing, sometimes simple and homey, and always good.
            Two outstanding dishes were a botana of chiles chipotles rellenos de queso and a fantastic agua fresca de zarzamora (blackberries.)

            I learned form the host and co-owner, Sr. Rodrigo Lemus, that the couple also operates a breakfast only restaurant called "El gorjeo de las aves en las mañanas de abril." He told me that it was "even better" than La Mesa de Blanca! The breakfast restaurant is open every day from 8-12 noon. La Mesa de Blanca opens at 1:30 p.m. Thurs-Fri-Sat-Sun at present.
            More details here:

            8 Replies
            1. re: Anonimo

              An update: on Sunday, May 23, we visited El Gorjeo de Las Aves En Las Mañanas de Abril at Ziracuarétiro.

              While the food was not spectacular, being quite overshadowed by the lovely garden setting, we were pleased overall.
              The outstanding items we had were, again, the mermeladas of mango and a naranja-mandarina combination were superb with the pan casero, and the Agua Fresca de Zarzamoras, and the salsa fresca were stellar. The service was attentive yet unobtrusive, and the staff did everything possible to fill our needs.

              More here:

              1. re: Anonimo

                Update to the update: El Gorjeo now offers Bed and Breakfast accommodation, in four unique units, ranging in capacity from two persons (a cozy apartment on the second floor on the park like grounds of the restaurant) to seven (the latter in a modern 2 bedroom 2 bath house on adjacent property.

                Rates of $1000 pesos per unit per night include breakfast in the restaurant.
                Photos here:

                We haven't stayed there yet, but we did have a very nice breakfast at the restaurant last Thursday morning. The pan casero was better than ever, and we had both enmoladas and enchiladas verdes; aporreadillo en salsa de aguacate, agua fresca de zarzamora, café de olla, etc.

                El Gorjeo is open every day, 9 a.m. to 1p.m. After that, you'd have to dine at the larger restaurant "La Mesa de Blanca", also in Ziracuaretiro and a 5 minute drive away from El Gorjeo. (Or walk; it's not far.)

                La Mesa de Blanca is open Thursday through Saturdays, 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

                1. re: Anonimo

                  Sounds lovely. Do you know the approximate altitude there?

                  1. re: Veggo

                    Approximately 1400 meters above sea level. For the metrically challenged, that would be 4550 feet.

                    For comparison's sake, Guadalajara is at 5200 feet and Morelia is at 6400 feet. Mexico City is at about 7500 feet.

                    1. re: cristina

                      Comfortable year around. My flat in D.F. had neither heat nor air, and didn't need it. I enjoyed the constant weather, just not the pollution. I chose Wednesday as my 'Hoy no circula' day, the day I couldn't drive my car.

                      1. re: Veggo

                        Air quality in the DF is remarkably improved--really very good. The air in Guadalajara is the worst in Mexico.

                        When you coming to visit, Veggo?

                        1. re: cristina

                          I'll advise, thanks Cristina. I do miss it, and I still want those copper pots! Sorry about the Guadalajara air, how is the water quality in lake Chapala?

                          1. re: Veggo

                            Quality: still heavily contaminated.
                            Quantity: lake level up quite a bit.
                            Quantity of water hyacinth: very little.

                            I'm going over there the second week of December and will take a good long look at it and let you know more.