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Mexico City, Puebla and Oaxaca.

marpaz Dec 16, 2006 02:53 AM

I didn't know what would be the best way for me to ask for help. I am hoping that someone out there knows Mexico City inside out, and one of the following New York, Paris, and/or Hong Kong. (I have been to most other major cities but I can't say that I have eaten in as many restaurants that I would get any reference you threw out at me. Although if it is an obvious one like the Raffles hotel in Singapore or Nobu in London, I will get what you are talking about.)

These are the Restaurants that are most often recommended to me, followed by my questions.

Izote or Tezca or both or neither? Is Tezca more like WD50 in NYC or L'atelier in Paris. (I have not been to Spain.) Is Izote more like Gramercy Tavern in NYC or more like Vong in Hong Kong?

Hacienda de Los Morales or Fonda el Refugio or both or neither?
Are they more like Balthazar in NYC which has its share of tourists and locals or more like some really sad Tourist trap where no self repecting Mexican would tread, the equivalent of somenthing like Taven on the Green. Is the food decent and reliable like at Balthazars? Way superior than Balthazar's? Or more like Tavern's?

El Bajio? I imagine it like Lombardi's is for Pizza or Peter Luger's is for Steak. Am I totally off?

Could anybody suggest the equivalent in terms of trendy to La Esquina or in cool to Freemans. No interest in the equivalent of Buddhakan in New York and most definetely not Buddha Bar in Paris.

Puebla seems easy... it is the Meson de la Sacristia and the Cemita in the Mercado.

Oaxaca is Casa Oaxaca for sure. Perhaps Como Agua ParaChocolate. I have my doubts about el Naranjo...

Most probably I have not mentioned any of the restaurants in Mexico I would like to go to, so if you are getting what kind of places I would like from this post...please, please share them with me.

Thanks for your help.

PS. If this post is totally incomprehensible, please let me know.

  1. cristina Dec 16, 2006 04:03 AM

    My goodness, marpaz. Your post isn't incomprehensible, just a little misguided.

    One of the things that I hope you'll discover while you're in Mexico is the non-importance of making the sorts of comparisons that you're asking for. Mexico is like Mexico. It's not like anyplace else. One of the joys of being in Mexico (and I've lived here for more than 25 years) is letting go of the need to have Mexico be like somewhere else and let it be its own wonderful self.

    Eat where you want to eat, not where some guru says you should eat. I like Izote, but that's just me. I also like El Tajín, and Azul y Oro. I also like any number of street stands where you stand up because there aren't any chairs and you eat something that drips down your arm and tastes so good that you wish you could lick your elbow.

    Honestly, your post sounds more like you want us to know that you've been to all the places you've been than that you want advice on where to eat what.

    1 Reply
    1. re: cristina
      bronwen Mar 23, 2007 01:10 PM

      Totally agree with Cristina about Marpaz's post. Why on earth would you be obsessed about comparing restaurants in different cities? Enjoy them for themselves.
      I like the San Angel Inn (M-City), Cavendish (Oaxaca) - although that might not be there. We ate there in June during the strikes and unrest and the owner didn't seem too happy and I don't know if he closed up shop.
      In Puebla, have lunch at the Camino Real, it is breathtaking and, trust me, far removed from London, New York or Hong Kong!!

    2. DiningDiva Dec 16, 2006 04:11 AM

      El Naranjo is closed due to the recent unrest and violence in Oaxaca. Iliana has left the city and has indicated she may not come back.

      1. m
        marpaz Dec 16, 2006 04:33 PM

        Dining Diva...thanks for responding.

        Sorry to hear about El Naranjo...being that the Oaxaca Hotel is still open......I feel we have to go to support the people who have nothing to do with the disturbances and get punished anyways...and if Oaxaca is like Egypt last year, it is an excellent time to go, because you will have all the sights, that are normally crowded and with long lines, to yourself.

        I just want to be organized and make my reservations. I was in Egypt in December 2005 and had a terrible food experience because the Concierge at the Four Seasons had no idea where to send us and we went to all these horrible places. I am sure there must be magical places in Cairo and Luxor, because there are magical places even in small towns like Cahors, France and big towns like Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The egyptian food we had at the Adrere Amellal in Siwa was so different and delicious, and a taste of what could have been in Egypt. I imagined that the restaurants in Cairo would maybe not be as wonderful as the restaurants in Marrakesh, but reminiscent. Not at all my experience, though. On the other hand I was in Lisbon and St. Tropez last year also and I did my homework and many of the restaurants where like no place else in the World. (If you are going to Buenos Aires, no need to do homework beause the Concierge at the Faeena in Buenos Aires is excellent. If somebody believes that the concierge at the Four Seasons in DF is this excellent, please let me know)

        I am travelling with my sister who is incredibly picky (she was in India a couple of months ago and cannot stop talking about how wonderful the food was) and I just want us to have a good time. We will ony be in Mexico City for four days and being as ambitious as we are in terms of doing justice to the museums, archeological sites, and shopping in that wonderful city, we have to know where we are going. I wish we had time to look around.

        Maybe it is a difference in philosophy. We all have our preferences. I know that in NYC, those of us who live here and love food, know where all the good places are. We might disagree on wether the best Pizza is Lombardi's or John's, or Vento, or my personal favorite Sullivan Street Bakery or mayebe in the East Village, or in Brooklyn, but I don't think anyone will have a terrible experience at any of these places. I plan to eat at el Tizoncito while we are shopping in the Condesa district. (Unless someone out there knows of a better place in the area...maybe we will have to do both...appetite is not a problem.)

        Mexican food happens to be a favorite of ours. I would hate to go to Mexico City and miss out on all the wonderful places. Who knows when I will go back again? The first time I went I was 8 years old, did not go back until I was in my 20's, and that was ten years ago.

        Thanks for all your help! Felices Fiestas!

        4 Replies
        1. re: marpaz
          Eat_Nopal Dec 16, 2006 07:48 PM

          Read this for more on Mexico City: http://www.bigsoccer.com/forum/showth...

          1. re: marpaz
            DiningDiva Dec 17, 2006 03:16 PM

            Casa Oaxaca has two locations. One in the hotel of the same name and the other in an art gallery across the street from the Santo Domingo church. I ate at the one across from the church in 2004 and it was an excellent meal. The interior is spare and contemporary, but it worked well for that particular space. I have, alas, had reports that the quality of the meals at this location has slipped recently.

            Yes, you most likely will have Oaxaca to yourself to explore as long as you don't mind having a few thousand Mexican federal police as your companions ;-). A couple weeks ago I read an article that laid out in human and financial terms just what 6 months of unrest had done to Oaxacan tourism. The U.S. and most of the larger European countries have travelers advisories out warning travelers not to go to Oaxaca, as a result tourism has been off as much as 80%. Thousands have been out of work, some of whom have tried to migrate north for work. Vacancy rates are at rock bottom, and yes, you probably can find some good deals on both hotel rooms and the local folk art. But be advised that sophisticated, upscale dining is not what Oaxaca is all about, there are many very good restaurants there. There are 2 Marco Pollos, with the one across from Llano Park being the better of the two. It has an adobe "horno", oven, in the interior garden that turns out some pretty tasty fish and desserts. But a lot of the recent violence happened in the vicinity of Llano Park, I don't know if the restaurant is still open. My point being that it's still unknown how the violence and unrest may have affected many restaurants in Oaxaca because of the volatile nature of day-to-day life there, some may have been affected more than others.

            In D.F. you might want to consider -- drinks at the Habita Hotel and these restaurants, Pujol (you can make a reservation on Open Table), Alkimia and Aguilar y Sol. Aguilar y Sol is considered by many to be the current best restaurant in D.F.. All 3 of these are serving contemporary Mexican, which is a revelation when done right and these 3 places do it right. Alkimia is the restaurant attached to El Centro Culinario, the primary cooking school in D.F. It is to the school what Greystone is to the CIA in Napa. The exec. chef there spent a good number of years at El Bulli in Spain and Le Cirque in NYC. I had an amazing meal there.

            Tezka is the outpost of a high profile Basque chef whose name escapes me at the moment. I read a post on another list this week from someone who had been there. The food was good, the room was empty. That could have been a function of the time that poster ate. Remember the main meal in Mexico is usually between 2-4PM and dining in the evening is usually later.

            If you are going to the Frida Khalo museum, the San Angel Inn is very close by. On weekends entire (well dressed and well heeled) families come here for comida. This is very old school, continental dining. Not especially innovative, but usually pretty well executed.

            Recommendations for dining in Mexico City are frequent, if you do a search of this board you will come up with a huge volume of recommendations, more than you could possibly try.

            1. re: DiningDiva
              marpaz Dec 17, 2006 04:27 PM

              Dining Diva, thanks so much for the suggestions . I have made my reservations. (Alkimia reminds me of the Restaurant at the College Hotel in Amsterdam, seasonal, organic, and attached to a cooking school, yummy and beautiful restaurant, make reservations in advance because it is very popular, I was there in 12/2005.)

              Cristina thanks so much for the addresses. I love Tamales and will definetely go out of my way if neccessary to make a stop at the Flor de Lis, and I assume you mean El Caguamo for tacos (I looked it up and it is in Mexico City's historic center, on the corner of Lopez and Ayuntamiento, near the San Juan market a few blocks south of the Alameda.)

              Thanks for everything. I promise to report back and hopefully add an address or two.

              PS. On Oaxaca. The hotel says that it should be calm over the Holidays and that the city is being cleaned up. I have no idea what to expect...I hope to have good reports. being that the food there is so good! Egypt did have police everywhere last year and cars had to go through police checkpoints and dogs sniffing for bombs, and metal detectors before entiering Four Season. There were also heavily armed police elsewhere around the city. It was much less inconvenient than it sounds. I don't know if it is because of the heavy police presence, but Cairo is one of the safest cities in the world and I highly reccommend going to Egypt. We travelled all over South and Central America during the years of Las Guerras Sucias when I was little and Paris during the bombings when I was a teen...so maybe I am a little less worried about it than the average tourist...mmm...I hope to report that Oaxaca is also OK, in spite of the problems.

            2. re: marpaz
              bronwen Mar 23, 2007 01:12 PM

              Is this the Mexico board or what?!!

            3. m
              marpaz Dec 16, 2006 04:43 PM

              Dear Cristina:

              Can you please share some of the places where the juices "drip down your arm and...you could lick your elbow? Those happen to be favorites of mine also!

              Thanks for your help, good advice, and expertise.

              1 Reply
              1. re: marpaz
                cristina Dec 16, 2006 08:38 PM

                *Flor de Lis in Condesa, for tamales.
                *Mercado de Antojitos, Coyoacán.
                *El Cahuamo for tacos...drat, I can't remember the address.
                *The stands (huaraches, tacos, gorditas, esquite, etc) just to the right of the Metropolitan cathedral, as you face the front doors.
                *La Bella Lulá for Oaxacan food (tasajo, tlayudas con asiento, etc). There are two branches, one in Coyoacán and the other near Barrance de Muerto.
                *Panadería La Esperanza--there are several, but I particularly like the one at Metro General Anaya in Coyoacán.

              2. m
                Maya Dec 27, 2006 10:14 PM

                Whatever you do, DON'T miss Las Ranas in Puebla. It's very central near the museum but you'll have to ask around a bit. We went 3 times in 4 days! Its a casual, inexpensive, noisy place with the most unbelievable al pastor tacos "al arabe" (the tortillas are thicker, like pita almost). The grilled meats, baby onions, and tacos... oh my god. I still dream about that place 2 years later.

                We also had amazing street food in Puebla - gorditas, tamales, pozole, mole... we went all over Mexico in 2 months, and I think Puebla was the best place for food. And Las Ranas... sigh...

                1. puppymomma Jan 20, 2007 04:29 PM

                  I spent some time in Mexico as a student. I don't remember any names of restaurants, but I just wanted to make sure that while you are in Puebla that you try Chiles Enogadas. It is what they are known for in the area.

                  1. m
                    marpaz Jan 21, 2007 05:26 PM

                    Back in New York...and the food in Mexico is fantastic!

                    In DF I can reccommend Bellinghausen for lunch (it gets busy after 2PM if you are downtown. (Love the old fashioned Mexican ambience. Have the Sopa de Habas, roasted goat, and the Dulce de Zapote for dessert.) I understand why El Bajio is Rick Bayless' favorite Restaurant in DF. ( I had the banana empanadas which come with a fabulous chili sauce that is like nowhere else, a pork in tempranillo sauce, the gorditas, and the dulce de leche cake and flan.) Skip the Sushi at the Condesa unless you want a change in food and ambience. (The sushi is so, so...but they are super nice about it!) The other restaurant at the Condesa has surprisingly good Mecican food. El Tizonsito and the Flor de Lis in Condesa are great places for a quick lunch or a snack.

                    In Puebla...I cannot reccommend anything. The Mesones de la Sacristia was closed and our Hotel reccommended La fonda de Santa Clara. The Margarita at La Fonda de Santa Clara was made with something fizzy, at first I suspected that it was lime juice which was past its due date, but then it could also have been 7-UP...so I had to ask them, and they said that their secret ingredient was a splash of mineral water(!?!?!) The lime juice was not freshly squeezed either, it was bottled. And it went downhill from there...seriously downhill. I guess there is a good reason why we were the only people there. I am sorry I did not go to Las Ranas.

                    In Oaxaca. Casa Oaxaca (not the hotel restaurant, which was closed) is Fabulous. The ambience and food are world class. Oaxaca felt safe, but I guess because tourists stayed away and Oaxacans were suffering economically themselves, the restaurants were empty...and after Puebla we had no more adventure left for empty restaurants. So we ate all our meals at Casa Oaxaca, which was the only restaurant we walked past that had a decent amount of bussiness and at the Camino Real which has surprisingly good food.

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: marpaz
                      DiningDiva Jan 22, 2007 04:03 PM

                      I gave someone a rec for Bellinghausen over on eGullet, was that you?

                      1. re: marpaz
                        jesse Jan 22, 2007 04:13 PM

                        Re: Oaxaca - if you go back to Oaxaca, please try local restaurants and not the Camino Real, which is overpriced and decent - good. Casa Oaxaca is also good, but also very expensive, relatively, and there are enough mid-high quality restaurants left in Oaxaca, even with the current tourist climate, to have varied somewhat. In other words, I'm mildly disappointed that you went to the Mexican food capital of the world and ate in only two places, one of which is a large hotel chain.

                        1. re: jesse
                          nuxvomica Mar 21, 2007 12:00 PM

                          jesse, headed to Oaxaca next week - any recommendations?

                          La Biznaga, Los Pacos, Temple, Los Danzantes, Casa Oaxaca were recommended to us any thoughts?

                          1. re: nuxvomica
                            jesse Mar 26, 2007 08:21 AM

                            El Naranjo is still closed, and looks like it will continue to be closed for the near future. The facade is completely covered in paint and the whole thing is slightly depressing.

                            In terms of must hits - at the 20 Novembre Market there is an area where you purchase your meat, tortillas, and vegetables and they grill them on indoor charcoal grills. It`s probably the best street food around. Tortas from anyplace that specializes in them are great, generally there are good tacos in these places as well. Both of these options are dirt cheap and should be under $10 in total.

                            We`ve eaten a couple of meals at La Biznaga, located at Garcia Vigil 512, centro, and found it to be very good. It`s a newer restaurant, featuring what they term cocina mestiza, basically using Oaxacan ingredients in both traditional and more updated versions. It has a great atmosphere, is an interior courtyard restaurant with retractable roof, and is open for lunch, dinner, and drinks and coffee all day and featured a comida corrida at lunch for $60 pesos (the cambios are advertising 10.71 pesos to the dollar right now). It`s casual, but I highly recommend it, it`s basically the best food we`ve had here this trip.

                            I`d suggest skipping eating lunch and dinner on the zocalo, the food is middling in quality and rather expensive.

                            Olivo has been closed three nights in a row, and we`ve been disappointed as the meal there was good, but it is not traditional Oaxacan fare, so it`s being closed might not be a big issue for some visiting.

                            Casa Oaxaca`s menu turned us off, it was just too expensive and the restaurant itself was empty.

                            1. re: jesse
                              DiningDiva Mar 26, 2007 09:09 AM

                              Iliana and her husband have left Mexico and are in New Mexico. El Naranjo has been sold and will be reopened by the new owners. Supposed to reopen June 1st per this previous CH post http://www.chowhound.com/topics/361563

                              1. re: DiningDiva
                                jesse Mar 26, 2007 09:11 AM

                                reportedly June 1.

                              2. re: jesse
                                nuxvomica Mar 27, 2007 08:27 AM

                                we'll be outside the city during the day (Monte Alban, visiting weavers, etc.) and relying on our driver for meals along the lines of what you described at the market. we're there only a few days so it's hard to pick. thanks for your thoughts on La Biznaga, sounds like a nice place and we'll check it out

                                1. re: nuxvomica
                                  DiningDiva Mar 27, 2007 08:55 AM

                                  When you're "out and about", if you're in Zaachila stop at La Catedral. It's an enormous outdoor restaurant, and it's very good. On busier days they'll do pit roasted lamb, but on slower days (usually week days) the regular menu is just fine. Zaachila would be a good choice if you're in the Ocotlan, San Martin and or/ San Bartolome areas.

                                  If you're going out to Teotitlan del Valle then you must eat at Tlamanalli (which I think I've spelled wrong), which is Abigail Mendoza's VERY well known restarurant. It's not open every day and when it is, it is usually only for comdia. Your hotel in Oaxaca can call to find out if they'll be open. Abigail makes an excellent version of mole negro, which is often on the menu, but everything is good. Much of the menu is really based on indigenous Zapotec cooking. Abigail is also a weaver and the sister of well known weaver Arnulfo Mendoza (check out his shop La Mano Magica in Oaxaca). Actually, all the siblings are skilled weavers and a lot of the family output is on display, and for sale, at the restaurant. They will take credit cards, but will give you a discount for cash because the credit cards cost them $$ to process. Few weavings in Teotitlan del Valle are inexpensive and the best stuff is in the village itself, not just off the highway. Also, the Del Maguey mezcal - http://mezcal.com/ - offices/distribution center are off just off the main road into T del V. If you're at all interested in single village, boutique mezcal you might be able to talk them into a little tasting. This is not worm in the bottle hootch. Their mezcal is more like really good, upscale scotch.

                                  Enjoy your trip, and if you think the 20 de Noviembre market is good, be sure to check out the Abastos market, it's even better.

                                  1. re: DiningDiva
                                    nuxvomica Mar 27, 2007 11:01 AM

                                    thank you, this is very helpful! the mezcal is definitely on the list - i've tried a bunch of Del Maguey stuff here and met the crazy - in a good way! - guy behind it. i think i read somewhere there is a good spirits shop in Oaxaca

                                    1. re: DiningDiva
                                      SusanB Mar 27, 2007 01:14 PM

                                      What is nice on the zocalo is stopping for a beer. My husband doesn't drink, so he's usually order mineral water. I'd order a beer, and they'd always bring out a bowl of spicy peanuts - delicious!

                                      I think we also ate at La Biznaga a couple of years ago and enjoyed it.

                          2. n
                            nuxvomica Apr 3, 2007 09:40 AM

                            just back from Mexico City & Oaxaca.

                            MEXICO CITY
                            El Cardenal - delicious escamoles (ant eggs), shrimp with nopal and garlic, super fast and efficient service
                            Izote - pretty good, esp. venison with achiote and some ceviches
                            Cafe Tacuba - for breakfast (v.g. churros, eggs with mole)
                            La Opera - great for drinks

                            Casa de la Abuela - delicious chapulines (fried grasshoppers), lovely location (upstairs, overlooking the zocalo), great or a drink and snack. traditional food

                            Los Pacos - excellent mole (there is a mole sampler) and chilaquiles, chapulines over cheese

                            Casa Oaxaca - fantastic modern cooking - lighter than most places we ate at, vibrant flavors. gorgeous space, modern, restrained, elegant. not very expensive (certainly not the most expensive in town). fantastic bean soup with hierba de conejo, ceviche with chile de aqua, shrimp (they bring seafood of the day for you to choose, beautiful fish and prawns). we liked it so much we went back for drinks and snacks - wonderful octopus tostadas

                            Los Danzantes - excellent mezcal drinks, fairly good food: goat cheese wrapped in hoja santa, huitlacoche ravioli in squash blossom cream, a fish carpaccio (bland)

                            Tlayudas Dona Martha - wonderful tlayudas, large tortillas smeared with beans and cooked over wood, folded in half and topped with the meat of your choice (we went for cecina, aged beef). the place open around 9 and fills up fast. you get a number and a table (or to go, people eat outside and in cars) the wait can be long (40 min), but they serve soft drinks & hot chocolate. no utensils, no cups. the tlayudas are massive.

                            La Capilla in Zaachila - large outdoor space. the feeling was a little touristy but you can take a peek into to open kitchen, see the ovens and grills. wonderful moles (except for pork in mole verde, not much there to speak of). the barbacoa lamb weas decent but again, nothting exciting and their version of tlayuda was a "tortilla gigante" - a huge crisped tortilla topped with chorizo, chceese and delicious mole coloradito - favorite dish of the meal

                            excellent service everywhere (except perhaps Dona Martha, where service is minimal by design)

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