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Best upscale Mexican in Bay Area?

Responding to the question "Is there fabulous upscale Mexican anywhere in San Francisco?" in topic 381589:

There are upscale Mexican restaurants in the SF area, but none get consistently positive reports here. One more in the works, Mexico DF, previous chef of Fonda Solana.

Colibri
Dona Tomas (Oakland)
Fonda Solana (Albany)
Guaymas (Tiburon)
Mamacita
Maya
Mexico DF (not open yet)
Tamarindo (Oakland)
Tres Agaves
Zazil

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  1. As a former Chicagoan, I was surprised to move here 10 years ago and not find anything along the lines of Topolobompo or Frontera Grill. I think Maya comes close, but admittedly have not tried most places on this list. Tres Agaves is fun, but I wouldn't call it "upscale". I think Guaymas peaked years ago and even then I thought it was fairly average.

    Where is Mexico DF opening?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Frosty Melon

      I had some great dishes at Guaymas years ago (it's been open for over 20), but it went downhill, not bad but not worth a trip for the food.

      Maybe with that location, deck, and view there's no percentage in spending extra on first-rate food.

      1. re: Frosty Melon

        Re: Mexico DF, the tablehopper newsletter today says that it's opening this Thursday.

        Address is 139 Steuart St. at Howard.

        I'm very curious to give it a try.

      2. In San Rafael, there's Las Camelias, which is semi-upscale and quite charming. It's on Lincoln, between 3rd and 4th right downtown.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Sharuf

          I second this. I like Las Camelias a lot.

        2. I think of all of them Mamacita comes in first for food but it's not a high-end dining experience. I'm never that blown away by the food at Tres. We've had a great time at Colibri before - they're very accommodating for a group.

          1. I've eaten at Colibri, Dona Tomas, Guaymas, Maya, Tamarindo, and Zazil. None were outstanding, though I think my best meals have been at Colibri, although many others here would disagree with me. (actually, use of the plural says a lot. Colibri is one of the few I've voluntarily gone to more than once. I did go to Dona Tomas several times, but only because I kept thinking it was just that they were having a bad night). And, to be honest, 'best' is a relative word here: can't say it was great, only that I found it to be better than average. Have also tried Camelias, and would fit into the same category.

            I'd like to try Tres Agaves, but the noise reports have turned me off.

            Just to clarify one point, btw, I don't consider all of the places listed to be upscale. In particular, Tamarindo isn't at all upscale: I don't think a place where they don't take lunch reservations and where you sit on benches can be called upscale. In addition, the food is quite casual, at least at lunch (tacos, sopes, tortas). I'd say most of the listed places are mid-scale, not upscale.

            The best mid-scale Mexican food I ever had in SF was at the briefly open, late and (in my household at least), lamented Mexico City in Noe Valley. Sigh.

            I look forward to trying Mexico DF and hope that it truly will be a showcase for Mexico City food.....however, I will not get my expectations up too high. Not sure I can stand much more disappointment on this front...

            1 Reply
            1. re: susancinsf

              You might want to try brunch at Tres Agaves. Its not crowded or noisy then.

            2. I didn't find Tres Agaves to be terribly noisy at lunch; you should try it.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Frosty Melon

                Unfortunately, I am rarely in the City at lunch, at least during the week, since I work in Oakland...but perhaps I will have to play hooky one of these days...:-)

                1. re: susancinsf

                  weekend brunch (when the giants aren't in town...) is really quiet.

              2. Another place that I think might fall into the same sort of mid-scale range as Tamarindo or some of the others, though I haven't tried it yet, is Cocina Poblana in Emeryville. That one is on my list:

                Marlon's post on Cocina Poblana, and at least one more or less dissenting opinion:

                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/36782...

                1. Sounds like I shouldn't have included Tamarindo on my list. I haven't been there yet.

                  I didn't include Cocina Poblana on my list because the Emeryville location, while a bit more expensive and yuppified than e.g. Panchita's or El Huarache Azteca, is not what I'd call upscale. It looks like a corporate quick-service chain.

                  Other places I deliberately didn't include for similar reasons:

                  Don Pico's (San Bruno)
                  Picante (Berkeley)
                  Regalito
                  Roosevelt Tamale Parlor
                  Tacubaya (Berkeley)

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    another one that might sort of fall in the middle is Otaez, particularly the Alameda branch, which is a bit newer and arguably nicer in decor than the original in Oakland.(though I am not sure the food is better).

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      I also thought of Don Pico's as a really good sit-down place, but it's not upscale.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Does anyone consider Velvet Cantina, in the mission, at all in this category? it's not upscale in its design or prices, but the food is a take on traditional food prepared in a new way. i've only been once and quite enjoyed it - in particular the avocado cactus enchiladas and the santa maria grilled tri-tip. it's rather a hipster joint, with a full bar and infused cocktails. http://www.velvetcantina.com/

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                          1. Estrellita in Los Altos surely belongs on any list of best Mexican restaurants in the Bay Area. The daily specials emphasize Southern Mexican regional cooking; those and the Chicken Oaxaca from the regular menu are the best bets.

                            Michael

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: mdg

                              That first list is as close as it gets in the Bay Area, and nothing here compares with Frontera or Topolobampo in Chicago. MAYBE, the closest is Maya, I would keep Tamarindo on the list too and I wish Tres Agaves would improve (maybe it has, haven't been in a year.) No way on Otaez or Las Camelias, both good in a simple way but not upscale.

                              1. re: Dan Wodarcyk

                                If Tamarindo gets to stay on this list I would also add El Delfin on 24th in San Francisco. It certainly isn't upscale, but neither is Tamarindo (I would call Tamarindo decent in a simple way), and the food at El Delfin is much, much better. Right now I'd probably say it is the best Mexican food in the city in a sit-down place with table service.

                                I am excited to try Mexico DF, tried to google since someone said it is supposedy open, but couldn't find anything. I like the name but it isn't a smart one for internet searches....

                                1. re: Dan Wodarcyk

                                  For what it's worth, Michael Bauer recently re-reviewed Tres Agaves and panned it. He said it not only didn't deserve its place on his Top 100 list, it might not make it onto a Top 1000 list!

                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                    i saw that re-review, classic. Within 60 days of putting it into his Top 10 new restaurants and Top 100 overall restaurants, he turns around and says it is now not in his Top 1000! I am sure it didn't degenerate that fast. It probably was very average to begin with and Bauer just figured it out!

                                    1. re: grubber4

                                      Well, he probably put it on those lists based on his initial review last year, but you're right, it was probably over-rated to begin with. Just another example of Bauer giving an "ethnic" restaurant stars based almost entirely on its cocktails!

                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                        Cocktails is probably right. Very good tequila list and margaritas but after giving it a few chances I was never impressed, so like many, was amazed to see it make the top 100. The sides they bring to the table are the best items on the menu unfortunately.

                                      2. re: grubber4

                                        Could be that the people who recognized him on his previous visits had moved over to Pescheria.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          LOL. I thought every restaurant in town had his picture posted prominently in the service area.

                                2. Agree with Dona Tomas and Fonda Solano. Both great food service atmosphere, drinks. Didn't like Tamarindo, more attitude than the food merits.

                                  1. Hands down the only quality upscale Mexican eats in the bay area are at Chez Nopal

                                    =)

                                    I've got some Lamb Faux Barbacoa in the oven right now that is driving me insane.... the orgy between the lamb, cloves, guajillo chiles, avocado leaves & fennel (proxy for Hoja Santa) should be illegal! In 45 minutes the lamb should be falling apart! Shortly there after I will be posting with my mouth full.

                                    Taunting aside.... I would be interested to know what Bay Area posters think of as upscale Mexican. The cuisine certainly has room for a wide spectrum of service, decor, raison d'etre and so forth... but imo, the bare minimum... it has to have a wine list - not necessarily a great one - unless it is a Pre-Hispanic only type place... and it can't serve Rice & Beans as side dishes.

                                    Does does this rule out any of the above? It certainly rules out Cocina Poblana.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                      There are probably as many definitions of "upscale Mexican" as there are people with opinions about it.

                                      The Cocina Poblana in Emeryville has a full bar, but so does Chevy's.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        I challenge Chez Nopal to Chez Lori :))

                                        Seriously Robert’s comment is sadly accurate. That does not mean there is no room to knock the socks off. We have the ingredients; we have the people to work in a great upscale establishment. We are in California. I think people are becoming more aware that good Mexican is more than a big fat burrito in the Mission or what they ate in PV... ok I will probably be thrown off this thread. There is so much creativity going on all over Mexico, my most recent experiences would be central... We should be able to have this here and still hold the beans.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          Agreed. I tend to break "upscale" away from "Mexican" or any other cuisine identifier.

                                          Upscale for me is a combination of decor, service, price that has no hard definition - its more of a "I know it when I see it". That's why I rarely use "upscale" when asking for or giving recommendations. I tend to use price point & decor metrics/descriptors.

                                          Some of the things that I consider "upscale" -- Are there table cloths & cloth napkins, are the servers uniformly dressed, is the service "professional" (which is a topic in and of itself), is the decor fancy or DIY, food-style, what is the food presentation/plating like, what is the surrounding market like (something upscale in a rural community might not be so in SF), is there a full bar, good wine list?

                                        2. re: Eat_Nopal

                                          Eat Nopal: *when* are you going to open your place to the public? :-)

                                          I think you raise an interesting question as to exactly what constitutes upscale Mexican, and one I have been pondering since my meal at DF, since it doesn't meet your criteria on several counts. (No wine list to speak of, and yes, you can order rice and beans as side dishes, though they must be ordered seperately). But to me, most importantly, the types of foods it serves are items that would be street foods in Mexico. It is much harder to drag hubby to a Mexican place if they basically serve a pricey albeit quite tasty version of something(carnitas, flautas, tacos, quesadillas, tortilla soup) he can get for a fifth of the price in our neighborhood, regardless of whether they use Niman Ranch products, serve only sustainable seafood, or whatever. But if by upscale one means expensive, than sure, yeah, Mexico DF qualified.

                                          To me, true upscale Mexican would be a place like one of the top restaurants in Mexico City or Guadalajara, or other big Mexican cities, serving delicious food with creative appetizers and entrees that use top ingredients(not just botanas served in big portions as dinner). It should also have a wine list and full bar, and excellent service in an elegant atmosphere. I guess I am asking too much because I am not sure any of them qualify. Maya would come the closest perhaps; too bad their food and service isn't better....

                                          I've never eaten at one of Rick Bayless' places in Chicago, but Topolobampo certainly appears to fit my criteria. I guess a trip is in order to check it out...

                                          Topolobampo's current dinner menu, which fits my idea of upscale Mexican. Maybe someday someone (hint hint :-)) will open something similar in San Francisco:

                                          http://www.rickbayless.com/menu/layou...

                                          1. re: susancinsf

                                            I guess I got ahead of my self.... while it smelled great... the lamb sucked as well as the guiso of garbanzos & carrots... will have to try again once the dissappointment wears of.

                                        3. Maya, for high end.

                                          Otaez, for low end.

                                          I was at both Frontera Grill and Topolobombo in the past year. Neither is as good as Maya at this point in time.

                                          Tres Agaves was horrendous!

                                          36 Replies
                                          1. re: JojoSF

                                            well, it *might* be time to try Maya again. But I've tried it perhaps three times, and the food was never that impressiveand the service was *filled* with attitude.... to the point where the last time I went I had to be dragged back by a colleague after swearing I would never go back.

                                            Obviously, since I haven't eaten at Topolobampo I can't comment on the taste of the food, but the menu is certainly more interesting than Maya's. Also, it mentions a Wine Spectator award. That may not mean much, but at least I presume it means that they do in fact have a wine list. Maya's website mentions only house wines, and I can't remember a list there. Has anyone seen it or tried any of the wines at Maya?

                                            1. re: susancinsf

                                              Maya to me is aweful I would rather eat at a Taco truck.

                                              1. re: Lori SF

                                                JojoSf ...

                                                I'm hoping you will respond because I think your answer would really be imporant because it might answer what it might take for a successful upscale Mexican restaurant to succeed in the Bay Area.

                                                What is it about Maya that fits into your definition of good upscale Mexican where the Bayless restaurants. fail?

                                                Is it expectations about what Mexican food should be? In other words, it is the same food that is served at a place like Ortez but with a nice tequlia list, better surrounds and a better quality of ingrediants?

                                                When Maya first started, they didn't serve guacamole and chips. The outcry from customers ... well, they serve guacamole and chips in fancy dishes now.

                                                Even Bayless serves guacamole. To me that is the problem with upscale Mexican restaurants. At the top restaurants in Mexico, you didn't see that. What was served was creative dishes based on local ingrediants and heritage. It would be a place like Chez Panisse serving onion dip and chips without irony.

                                                I have problems eating at even the best of them in the Bay Area. Yeah, they do riffs on the standards with better ingrediants and Bay Area sensibilities ... but the soul is the soul of the USA and not of Mexico.

                                                I guess of those I tried, Dona Tomas I would consider the best, but it is not that upscale and it is Mexican food without identity. It is second generation Mexican-American.

                                                Looking at Maya's menu ... it has not changed a bit since I ate there a few years ago ... not one dish.
                                                http://www.modernmexican.com/mayasf/m...

                                                BTW, Salinas taco crawl participants ... looking at the link to the Bayless restaurants ... guess what he was serving !!!

                                                Vuelve a la Vida: seaside cocktail of shrimp, ceviche, fresh-shucked oysters and avocado in limey, Tamazula-sparked cocktail sauce. 11.00

                                                That's the same thing one of the Salinas trucks was making.
                                                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/409977

                                                Now THAT"S what we need ... an upscale, gourmet taco truck. It could work the financial district during the week and cruise Salinas on the week-ends.

                                                1. re: rworange

                                                  Interesting, Salinas, huh? I wish I had more to go by, but Frontera Grill, being the more casual of the 2 (Topalobampo the other), is very casual and approachable, yet still manges to be upscale. In Chicago a few weeks ago, I was taken by surprise one day at lunch when I showed up (table for 3, no reservation) and was offered a table at either Frontera or Top...bmpo. That aside, it's the food...the barbacoa, the pipian, the duck mole, amazing fish dishes, the SOUL.....even Maya doesn't come close yet it's so simple.

                                                  1. re: rworange

                                                    Chez Panisse has served guacamole, and there's a recipe in at least one of the cookbooks.

                                                    Guacamole is a great and classic dish. Not serving it would be like not serving green salad, an unwarranted swipe at a wonderful vegetable. Having to serve it every day, sure, that's pandering.

                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                      Agreed.... the difference would be guacamole & chips that rarely belongs unless its a well planned out, innovative dish like guacamole with queso blanco "chips" (the thin layer of griddled cheese that is brittle like a chip) etc.,.... guacamole & blue corn tortillas I will buy. Guacamole as a garnish I definitely buy.... Bacon wrapped Filets with a garnish of Guacamole is a classic 19th Century upscale dish.

                                                      Hell... I might even forgive some rice or bean dishes as long as its not the mindless Rice & Beans side to whatever entree you choose. I've had some rustic upscale meals in Mexico City that included a bean dish... for example the Monterrey style Cabrito with Charro Beans.

                                                      However, Krys and I share a similar concept.... that is places like Maya should / would ideally avoid serving Guacamole to wean people off it, get them to try other apps. The problem is that most people will go for the safe dishes and never try other things.. so they will always have the impression that Mexican cuisine is nothing more than Guacamole, Quesadillas & Carne Asada... and that ultimately undermines the foundation of upscale renditions.

                                                      Looking at Maya's menu it is definitely rooted in mid scale which is not necessarily bad. The problem is two fold:

                                                      1) It doesn't have much of a culinary identity. The chef got started out in New York where the baseline (not that long ago) was Taco Shell, Ground Beef, Fake Cheddar & Sour Cream tacos. As such his goal (and that of others in Manhattan) is to introduce the locals a general survey of traditional Mexican dishes... inherently these don't have a focused identity like you see in Mexico where non-touristy restaurants tend to be highly specialized and typically have a gist.

                                                      2) Since its Richard Sandoval's umpteenth restaurant execution & soul is going to be comparable to that of any other small chain. Just look at all the crap Wolfgang Puck restos around the country.

                                                      Now here is something interesting... why don't we compare Maya to a mid scale restaurant from Mexico City. La Bodega is actually on the lower end of mid scale (2 forks out of 4), doesn't cater to tourists, and has a relatively large menu of Mexico City favorites:

                                                      Appetizers

                                                      Molcajete with choice of Filet or Skirt strips
                                                      Goat Cheese Sopes
                                                      Pickled Pig Feet Tostada
                                                      Rib Eye Taco
                                                      Filet, Mushroom, Serrano Chile, Onion & Epazote Taco
                                                      Cheese stuffed Chile Relleno
                                                      Duck Barbacoa
                                                      Deer Salpicon (cooked in sofrito and served room temperature)

                                                      Soups / Pasta

                                                      Caldo Tlalpeno (a variation on tortilla soup)
                                                      Vegetables with Queso Fresco & Epazote
                                                      Nopales & Bean
                                                      Tomato Puree with Goat Cheese stuffed Ancho Chile rolls
                                                      Vermicelli & Chipotle Stir Fry

                                                      Mushrooms

                                                      In Red Wine
                                                      With Serrano Chile, Onions & Epazote
                                                      With Guajillo Chile & Garlic

                                                      Salads

                                                      Greens & Chicken
                                                      Hearts of Palm & Greens
                                                      Watercress
                                                      3 Lettuce & Goat Cheese

                                                      Red Meat

                                                      Filet au Gratin
                                                      Tampiquena (Grilled Skirt Steak served with Guacamole & Enchilada)
                                                      Filet over Wild Tomatillo & Morita Chile sauce
                                                      Filet Tips seared in Chipotle
                                                      Albondigas

                                                      Poultry

                                                      Chicken breast stuffed with Goat Cheese & 3 Chile Sauce
                                                      Chicken breast in Mole Poblano
                                                      Chicken breast in Squash Blossom sauce
                                                      Mole Poblano Enchiladas stuffed with Chicken Breast
                                                      Green Hoja Santa sauced Enchiladas with Chicken Breast au Gratin

                                                      Seafood

                                                      Fusili Pasta with Garlic Shripm
                                                      Red Snapper grilled in Hoja Santa
                                                      Red Snapper in Tamarind Sauce
                                                      Red Snapper any style

                                                      Desserts

                                                      Cajeta Gelatine
                                                      Neapolitan Flan
                                                      Mango Mousse
                                                      Candied Fruits with Cheeses
                                                      Cheese Cake (usually different than U.S. styles)


                                                      Wine List... 39 low to mid priced wines from Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Spain & France.


                                                      http://www.labodega.com.mx/

                                                      http://www.labodega.com.mx/vr.php?rv=bar

                                                      http://www.labodega.com.mx/vr.php?rv=...

                                                      http://www.labodega.com.mx/vr.php?rv=...

                                                      1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                        Forgot the seasonal menu:

                                                        Very Green Salad
                                                        Huazontle Fritters stuffed with Goat Cheese & Chipotle
                                                        Sea Bass in Peanut Sauce
                                                        Mahi Mahi in Cilantro Butter with Mashed Potatoes
                                                        Chocolate Mousse Cake

                                                        1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                          Exactly Eat Nopal. However I wish someone would import a real top Mexican chef to the area and let that person loose to do truly innovative cooking.

                                                          While upscale is the whole picture, the local upscale Mexican restaurants just have nice interiors with peasant food using top-quality ingredients and California sensibilities. Innovation means squash blossoms, corn fungus and cactus … and guac & chips. Oh yeah, if on the wild-side … pricy aqua fresca.

                                                          Oooohh ... I forgot about Mexican mushrooms ... not that kind ... they are on so many restaurant menus and you rarely if ever see them in local Mexican restaurants.

                                                          If I am missing this, is there anyplace in the Bay Area that serves Mexican food like Pujol?
                                                          Sorry, Spanish only, but easy enough to deciper … sous vide is sous vide.

                                                          http://www.losdanzantes.com/esp/coyme...

                                                          Pujol
                                                          http://www.pujol.com.mx/english.html

                                                          Filete de huachinango sous vide, puré de papa,chile poblano, caldillo de jitomate-laurel,

                                                          Capuchino de flor de calabaza, leche de coco, nuez moscada,

                                                          Garra de león, emulsión de chilpachole, gelatina de epazote, chips de ajo, pepino,

                                                          Escargot al cilantro, puré de papa, chorizo, rábano, microlechugas,

                                                          Esquite de cuatro granos, gelatina de mayonesa, queso fresco, epazote frito, chile piquín,

                                                          Pechuga de pato marinado en 5 especias, puré de tamarindo, dátil-jamaica, manzana panochera,

                                                          Entomatado de ternera de Wisconsin, risotto de limón, salsa de chipotle adobado, flores de tomillo y mejorana

                                                          What? Wisconsin?

                                                          That’s what I mean when saying that even Bayless isn’t doing stuff like that.

                                                          Even a few fusiony dishes like Restaurante Los Danzantes would be interesting
                                                          http://www.losdanzantes.com/esp/coyme...

                                                          - Chrysanthemum flower soup
                                                          - Fish with purple onions and habanero essence
                                                          - Escamoles with butter, wormseed, and green chile
                                                          - Cold soup of chile poblano with marinated fresh panela cheese
                                                          - Chicken breast empanada stuffed with goat cheese over chipotle cream sauce with porcini mushroom, ginger and sesame seeds

                                                          Heck even Los Grisoles has a more interesting menu with a funny, colorful and politically incorrect menu
                                                          http://www.restaurantelosgirasoles.co...

                                                          - Pistachio cream soup
                                                          - Rose petals pie
                                                          - Sweet milk gelatin covered with rompope punch
                                                          - Nahautal bread … spongy corn bread on cream sauce and poblano pepper slices
                                                          - Red snapper in Jamaica flower sauce
                                                          - Sea bass fillet breaded with huauzontles flower and green sauce
                                                          - After school dry noodles … Few things are so tasty when getting home after school as the dry noodles prepared by the fat cook. Covered with melted cheese and chipotle pepper sauce … those good old days of the 50’s and 60’s.

                                                          Anyone seen anything like the above … or in the US?

                                                          Heck, if anyone is doing fine-dining Mexican style, I'm so there.

                                                          1. re: rworange

                                                            The food at the quite upscale Mexican place I ate at in Baja this January didn't have any fusiony aspects or riffs on traditional cuisine or anything like that. The chef just took the great ingredients he could get his hands on and did the best he could with them. It was very much like eating at Chez Panisse.

                                                            report:
                                                            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/30872...
                                                            photos:
                                                            http://picasaweb.google.com/robert.la...

                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                              Laja doesn't really define itself as a Mexican restaurant... its Cocina de Autor.. and the Chef particularly likes to meander on the Spanish, Southern French side. There are dozens of restaurants around the country like Laja.... none of them define themselves as Upscale Mexican.

                                                              To me the great thing about Aguila y Sol, Izote, Azul y Oro, Bellinghausen, Antigua Hacienda de Tlalpan, La Taberna del Leon... is that while they are decidedly upscale... and may serve some imported items like Veal from Wisconsin or Spanish Serrano.... you really know you are in Mexico when you are eating at them.

                                                              Finally, I am not sure if you are referring to the use of roquefort and chevre as fusiony aspects... but that is not really true anymore.... maybe 20 years ago... but over the last 10 years there have been a number of artisinal cheesemakers setting up around Mexico State, Puebla & Querataro putting out good samples of those dishes... and they are finding their way into the everyday Mexican vernacular... using them today is not anymore fusiony than using Blue cheese in California cuisine.

                                                              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                My point is that most good chefs' styles are a reflection of the locally available ingredients filtered through their technique.

                                                                If you bring a good chef from an upscale restaurant in Mexico City to an upscale restaurant in San Francisco, their food's likely to lose most of its recognizably Mexican elements.

                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                  "If you bring a good chef from an upscale restaurant in Mexico City to an upscale restaurant in San Francisco, their food's likely to lose most of its recognizably Mexican elements."

                                                                  I really, really, really doubt that. There are plenty of good local ingredients that can easily be incorporated in the fold of Mexican cuisine.

                                                                  Even some of the more characteristic dishes of Mexico City involving Huitlacoche or Huazontles would not stop being recognizably Mexican if they substituted locally foraged mushrooms or greens.

                                                                  Mexican cuisine is as identifiable for its techniques (even if you are having a Wild Alaskan Salmon tamale... you know the technique is of Mexican origin) as it is for its ingredients.

                                                                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                    High-end Mexican cuisine isn't limited to traditonal Mexican techniques.

                                                                    A tamale is defined by the masa filling more than by the technique. Use a fish mousse instead and you're getting into quenelle or otak-otak territory.

                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                      Maybe fish mousse is a stretch but I've definitely had ground trout tamales in Mexico State.

                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                        My last comment was irrelevent... foods steamed in corn husks, banana leave, agave leave or hoja santa with masa or without is an identifiably Mexican technique irrelevant of whether other countries have a similar technique as well.

                                                                        If we go by your definition... then there isn't much that is French cuisine because many other countries have been using those same techniques for hundreds of years... .sometimes thousands.

                                                                2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                  So ... how was the guac & chips at Laja? Just joking.

                                                                  There are Cal-Cuisine restaurants in Mexico too ... I guess you could call it Baja Cal-Cuisine, eh?

                                                                  A place the NY Times writes is "called the French Laundry of the Guadalupe Valley" whose chef has a background at Danielle in NYC and The Four Seasons could hardly be considered putting out Mexican chow.
                                                                  http://www.sdcitybeat.com/article.php...
                                                                  http://travel.nytimes.com/2007/03/25/...
                                                                  http://www.lajamexico.com/ing/home.htm

                                                                  Which gets to my point about Bay Area Mexican food ...

                                                                  Just because a restaurant is in Mexico, uses local Mexican vendors and is owned by Mexicans ... doesn't make it Mexican. And BTW, doesn't that prove if you moved a Mexican chef to the US, they would no more lose their identity than Tellez abandoned his classical French and American training?

                                                                  This article says "Tellez trained at the French Culinary Institute in New York City, then apprenticed ... at Restaurant Daniel. From there, Tellez did a year-long stint at the Four Seasons in Mexico City and six months at La Folie in San Francisco.Tellez and Reinert wanted to open their own place modeled on the small restaurant inns that dot the French countryside"
                                                                  http://entertainment.signonsandiego.c...

                                                                  I'm getting there ... Brassica in Mexico City bills itself as a typical 'American restaurant" serving prime rib and clam chowder ... los pescadores de Neuva Ingleterra.
                                                                  http://www.brassica.com.mx/

                                                                  How sad if the world thought all that American food amounted to was steak and potatoes ... burgers and fries ... they would miss so much. I never did see a soul food restaurant in Mexico City ... or American BBQ ... or ... name it.

                                                                  By the same token, we have a narrow view of what Mexican cuisine is. Maybe my example for my upscale joints was a bad one ... but we miss everything from the downhome, complex dishes that Eat Nopal mentions to the places that cater to the trendy cell-phone toting party people in the Zona Rosa which is very much part of the fabric of Mexico. There is beautiful colonial and pre-historic art in Mexico. There are also exciting modern artists. What we see in this country is mainly the pottery ... very similar to the food situation. We have a narrow view and we miss alot.

                                                                  And it gets down to why I don't like Maya. It doens't deiliver what is says it is doing. It is just a standard American Mexican restaurant ... just expensive ... and often not as good as the mom and pop. You just get your guac and chips in silver bowls.

                                                                  Tacubaya is just the taqueria with 'name' produce and meat. Dona Tomas is verly little more than carnitas and standard Mexican-American dishes with California sensibiliities. They are second and third generation Mex-American.

                                                                  1. re: rworange

                                                                    Maya's menu includes a lot of dishes you wouldn't find at your standard Mexican-American restaurant, particularly among the entrees.

                                                                    http://www.modernmexican.com/mayasf/m...

                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                      I looked at Maya's menu when posting it above to see if anything had changed. I guess I'm not seeing what is different there.

                                                                      There is chile relleno, tortilla soup, tamales, quesadillas, ceviche, sopes, tacos, enchiladas, fried shrimp, mole poblano, etc.

                                                                      Why does EVERY place have to serve rice and beans. I've yet to find many people who even like Mexican rice.

                                                                      Putting beer-marinated filet mignon in a taco or throwing cactus vinagrette on a salad is not delving into Mexican cooking or doing creative cooking.

                                                                      That's almost a high-rent Mexican Applebee's. ... Maya ... shrimp sautéed with tequila chipotle~lime ...spinach salad with tamarind vinaigrette ... Applebee's ... chicken breast marinated in lime juice and tequila ... spinach salad with bacon vinaigrette

                                                                      The corn soup is a holdover from the opening since Bauer hilighted it.

                                                                      True there's American dishes with Mexican touches ... lamb sirloin / chive - mashed potatoes / balsamic vinager marinated portobello mushroom / adobo red wine sauce

                                                                      That fried eggplant dish is almost Italian ... with salsa on it.

                                                                      The corn soup with corn fungus was the promise Maya started with ... and it died there.

                                                                  2. re: rworange

                                                                    rworange & eat nopal, you too are killing me. "Everyone" I know is going to be in Arandas, Mexico next week's Tapatio's 777 70th anniversary celebration while I'm stuck here in Mexican Food Wasteland (aka San Francisco) and you too are posting awesome menus. I can tell I'm going to be spending most of the weekend in the kitchen cooking the regional dishes that will make me feel less miserable -- unless, of course, Mexico DF comes through.

                                                                    1. re: larochelle

                                                                      Aw!!! Tequila

                                                                      Doña Gabina Escolástica in Zapopan is about the only place I remember great tavern, homemade stews.. Had a 8 course meal lunch at a families home..they had guacamole! what fun, jealous I need my mexico fix soon.

                                                                      1. re: larochelle

                                                                        The most bizarre thing is that San Francisco / Berkeley should be the ideal breeding ground in the U.S. for killer Mexican cuisine. As I see it, it has that ideal blend of leftist, educated, cultured, quirky people that should just eat up Mexico's grassroots / anthropologist driven takes on upscale cuisine.

                                                                        Think about it all.... all the technique you find in French or Chinese cuisine, combined with the self assured simplicity of Italian, the bold ingredients yet complex flavors of India combined with the color & the sly warmth of the Mexican cultural mosaic should translate to the most sought after dining experiences.

                                                                        1. re: rworange

                                                                          I hear you... that has been my dissappointment up here in wine country. People who consider themselves foodies don't seem to have their own culinary ideas... they just like what they are supposed to like given the magazines... and they definitely have their neat little boxes where culinary merit follows per capita gdp.

                                                                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                            There are lots of Mexican influences among local chefs. It's just hard to pick them out from all the other influences: Chinese, French, Italian, Thai, etc. Plus they're cooking for the SF Bay Area market, not the Mexico City market.

                                                                            Guaymas did some serious Mexican food when it opened, and public pressure (or lack thereof) turned it into generic Mexican-American. Same thing happened with Cafe Marimba.

                                                                            1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                              Maybe restaurateurs either haven't been able to, or haven't tried to, overcome the idea that Mexican food is "peasant" food and should therefore be cheap and "down and dirty"; or conversely, that food that isn't rustic and typical of what Mexican field workers eat isn't authentically Mexican.

                                                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                I think you nailed it right there, Ruth. Dropping $20-30+/entree for French, Italian, Japanese, or Cal Cuisine? No problem. But charge those prices at a Mexican (or SE Asian, or BBQ) restaurant and everyone complains that it is "overpriced" and a "rip-off" regardless of how great the food may be.

                                                                                1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                                                                  Well, I still have a problem choking down $30 entrees unless it's *really* special, but I get your point.

                                                                                  1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                                                                    But it's ok if you put Cali next to it..ie Peruvian/cali, mexican/cali, fusion asian/cali.. then you can charge that amount!. It's also the rent around here.

                                                                                  2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                    That is key.... the star chefs in Mexico City go beyond what Robert labels as great chefs (using the best local ingredients blah, blah).... millions of women in Mexico City fit that label - they have educated consumers there.

                                                                                    It wasn't that long ago that upscale in Mexico City meant either Classic French, Spanish or 19th Century French Mexican (think Like Water for Chocolate)... and it certainly didn't include things like Huitlacoche.

                                                                                    But strong visionary chefs, were able to draw upon the rich cultural fabric of the country, the majestic ruins, the masterpieces at the Museum of Anthropology etc., and reeducated consumers.... now some of the most expensive, beautiful, and highly rated restaurants in the city are dedicated to Mexican cuisine... and as appreciation for Mexican cooking techniques grows... people are starting to view French cuisine as... oh yeah its kind of like Mexican but without the flavor.

                                                                                    Unfortunately (for us)... Mexico is still very much a fertile ground, with huge growth potential for this "school" of chefs... so I don't expect California to really be able to steal that level of talent just yet. On the bright side... it wasn't that long ago that Mexicans went to Europe for formal training... now culinary academies (particularly those that grant Bachelor's degrees in liberal arts) have been popping up all over the country... so maybe its not that long until Mexico starts exporting formally trained talent (as opposed to my cousins from the village, whose only previous cooking experience were the weekend parillada & cerveza parties).

                                                                                    One last thing I would say... is that in Mexico the best cooking is overwhelmingly done by women... yet males dominate the kitchens of Mexican eateries in Califronia.... and that is key. Not just execution... but in offerings as well. A restaurant headed up by women is going to be rich in vegetable offerings.... leave it to the guys... and that is not so true.

                                                                          2. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                            Actually, Richard Sandoval started in California, and then worked in Mexico City before moving to New York.

                                                                            http://www.modernmexican.com/mm.thech...

                                                                            If there are really great avocados in season, there's no better way to enjoy them than by mashing them up with lime juice and salt and serving them with freshly made totopos.

                                                                            A great chef will serve that dish in season. A mediocre, insecure chef will mess it up by adding some counterproductive "creative" element. A bad chef will serve it year round, whether great avocados are available or not.

                                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                              I guess I was wrong about his bio.... what a freaking joker... HE redifined Mexican cooking? Boy! Thats like Guy Fieri taking credit for redifining California Cuisine.

                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                Yes, if you are eating in your friends kitchen fresh guac is great. .It is distressing that even someone who has such great taste would push so hard to defend the ubiquitous quac and chips on a menu.

                                                                                Seems like tacos as appetizers are the thing in Mexico City restaurants. Here's a couple of average and not very innovative nicer Mexico City restaurants ... the sort of thing I remember. Sure you can also dredge up the tourist traps with the guacamole and chips, but that doesn't happen in the places that cater to Mexicans or both visitors and locals.

                                                                                And even then, there are things you rarely if ever see here like cilantro soup.

                                                                                Like Eat Nopal says, avocados, especially stellar ones, are more likely to be served sliced or as a touch like on this menu which has three dishes only with it as a garnish... acompanada con guacamole ... btw ... anyone serve arrrachera in the Bay Area ... or is that just covered under carne asada?

                                                                                Hmm not sure if I want fish with roquefort and chili poblano sauce to make it north of the border. Sorry, this is Spanish only, but easy enough to interpret like the caldo loco
                                                                                http://www.guadiana.com.mx/

                                                                                This joint is geared toward tourists, having English translations but it gives an idea. Queso fundido is often seen on menus.

                                                                                It has one dish with guac ... and this place caters to the English speakers ...

                                                                                Fantasía Tabasqueña
                                                                                STRIP OF BEEF SERVED OVER A BANANA LEAF & ACCOMPANIED BY CHEESE AND PEPPERS FRIED PLANTAIN BANANAS & GUACAMOLE

                                                                                If anyone sees local menus with a variety of dishes like this in the bay are, please let me know ..
                                                                                http://www.villamaria.com.mx/menu_E.html

                                                                                - Morralitos del Campo
                                                                                UNIQUE CREPES, ONE STUFFED WITH SQUASH BLOSSOM & OAXACA CHEESE; THE OTHER WITH GREEN PEPPER MUSHROOMS & CHEESE
                                                                                - Los Cuerazos se dan su Taco
                                                                                GOLDEN BROWN CRISPY CHICKEN FRITTERS, SERVED IN CORN TORTILLAS WITH GREEN AVOCADO SALSA
                                                                                - Infladitas de las Inditas de la Plaza
                                                                                POTATO TURNOVERS WITH SOFT FRESH CHEESE AND CILANTRO
                                                                                - Sopa Cremosa de Cacahuate con Camarón
                                                                                CREAM BASED SHRIMP & PEANUT SPICY SOUP

                                                                                Not enough to serve chips with quac here ... we even gravitate toward the ever-present soup with them ... torilla soup ... ole.

                                                                                Even the old over-pricy chestnuts (it's a view restaurant ... think The Waterfront with slightly better food) ... even they don't serve guac that I ever remembered. Click on sugenrecias.
                                                                                http://www.lago.com.mx/

                                                                        2. re: susancinsf

                                                                          I've eaten several times at Maya, all for business dinners, and remember very little of the food save the guacamole. I've never had anything bad there, but nothing memorable and nothing that knocked my socks off at the creative use of ingredients in Mexican preparations. It's very safe.

                                                                          On the other hand, I remember my lunch at Frontera Grill very fondly (I managed to sneak it in before a flight, and they made sure I was able to enjoy a full meal). Even at the more casual of his restaurants, I enjoyed food that stood apart from local places, and that went beyond the botanas approach susaninsf describes.

                                                                          1. re: JojoSF

                                                                            Could you be more specific in your comparison? I have eaten at all three places, although not as recently as you, so I'd love to hear your thoughts.

                                                                          2. Maya is good for business lunch.

                                                                            -----
                                                                            Maya Restaurant
                                                                            303 2nd St., San Francisco, CA 94107

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: davina

                                                                              sorry, adding to that... got distracted: Maya is good for a business lunch though it's overpriced and rather stuffy. The food is not much more than serviceable. They do a pretty brisk lunch takeout (tacos etc.), too, which I've always found to be better than the actual sit-down business.

                                                                              1. re: davina

                                                                                The book 'Modern Mexican Flavors' (by Sandoval of Maya) is good and interesting. The mile high construction of the dishes and squeeze bottle sauces all seem a little dated now, but if there were just one branch and the well was deeper, I bet this could have been a really great place.
                                                                                I haven't been but I've never heard of anyone feeling passionate about it.

                                                                            2. I had never heard of Colibri until I read these posts, so I decided to check out their website. It seems like their menu is identical, word for word, even typestyle, to the menu at Consuelo's in Santana Row in San Jose. Are they related?

                                                                              7 Replies
                                                                                1. re: larochelle

                                                                                  What do you guys think of Panchitas #3? I don't know if it's "upscale", but there are white table cloths :) But, seriously, it's more salvadoran, but I thought it was great. And, I'm really picky about my mexican food (I've lived in Texas).

                                                                                  1. re: ak45

                                                                                    It's Salvadorean, not Mexican (unless the cooks are Mexican).

                                                                                    1. re: ak45

                                                                                      I'm from Texas and have spent some time in Mexico and Latin America.

                                                                                      I really like Panchitas #3, like you said its not really upscale or Mexican but its a very nice mid-range Latin American restaurant. And I really like that the chef experiments.

                                                                                      1. re: ak45

                                                                                        Here's the address:

                                                                                        -----
                                                                                        Panchita No. 3
                                                                                        3115 22nd Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                                                                          1. re: larochelle

                                                                                            Sorry larochelle - I was trying out the new "Link a Place" feature by adding that address to the thread.

                                                                                  2. Does Sacramento count? We went to Zocalo last night. The food was so-so . . . I ordered mole chicken. The mole was good, but the chicken was some kind of pounded breast cutlet that didn't lead you to believe it had ever actually walked the earth or clucked. The prawn tacos looked fabulous as they went by, but nobody I was with had ordered them. But the setting was sensational and the mojitos were excellent. We sat outside. It get's hot it Sacto so the evenings are gorgeous. The total experience was nicer than Consuelo's, because the platanos were hot and unlike Consuelo's, not drizzled with some kind of disgusting crema or fake sour cream or whatever they dump on them if you forget to mention not to, and the street corner was real, unlike Santana Row where you always have to pretend your somewhere even though it's actually a kind of Potemkin village that disappears when you look fifty feet in any direction.

                                                                                    1. http://www.santanarow.com/dining/?id=19

                                                                                      Consuelo Mexican Bistro
                                                                                      377 Santana Row, #1125
                                                                                      San Jose, CA 95128 / 408-260-7082
                                                                                      Fax 408.260.7090

                                                                                      1. Another contender: the Chron reports that Rick Bayless is opening a restaurant in Macy's Union Square next month. Web site says "authentic Mexican street food with a menu of tortas, huaraches, tamales and quesadillas, plus small-batch, chile-infused salsas and Frontera's stone-ground, all-natural tortilla chips."

                                                                                        http://www.rickbayless.com/restaurant...

                                                                                        7 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                          yes, I am just soooo annoyed that he is limiting his foray into SF to street food! Good tortas we can get in the bay area....but maybe the quesadillas will be worth it....and maybe if he does well he would open a truly upscale place.

                                                                                          1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                            The quesadillas at Frontera are Mexico City style, I think. Had them, never been to Mexico City.

                                                                                            1. re: wally

                                                                                              I definitely will be there to try them very soon after opening!

                                                                                              Best quesadillas estilo DF that I've had recently were in LA. (but then, it has been a while since my last trip to DF). I'd be quite pleased if Bayless could even come close to matching them:

                                                                                              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/409953

                                                                                            2. re: susancinsf

                                                                                              I would keep expectations low... his line of Salsas (sold at Whole Foods), pretty much suck. I wonder just how involved he is in Frontera Fresco... I get the feeling it will be like his involvement in the salsas.

                                                                                              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                Hello Bay Area hounds,

                                                                                                I'm not sure Bayless's SF venture will be the upscale Mexican place you've been waiting for. Here in Chicago he's had a similar Frontera Fresco spot in the food court of Macy's (formerly Marshall Fields) for the last two years. The consensus is that it's pretty good relative to other lunch options nearby, but not really comparable to what you get in his two restaurants.

                                                                                                But even so, it may be a welcome additional option for a quick lunch in that area (as the Chicago one is for that section of the Loop).

                                                                                                Here's a link to the Chicago Frontera Fresco menu on menupages:
                                                                                                http://chicago.menupages.com/restaura...

                                                                                                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                  Really? Admittedly, I've only tried his (hot) chipotle-based one, but I thought it was fantastic.

                                                                                                  I'm hoping that though we have no lack of street food here in SF, his style will bring some solely needed HEAT to the mexican food in this city. For the life of me, I don't understand why it's so bland here.

                                                                                                  1. re: epicurious_sf

                                                                                                    That is the one I have in the cupboard. Its not a bad tasting salsa (as many of the mainstream bottled U.S. made ones are)... it just doesn't have much complexity (garlic, onions, allspice, oregano etc.,) or heat.

                                                                                                    I recently used about half the bottle in a Guiso of two Mexican zucchinis, half a small onion & some Mint Leaves... and just barely some perceptible heat.

                                                                                            3. Zazil continues to be the most intresting one to me (not that I have been), the Chef used to cook for ex-President Fox... so it puzzles me that it has gotten bad reports.

                                                                                              Who has been there, what did they try? How was it?

                                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                  and mine. President Fox probably didn't know or care how much he paid...but for little ole me, the value just wasn't there...

                                                                                                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/332159

                                                                                                  1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                    What I gather from those reports... is that some recent ones are positive on food concepts particularly for the regional specialities (Crab Tamal, Lobster hot pot, Octopus carpaccio, Jamaica enchiladas etc.,) but service is spotty at best with results on the food (sitting on too long before its served).... and its expensive for the portion size, compared to other mid priced places like Incanto... and the mall setting doesn't merit the price. Alot of the dissappointment comes with more ordinary dishes like the Fish Tacos, Guacamole etc.,

                                                                                                    Despite that, I will take one of team... in hopes that I can have good renditions of rarely translated regional specialties that would otherwise require a plane ticket.

                                                                                                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                      Link

                                                                                                      -----
                                                                                                      Zazil
                                                                                                      845 Market St, San Francisco, CA

                                                                                              1. How about recommendations for MID-scale Mexican restaurants? Something in between a taqueria and a $24 entree. Nice sit-down atmosphere, and $12 carnitas, that kind of thing...
                                                                                                I love Maya, hate Colibri, think Tres Agaves is way overrated, and thought Mamacita was okay. Just can't get excited at eating at a place in the mall, for Zazil. Am trying Mexico DF tonight!

                                                                                                9 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: sfkristi

                                                                                                  See above, for some comments on mid-scale places like Cocina Poblana.

                                                                                                  I was at Mexico DF again last night with a fairly big group of big chowish eaters, and there were enough of us that we were able to try much of the menu. One of the other diners took notes and promised to post a full report here, but in the meantime, my advice is: order the chicken tinga, avoid the nopales, and if you are willing to spend $10.50 for a very nicely done margarita, try the 'Polanco'......

                                                                                                  1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                    How's the chicken tinga compare with El Huarache Azteca's?

                                                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                      I liked Mexico DF's version much more (though it is definitely more expensive at Mexico DF). then again, I am not the Huarache fan many other hounds are, and haven't been in a long while. I'd really have to give EHA's version a more recent shot to be fair. (I can barely remember it at EHA). I think at least one other hound at the dinner last night has also had both versions; perhaps he will speak up about this also....

                                                                                                      1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                        As has been stated the tinga was our best dish...the others in general were below expectations considering the bruhaha (and price). EHA is not very pretentious so we expect less. I went to Alameny yesterday and had huitlacoche quesadillas, a flor and mushroom huarache and nopalitos tostada. All of them better than anything in either Mexico DF or EHA!

                                                                                                        1. re: marlon

                                                                                                          So did you think Mexico DF's chicken tinga was better than El Huarache Azteca's?

                                                                                                    2. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                      And here's the promised post. Apologies for being tardy. If I were 20 years younger, I would love this place. Good tequila and interesting food choices. Hip crowd. Pulsing music.

                                                                                                      But I'm not.

                                                                                                      This place was loud. I think "din" aptly describes the volume. Our table actually was vibrating from the noise. But, aside from that...

                                                                                                      We ordered a whole bunch of botanos, a few platos fuertes, desserts and a handful of other tasty items. They were:

                                                                                                      The guacamole classico. The consensus was, nicely done but could have used a few more squirts of lime and a bit more cilantro. The chips that accompanied appeared housemade, fresh and thick enough to cradle a good scoop of the guacamole without breaking.

                                                                                                      Tacos--tinga de pollo. Bathed in a chipotle sauce, a crowd favorite. I wasn't sure that the tortillas were house made, but on leaving we assured ourselves that, indeed, they were. The corn flavor was spot on, but the uniform shape threw me off.

                                                                                                      Tacos de cabrito. Not so great. The baracoa goat meat was stringy and tasteless. It's color, even in the darkened interior that epitomizes Mexico DF, was a pallid grey.

                                                                                                      Botanas: Quesadillas DF. Stuffed with squash flowers, oaxacan cheese and served with guacamole, this dish received mixed reviews. Not a personal favorite, but anything with gooey cheese gets a thumbs up from me.

                                                                                                      Botanas: Lamb tamal. Not your traditional tamale with a whisper of mint. Very tasty.

                                                                                                      Platos fuertes: Whole roasted snapper. Huge hit. Not overcooked, seasoned (but not too much) with garlic and served with watercress and pickled jalapenos. We picked it clean. And the cheeks were the best part!

                                                                                                      Platos fuertes: Carnitas. Another big favorite. Espeically with me. Difference of opinion because of its untraditional appearance, i.e. big chunks of the pork, rather than chopped meat. But still, I thought very flavorful. If others disagree, I know you'll chime in!

                                                                                                      Al lado: Nopalitos. Yuk. 'nuff said.
                                                                                                      Al lado: Frijoles. One diner commented, needs espazote.
                                                                                                      Al lado: arroz. Blah, boring, bleh.

                                                                                                      Desserts: We ordered the chocolate cake with chile and sea salt and the flan. Sadly enough, either we were just too full to appreciate, or the dishes were uninispiring. I think the latter because I can always fit in a bit more when it comes to dessert.

                                                                                                      Drinks: Margarita Polanco. Served on the rocks with herradura reposado and a float of gran marnier. Quite tasty. Coffee with dessert was bitter.

                                                                                                      Cece

                                                                                                      1. re: Cecelia

                                                                                                        I agree on the noise....the first time I went it was Sunday night, and much much quieter. I did notice that it got quieter as we were leaving at 9:30, so late diners might enjoy it more. Part of the problem is just size and set up, and part is that it seems to attract a young, drinking crowd after work. Of course, they could help by turning down the music!

                                                                                                        The arroz was plainer than on my first visit, and yes, the epazote that I could detect the first time I tried the beans seemed to be MIA, although I am never a huge fan of frijoles....

                                                                                                        as on my first visit, I also loved the carnitas! The apperance may be untraditional, but the taste is just right, and the salsas that come with are great, especially the salsa verde.

                                                                                                        I really liked the quesadillas, so I probably pulled the group consensus to the positive side, but this is a personal thing: as I have mentioned elsewhere on the board, tasting this style of quesadilla brings back fond memories of my adolescence in the real Mexico DF....

                                                                                                        one of the group did like the flan. I thought it was average, and I am not a chocolate fan so am the wrong one to weigh in there. Besides, the noise was giving me a headache by then....

                                                                                                        1. re: Cecelia

                                                                                                          The above is definitely the consensus of the group. Even the tamal I had better at Alameny Market yesterday. (se my other response above).

                                                                                                          Modern Mexican food (which this place is trying to do) is a big thing now in mexico City. All started by Quintana in Izote restaurant in Polanco. Unfortunately the same as with Chez Panisse there are many imitators and not all very succesful! Still, if you are in the area Mexico DF is a possibility if you want to socialize in a very loud happening place...

                                                                                                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                            LInk to Mexico DF

                                                                                                            -----
                                                                                                            Mexico DF
                                                                                                            139 Steuart Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                                                                                      2. Tres Agaves is mediocre at best, though I do like the albondigas.

                                                                                                        Colibri's tortillas are out of this world. I can't remember being wowed by anything else there.

                                                                                                        I love Zazil. Recently went with bf and had deliciuos chicken and scallop entrees. I love that crab soup too.

                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                        1. re: yehfromthebay

                                                                                                          I guess it depends on what you like -- I remember thinking the tortillas at Colibri were too "cakey." Overall, as someone who eats her Mexican food in Fruitvale, I wasn't impressed by Colibri, but I haven't been to the other "upscale" places, so I can't compare.

                                                                                                        2. Colibri is the best for upscale in SF period. Then Zazil, then Mamacita (decent food, fun atmosphere). DO not waste your $$$ at Tres Agaves...it is horrible. If I felt like eating this type of food, Colibri, HANDS DOWN, is the best place to eat....far above all its competitors.

                                                                                                          1 Reply