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A Newbie's Week in Mexico City, part 1

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First, I must thank all the people on this board who have been so generous with their posts and pointers about Mexico, in particular, my fellow Bay Area hound, Carb Lover, whose own official post I await hungrily.

Straight from the airport, DH's colleague took us to Casa Licha for pozole and chalupas (Sur 69-A No.513 Col. Justo Sierra; tel. 5539 1325). I couldn't have asked for a better introduction to Mexican food in Mexico. There was a long queue outside a converted house--apparently this restaurant is only open on weekends and has a large local following. The chalupas reminded me of Southeast Asian rice crackers, though topped with a smear of sauce, shredded pork, and a tiny fragment of smoked chile--exactly enough to accent the rest of the chalupa. The pozole came in two versions, green and "white" and both were simple, but richly savory with long-simmered pork and huge kernels of hominy.

The next day, I joined a tour to Taxco, where we had lunch at the Restaurante del Angel, right beside the church. The view was gorgeous, but the menu was pretty much the standard tourist fare, except for a couple of disturbing items which included "Donkey Spaghetti." (A couple of days later, I realized that it must have been a mistranslation of spaghetti al burro. Or, at least I hope it was.)

Dinner was at Casa Portugesa in Polanco, which did a creditable job with the pulpo and grilled sardines. At another dinner I had a very nice, thick slab of bacalao cooked with jamon serrano and olive oil.

There wasn't enough time during the short day tour to Puebla to seek out any of the promising places mentioned by chowhounds, so I had to settle for the chicken mole poblano and grease-logged chalupas at the El Ranchito just off the main plaza. I had never had mole poblano, so I had nothing to compare it with, but it was interesting enough--shades of barbecue sauce--so I'd order it again, though not at that same place.

I took Carb Lover's advice (always well-worth taking) and checked out the Maria Bonita at the Hotel El Camino for a solo dinner. Gorditas con chicharron, crisp cornmeal discs filled with crushed chicharron, chile sauce, cilantro and onions, and topped with grated cotija, were very good. But it was the pulpo con camarron en molcajete that was memorable. The large shrimp had real flavor (hard to come by tasty fresh shrimp in the Bay Area), and the chunks of pulpo were so sweet and tender that they could have passed for lobster. I ate pulpo every chance I got in Mexico, and I was never disappointed, though this instance was the best.

The next day's discovery was Bondy, a cafe in Polanco (38 Galileo) with Viennese roots. The omelet con flor de calabaza was good, though a bit dry for my taste. But the miloja--a.k.a. Napoleon--was superb: thoroughly flaky millefeuille and pastry cream filling with just enough body and sweetness. (in general, sweets in Mexico were too sugary for my taste.) Other good savory dishes are the crepes Bondy, filled with chicken or cheese and topped with Bondy's special green chile sauce.

(To be continued)

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  1. "Sur 69-A No.513 Col. Justo Sierra"
    Thanks for the interesting report. I'm looking forward to the next installment.

    I'm not real clear on that address. There's a street called "Sur"?

    6 Replies
    1. re: Anonimo

      I wish I could be more specific, but I just copied the information verbatim off the back of one of those wrapped candies that came with the check. The place is on the right-hand side at the end of a street--a cul de sac, if you will--in an otherwise quiet, middle-class residential area. Could Col. Justo Sierra be the street? I'd like to know, too, because I'd love to go back on my next visit. I could eat half-a-dozen of those chalupas.

      DH's colleague says she grew up across the street from the restaurant, and has been going there since she was a child. The place is owned by a family (teachers, I think she said) who have other jobs during the week, hence the restaurant is only open weekends.

      1. re: pilinut

        The name of the street is Sur 69-A. The actual street address is Sur 69-A #513. The neighborhood is Colonia Justo Sierra. The delegaciĆ³n is Iztapalapa. The postal code is 09460.

        Sur 69-A is west of the Circuito Interior.

        Link: http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com

        1. re: cristina

          Thanks, Criistina, for that info.

          1. re: cristina

            "The delegaciĆ³n is Iztapalapa"

            Iztapalapa is one of the "worse" areas of Mexico City... for those who have been scared off by media hysteria... here you go.... a local Chowhound that has been to "hell" and come back.

            Pilinut... I am glad you got to experience a real blue collar, working class eatery.

            1. re: Eat_Nopal

              Really? I thought the neighborhood looked pretty peaceful. I wouldn't hesitate to return alone if I could find a cabbie who wouldn't try to overcharge me. (But that's another story.) The area is not rich, like Polanco, but nothing indicated that the denizens lived in fear or anxiety. If any Mexico City hounds have tried--or will try--Casa Licha, I'd love to get a local's opinion on the food.

              I caught glimpses of parts of Mexico City that are definitely no-go areas for outsiders, but that's true of any big city. I took the metro and a regular city bus and, after my (usual) initial anxiety, decided that maintaining Alert Level Orange would be more than adequate. Anyway, I've forgetten what color is less than Orange ;-)

              1. re: pilinut

                I was saying it tongue & cheek... Iztapalapa has a reputation as one of the most dangerous Delegaciones... but I am not surprised it has perfectly fine Colonias.

      2. Thanks for your report back, Pia! I'm ashamed that my report remains forthcoming! I will try to overcome my writer's block this weekend and at least get the Mexico City part posted. Thanks for your inspiration!