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Review w/ photos: Izote de Patricia Quintana

Photos here: http://tokyoastrogirl.blogspot.com/20...

Having planned my Mexico City trip in advance, I’d made reservations at Izote de Patricia Quintana for our first night in the city. I’d read a lot about this restaurant whose chef has helped put Mexico City on the gourmet map by drawing heavily on indigenous ingredients and was very excited to try it. The restaurant was very colorful and was filled with fashionable men and women- it is located in Polcano, which many call the “Beverly Hills” of Mexico City. We ordered drinks (tequila for my friend, a dark beer for J, margarita for me and “Coke Light” for my friend LS who doesn’t drink) and looked over the English menu. There were so many interesting options that it was difficult to make a choice, but after consulting each other on what we were getting (to make sure there were no duplicates!) we ordered our food.

We were given a basket of large, crispy tortillas made with blue corn and a trio of salsas. All were very tasty, with the salsa verde being everyone’s favorite. They were the perfect accompaniment to our drinks- my margarita was perfectly tart and strong, while JI’s tequila shot came with a second shot glass filled with a savory, spicy tomato juice. It was so delicious I would have drank it as a soup had it been served to me in a bowl. I also loved that the waiters would bring your glass to the table and then fill it up with the tequila of your choice. Ditto if you ordered a tequila and tonic- they would pour the tequila into your large glass until you said to stop, then top it off with the tonic. I’m not really sure if they would keep pouring if you just sat there until the tequila filled your glass but I imagine they would.

We had decided to share a couple of appetizers to whet our appetites. The shredded venison with achiote and picked onions was my favorite- it had a very chewy texture that was strange at first, then became addictive….each rope-like piece was so flavorful and, when rolled in warm, handmade corn tortillas, was pretty much all you needed with any cocktail. The four small tamales were also good but so tiny that it was really a challenge to split them all up between the four of us. Since they were each a different flavor we wanted to try them all, and the one with huitlacoche (black corn mold) was definitely the winner. It was slightly pungent in the way a truffle is and added a nice contrast to the slightly sweet masa surrounding it.

After those plates were cleared, our main courses arrived and so many different scents wafted through the air I could hardly wait to dig in. J had a beautiful fresh chile stuffed with sweet, tender chunks of salmon ceviche. It wasn’t tart like most ceviches but just slightly tangy and mellow- I definitely tasted pineapple juice in there somewhere- and was so perfectly cooked in the acid. JI’s chile and cinnamon rubbed steak was so flavorful and aromatic- it’s something I’d love to try at home- and we noticed that a lot of people had ordered it as well. L ordered the rib eye with an apple and sweet potato puree which was less sweet than you may think and a wonderful match to his juicy steak. I went with the lobster enchiladas with pumpkinseed sauce which, quite honestly, was the best I’d ever had. The pumpkinseed sauce was sweet and creamy at first bite, but that sweetness slowly evolved into a mellow yet fiery heat in the back of my throat. It was so deep in flavor and, had I used a few pieces of bread to sop up the sauce after I’d eaten the enchiladas.

Being vacation and all, we had to order dessert (of course) and the four we chose were all very impressive. J went with a trio of sorbets- the guava being the best one- which came with a Florentine made with pumpkin seeds. L had to go with the chocolate box with chocolate truffles, blackberries, raspberries, and a vanilla custard sauce which we all pretty much dug into once we saw the creamy custard literally spilling out of what looked like a paper bag made of chocolate. Talk about over the top! JI’s crepes filled with a hazelnut chocolate filling and a vanilla custard sauce were voted our favorite, and my crème brûlée of mamey (a melon that looks kind of like a mango and I saw everywhere at the Mercado) had a golden, crispy topping and hid a pile of warm berries at the bottom of the dish. I took a couple of bites and couldn’t eat anymore but the rest of the table ended up making a pretty big dent in it.

We rolled ourselves out of Izote with full bellies and big smiles. I saw Patricia Quintana wandering around the dining room but was too shy to say anything to her. I think it’s cool that a female chef is making such an impact on the culinary world, and we certainly enjoyed her unique creations.

Izote de Patricia Quintana
Av. Presidente Masaryk 513
Between calles Sócrates and Platón, Col. Polanco, Chapultepec Park & Polanco
Mexico City, Mexico
55/5280-1671, 55/5280-1265

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  1. Beautiful, Tokyoastrogirl. As always.

    1. I also had a great meal there but you hear a lot of complaints. I still dream about the mole de jamaica with shrimp.....

      1. hi there,
        wondering how the prices were at Izote? we're thinking of going with friends and want to make sure they're up for a possible splurge before we go. thanks, abby

        7 Replies
        1. re: abby in df

          I'd plan on spending $2000-2500 pesos (about $200-250 dollars) for four of you, more if you have wine or lots of cocktails. Last time I was there, the tamarind and blackberry margaritas at the next table looked extremely good...

          By the way, the 'tomato juice' accompaniment to the OP's tequila is sangrita, normally served 'back' with straight tequila.

          1. re: cristina

            Sangrita (the REAL sangrita) has no tomato juice whatsoever in it. The red color comes from grenadine, but the liquid is mostly orange juice and lime juice (usually 1 part grenadine, 2 parts lime juice, and 8 parts orange juice). Typically, raw onion slices (white onions, of course) are placed in the sangrita to marinate for as long as a couple of days and are then discarded. Then tabasco (or the hot sauce of one's choice) and salt is added to taste.

            Tequila con Sangrita is great!

            1. re: dlglidden

              I've had more than my share of sangrita and as with most things Mexican, it's not wise to speak in absolutes. I've had it with tomato juice as often as not.

              1. re: dlglidden

                Yes! I interviewed the man whose mother invented sangrita, a zillion years ago. The 'real deal' sangrita is never made with tomato juice. Orange juice, jugo de limón, chile de árbol, and salt...that's all that was in la viuda's recipe. (In this case, the color came from the chile, dlglidden.) For years it was the only palatable sangrita made commercially. A few years back, the brand was sold to a jumbo producer and the name is all that's left of the original. The flavor, the consistency--the entire product is just wrong and really dreadful.

                Earl Grey, you're so right about not speaking in absolutes when speaking about Mexico--my standard answer to any question about my country is, "It depends." And right again, much sangrita made today has tomato juice in it--but it's not the way it's 'sposed to be.

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

                1. re: cristina

                  Christina,

                  In bottled Viuda de Sánchez Sangrita "La Original Sangrita—orgullosamente desde 1956 elaborada con la original receta de la viuda de Sánchez made and bottled by Cuervo (my wife's favorite brand) which is the brand I think you're talking about, the red color comes from Red Dye #40 and Yellow Dye #6. And the flavor comes from salt, hot sauce, citric acid, and orange emulsion. Sounds like a chemical stew, but it's actually pretty good and is about the best you can hope for when ordering tequila con sangrita in a Mexican bar or restaurant.

                  We've had tomato-based sangrita only a very few times in Mexico and invariably it's been in small bars/restaurants, usually in the boonies, where the establishment didn't have any bottled sangrita so made it from scratch using ingredients on hand—and every restaurant/bar has canned or bottled tomato juice. But it's truly a disgusting substitute.

                  1. re: dlglidden

                    Yes, but notice that it's made and bottled by Cuervo. This is a recent development--it's the buyout that I mentioned in my post. Cuervo bought the brand name from the original owner, the now-elderly son of "La Viuda" who created the original recipe for sangrita.

                    The original company, SANE, is based in Chapala, Jalisco, and still produces Salsa Chapala. I know the owner. Salsa Cholula, one of SANE's bottled salsa brands, was also bought out by Cuervo at the same time Cuervo bought Viuda de Sánchez Sangrita "La Original...etc". Salsa Cholula, with the signature wooden bottle top, is the best of its kind on the market--except for Salsa Chapala, which has a plain plastic screw-on bottle top and costs about one-tenth what Cholula costs. In fact, if you take your own container--any size container!--to the factory in Chapala, they will fill it up for you and charge you substantially less than the grocery store price. Salsa Chapala is so region-specific that I can't find it on any grocer's shelf in Morelia, where I live. I have to buy a few bottles any time I'm in Guadalajara.

                    Here's the story about the salsa:
                    http://mexicocooks.typepad.com/mexico...

                    When SANE owned the Viuda de Sánchez Sangrita brand, NO red dye and NO yellow dye were in the product. The sangrita contained only orange juice, grapefruit juice, chile de árbol, and maybe xanthan gum as a preservative.

                    The Cuervo mishmosh that CUERVO claims to be the original recipe is a poor substitute for the original product, but I agree with you, it's as good as it gets when it comes to commercially made sangrita.

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

                    1. re: cristina

                      Cristina,

                      That's a fascinating story of your personal historical record of the origins of sangrita. Thanks so much for posting it.

                      Of course I know Cuervo now makes Viuda de Sánchez, that's what I said in my post. And I mentioned it because I was virtually certain that that sangrita was the one you were referring to when you said: " A few years back, the brand was sold to a jumbo producer and the name is all that's left of the original." And I mentioned it because I wanted to confirm that the recipe had been fiddled with in the Cuervo chemistry labs. But I think it was sold to Cuervo earlier. The shape of the bottles and the labels have been the same since the mid 80s, unless I'm mistaken. And I suppose it is Googelable if anyone cared.

                      We get to the Guadalajara area only every five years or so, which means we'll probably continue to drink Cuervo's VdS in México and will use our recipe when NOB. (It's actually quite good, you should try it.) I'm curious though that you first said sangrita was made with limón and orange juice, etc., then said it was made with grapefruit juice and orange juice. Jugo de toronja is excellent (especially mixed with tequila) but it's hard to imagine that it was originally an ingredient in sangrita.

                      I'm certainly planning to try to make sangrita with chiles de árbol rather than tabasco sauce and with no grenadine, but I'm wondering how many chiles it would take to turn the sangrita bright red. Too many for comfort? And with no grenadine to add red coloring and some sweertess to the sangrita, I'd have to slightly up the proportion of the citrus juices.

                      Thanks again for your posts. And to the rest of you, I'm sorry I have almost highjacked this thread and will attempt not to do this again.

                      Derald Glidden

          2. Great post and great photos. I missed Izote last time I was in DF but I have got to try it.
            Gracias.

            1. My personal experience September 2009 at IZOTE was very deceiving. No complaints as such, but being a Hound , honestly: Prices too high , even for appetizers, wine list expensive and limited, decor and amiebience was univiting and on the boring side. Service was good , the tortillas were REALLY small and the food just OK.
              Would not go back. Suggestion: instead, try PAXIA at Avenida de La Paz in San Angel. We were pleasantly surprised by this young , unpublished , not yet famous chef: Daniel Obadia. this is a place our party really went WOW, why have we not been here before?

              8 Replies
              1. re: mambooster7

                Agreed. I was really disappointed the first time - bad service (the waiters were folding linens on the table near ours and we had not overstayed our welcome by any means) and really terrible atmosphere. The lighting is bright and somewhat fluorescent-y because of the blue glass on the walls and the music is loud and Musak. Ick. I decided it deserved a try the other night again and went with a group. Same thing - the food was definitely decent (tho my lasagna came with raw shredded cheese on top, which was strange. I had them melt it.) but the ambiance was horrible. IMHO, if you are looking for a special Mexico City dining experience this is not it. Plus, it's always full of gringo business folk sent by their concierge from the big hotels nearby. No big deal, of course, but if you were here as a tourist, you probably don't want to be stuck in a restaurant with a bunch of foreigners on expense account dinners. Doesn't make you feel like you discovered anything, right?

                1. re: mambooster7

                  Agreed. Good food, but not good value.
                  Service so so - ambience not a selling point.

                  There were four of us and even with no alcohol, bill came to 2100 pesos excluding tip. The food was served in sizes that befit a top-chef restaurant in nyc (where we live), but most of the dishes, while good, lacked that extra that would want to make me say that this is a "must return".

                  We have been in DF for 2 days now - tried El Cardenal that definitely gets our thumbs up as far as value goes. The breads are amazing, and the food solidly prepared and certain dishes have that extra (omelette w/ zucchini flowers). The service is no-nonsense and the restaurant was solidly full when we went (always a vote - especially when many were not tourists). Yesterday we went to the Hilton branch, today for breakfast will try out the branch near Zocalo.

                  For tonight - going for Fonda el refugio.

                  Recommendations welcome! We are a party of four, no alcohol, one non-meat eater (veg/fish) in the group, open to all price ranges, but very conscious of value.

                  1. re: matal

                    Interesting, I found that our meal at Izote felt like a much better value than El Cardenal, but I suppose those differences make the world go round!

                    I highly recommend Azul Condesa (or Azul, though I haven't been, I understand it's just as good).

                    1. re: dagoose

                      [We have been chowhound readers for long, but just started posting - open to suggestions about how we can improve, and whether i should move this to a different thread]

                      Thanks for the recommendations - there is subjectivity of course.
                      We will definitely try Azul - does it make a difference Azul y Oro vs. Azul Condesa?

                      We tried Dulce Patria yesterday - excellent and highly recommended. The total for the four of us came to 2600 (ex alcohol, ex tip - we were too full to order dessert) - definitely worth it. Some highlights -

                      Jicama and beet salad ("Christmas special" salad)
                      Tuna tartar with habanero appetizer
                      Codfish w/ tomato and capers appetizer (looked like empanadas but wasn't called that in the menu)
                      Beef with mole entree was excellent - beef very tender and the mole just the perfect accompaniment
                      Duck with mole was also v good but of the two meat dishes, preferred the beef
                      In total, we had four appetizers, three salads, and four entrees (2 meat, 2 fish)

                      Service was excellent - our waiter didn't speak English, so the maitre d helped us order, explaining all the dishes at the beginning, coming over to our table after every course and explaining dishes again.

                      The food and the overall experience was very pleasant - highly recommended.

                      1. re: matal

                        My experience with Azul Condesa was that it's uneven. Some of the meal was quite good, some of it could have been better. See Nick Gilman's blog Good Food in Mexico City - http://goodfoodmexicocity.blogspot.com/ for his year end comments about Azul Condesa, scroll down to the bottom of the blog post. Azul y Oro is in the southern part of the city on the UNAM campus, a little fof the beaten tourist path. I think it is more consistent.

                        If the Condesa will be on your itiniary, try MeroToro (also mentioned in the blog link above). It is quite good. Be forewarned, however, that it is a pricey ticket but the value for what you get is there, i.e. quality is top notch, kitchen is skilled in how it handles the raw ingredients, interesting preparations, service is good to very good, ambiance is contemporary. Owned by the same folks that brough Contramar to D.F.

                        1. re: DiningDiva

                          Just a note re DD's reply on this old thread: my wife and I live in la Condesa and have eaten at Azul many times over the course of the last year. Nick Gilman told me recently that he has not been back to Azul since writing his review (the link DD included in her post).

                          Our experience has been that the food and service have consistently improved since the restaurant opened. In the last two or three months, both have been marvelous. Five of us were most recently at Azul fewer than ten days ago (late December 2011). One of our party just wrote this to me this morning: "...an incredible place, and certainly made more wonderful from being able to come to your home and share an unforgettable evening..." The five of us ordered drinks, appetizers, main dishes, and desserts, plus a bottle of Casa Madero Shiraz (2009) and a couple of other beverages. We were comped a plate of amuses as a Christmas gift from the manager. The entire meal was fantastically delicious, with beautiful presentations, was served extremely well, and we all left happy. The total bill, including a healthy tip, was just under 2500 pesos.

                          Azul does not attempt the kind of food and presentation offered by either the marvelous Izote or the equally marvelous Jaso (which is not a Mexican restaurant), or Merotoro. BUT...if you are looking for truly traditional Mexican cuisine primarily from the southern states of Veracruz, Tabasco, Campeche, and the Yucatan, Azul is the place to go.

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

                          1. re: cristina

                            I'm glad to hear things are back on track at Azul Condesa. I wonder why NG put that in his year-end piece if he hadn't been back recently; that was unfortunate.

                            1. re: DiningDiva

                              We went to Azul Condesa yesterday (Thursday) evening.

                              Had 3 appetizers: Pear salad w/ rocquefort cheese - simple but delicious pairing of tastes. Fish ceviche w/ green sauce - good. Banana paste "mogo mogo" - unusual taste but quite delightful.

                              4 entrees: Lamb w/ yellow mole (good), grouper, red snapper veracruz, and a shrimp dish. All solid - nothing disappointed.

                              The service was good - they reassigned the waitress when we said we didn't speak much spanish, attentive.

                              The overall atmosphere was on the lively side - felt like a nightlife / hangout / drink w/ friends type of a place.

                              Total $1250 excluding alcohol, tips. Very reasonable for four, we thought.