Oaxaca- La Biznaga or Zandunga?
With one last full day here in Oaxaca, I'm wavering on whether to have dinner with friends at La Biznaga or at Zandunga.
The wavering on Biznaga is because I read several negative reports on TripAdvisor.com about poor, even rude service. Although I appreciate good food, bad/rude service ruins the meal for me.
I'd appreciate any Hounds' opinions on this.
We went by Zandunga yesterday and did a quick browse of the menu. It looked good, but relatively limited in scope. Maybe that's really a plus.
(PS: been to La Olla, which is nice but not mind-blowing; don't particularly want to go to Casa Oaxaca because of cost and I'm not interested in fusion cuisine at this point.)
As it turned out, we headed for Zandunga, but it wasn't open when we arrived, for another 15 minutes. Meanwhile, I looked into La Biznaga, where the menu is displayed on a huge chalk board. The host told me regretfully, thet they could not serve yet as they were waiting for a delivery of cooking gas!
My wife expressed an interest in La Olla, so we went there. The first floor dining room was full, so we went upstairs, where tables remained. I noted the addition of what I can only call "French Bordello" style decor to one end of the room. It was incongruous but sort of entertaining.
The menú del día, at $70 pesos, was tempting: Caldo de Pescado, Empanafitas de Minilla con guacamole, Chile Navegante con Arroz, and one other dish, IIRC, Chuletas al ajillo. Dessert and coffee carried a surcharge.
We opted for the a la carte menu. Our food came out in a somewhat strange order. We asked for a starter of the Requesón a las Hierbas, but it arrived mid way into our lunch. It was more interesting to look at than to taste.
We also asked for a starter of guacamole, but were told that they were out. (??) It was no big deal to us, as we had plenty ro eat, but when a restaurant has avocadoes and limes, etc, how can they be "out" of guacamole. Perhaps the kitchen was just too busy to make it.
Our lady friend ordered pechuga de pollo al limón, a simple looking but delicious dish, she said. It was accompanied by a heap of mashed carrots and possibly potatoes, mixed together.
Her husband got a Chile de Agua Relleno de Picadillo de Pollo, which he enjoyed.
My wife and I both the Ensalada Orgánica, which are large and tasty, although I preferred the simpler Ensalada Mixta I'd had the year before. She also hada a Torta Vegetariana, served on a rye (!) bun, which she said was very good.
I continued with the wonderful Camarones A La Diabla, a dish of 6 large, broiled split shrimp in a light but zingy chile jus. So different from the often thick and gloppy Diabla treatment shrimp are given elsewhere.
The bill for the two of us, including a pitcher of tee de cedrón helado and a small mescal, was in the neighborhoood of $460 pesos.
Zandunga is tasty. The fish soup on Thursday is quite nice. The antojos are tasty as well, especially the plate of garnachas.
However, if I had the choice of Zandunga or Biznaga, I would probably take the latter nearly always. Zandunga is good, but the flavors, variety and atmosphere at Biznaga are excellent - a must for anyone who travels to Oaxaca as long as it's within their budget.
The highest entre at La Biznaga is about 200 pesos, but most are nearly half that. The Antojos there are excellent and take advantage of seasonal produce availability. Nothing like queso de cabra wrapped in fresh hierba santa. Sooo good.
Excellent artisanal mezcal selection at La Biznaga as well - ask for house mezcals.
if I recall correctly, Zandunga is almost across the street from La Biznaga, but north a bit, on a corner. But it's been a year or two since we were there, and I could be incorrect.
Planeta.com says: "Zandunga
Garcia Vigil and Jesus Carranza
- Istmo-styled food is served at this restaurant open 1pm-11pm Monday-Saturday. One block west of Santo Domingo."
UPDATE: January 22, 2014
Zandunga has since moved next door to La Biznaga. It's a very attractive, contemporary space, with a dazzling list of mezcales. In contrast, the food menu seemed short.
We found the food to range from decent to gross. Soups: Molito de Camarón was intensely flavored with dried shrimp but enjoyable. Sopa de Frijol was oversalted.
My Cochito Horneado was homey and flavorful, but nothing I couldn't duplicate or better at home. My wife's Estofado de Res was a disgusting blob of brown pulp on the plate. Furthermore, the food was barely warm and I had to send mine back for further heating. My wife was more willing than I to eat it as is. http://tinyurl.com/pjeqeph
Based on our one experience there, we might consider it a place for drinks and antojitos, but not a full meal.
Tried biznaga a few months ago and aside from the terrible service, the food was below par. If you are to go anywhere in Oaxaca try Casa Oaxaca. It is well worth the extra money! They have a great 6 course tasting menu- in traditional or contemporary. Everything was delicious and the service was impeccable!
UPDATE: An expat friend in Oaxaca convinced us that we just HAD to eat at La Biznaga while in Oaxaca. We succumbed to her argument. We were not only pleased with our meal, but very impressed with the creativity in food and in ambience that made our dinner so enjoyable. For the most part, we ate antojitos but two of us followed up with soups. The Sopa de Establo was sublime.
Our final bill was impressively modest. Undubtedly, it could be higher had we chosen main courses.