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Sep 8, 2012 06:07 AM

Mexico City. 9.5 days not Nine And A Half Weeks?

For our visit upcoming this week, it feels like we've got laid out more than two months of places we'd like to eat. Our stay, however, is only nine days--partly in Roma Norte and partly along Reforma.

This is the list, pruned in recognition of the fact that suppers may well be apertifs and antojitos rather than full on dining occasions and in recognition of further ad-hoc eating in markets and fondas as can happen throughout the day.

Definite (Breakfast, Comida, Supper and upon occasion, para llevar)
Coox Hanal
El Hidalguense
El Caguamo
Fonda Mi Lupita
Con Sabor a Tixtla
Azul Condesa (for Noche Mexicana big night out)
Los Panchos
La Bella Italia (nearby ice cream)
Flor de Lis
El Cardenal
Maque Condesa

Dominique Patisserie
Café Raiz
La Morenita (in conjunction with the Cuban gelados)
Mercado Medellin
Mercado San Juan
Mercado Sabado San Angel
Casino Espanol
Alto Tango Ice Cream

On the bench:
Fonda Margarita
El Raco
La Veracruzana
Los Uruguayos
El Beso Huasteco
Don Toribo
Casita Buenos Aeres
Bistrot Maximo
Barra Criolla
El Jamil
La Bella Lula
Restaurant Diana

After reviewing the above, It's clear the focus is less about alta cucina and more about all things and establishments traditional. Suggestions and additions are eagerly sought.

Needless to say, all and any recent reports are greatly appreciated!

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  1. Taking your list out of order and more or less at random:

    La Bella Italia is like an American ice cream parlor, despite the Italian name. While it's good, I don't think it's worth a special journey.

    Casino Español; we used to go there often, back in the '90s and liked most of what we had. But it has gotten some dreadful reviews on TA, if that means anything to you.

    My feelings about Rosetta can be summed up as: the breads are outstanding. After those, it's over refined, over subtle and definitely over priced. And sometimes overcrowded.

    Delirio looks to me like the SIlver Palate used to be in NYC, but _I admit_, I've not eaten at either.

    I like El Racó for our Big Night Out. The Catalán inflected food is very carefully prepared and the service is nearly perfect in its attentiveness.

    La Morenita is good but kind of redundant if you are going to La Veracruzana (the latter is better, IMO.)

    El Caguamo is fun, while visiting the Mercado San Juan Foodie Mecca. I don't know that it's any better than La Morenita or especially, La Veracruzana.

    El Hidalguense is worth a visit, I must try it again.

    El Cardenal is worthwhile, especially for breakfast.

    I have been to Contramar only once, back in 2004. I associate it with a unpleasantly noisy dining room and rushed service, But I could be wrong. Nevertheless, I haven't wanted to return.

    Another, unmentioned spot is one of the two Taquitos Frontera, on the north side of A. Obregón. The older is at Calle Frontera, the nicer looking one at, I think, Calle Mérida. The Frontera-A. Obregón location is a bit of a dump, but they served the most killer birria that I have ever eaten. It was a mind blowing complex of spices seasoning the birria. It's worth looking into for a casual meal.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Anonimo

      My wife loves ice cream. Good 411 re La Bella Italia. Mercado Medellin Cuban ice cream stand is on the list as number 1, but it’s closed evenings.

      I just read all the TA reviews, in Spanish and English, of Casino Español. Are we talking about the same place? None were negative. We really like places that have been around, know what they do and continue to do it well. Los Panchos fits that mold. In that vein, any others...?

      We’re on the fence about 4* eating anywhere, as unlikely as I thought it ever could be for once I am in agreement with Marc Bittman of the NY Times and his recent essay with regards to same ("Sometimes Formica Beats White Table Cloths" ). Don’t get me wrong—this past year we loved lunches at Le Bernadin and Del Posto in NYC. Perhaps Rosetta’s bakery is still open for some great bread to match with San Juan Market sourced meats and cheeses?

      I knew the owners at the Silver Palate, but was not a fan. Nevertheless, Delirio by virtue of its proximity gains standing and for a six hour bus trip to Oaxaca we will have need of a substantial picnic lunch. I’m all ears?

      I like El Racó for a potential Big Night Out… I like everything I’ve read about El Raco except the tendency to combine cheese with fish which gives me considerable pause (I never encountered this in Barcelona and in general dairy with fish doesn’t work well for me with the exception of butter. No sole Bonne Femme, Lobster Americaine, etc etc). We could work around that though given the pleasant ambiance.

      “La Morenita is good but kind of redundant if you are going to La Veracruzana (the latter is better, IMO.) El Caguamo is fun, while visiting the Mercado San Juan Foodie Mecca. I don't know that it's any better than La Morenita or especially, La Veracruzana.” We’re no strangers to mariscos, ceviches and so forth. Freshness floats my boat. Real bathrooms matter to my wife, so perhaps the latter two would work best.

      “El Hidalguense is worth a visit, I must try it again; El Cardenal is worthwhile, especially for breakfast.” Yay! I hope we can get to each of these twice.

      “I have been to Contramar only once, back in 2004. I associate it with a unpleasantly noisy dining room and rushed service, But I could be wrong. Nevertheless, I haven't wanted to return.” See my previous comments re 4* type eating and mariscos.

      “Another, unmentioned spot is one of the two Taquitos Frontera, on the north side of A. Obregón. The older is at Calle Frontera, the nicer looking one at, I think, Calle Mérida. The Frontera-A. Obregón location is a bit of a dump, but they served the most killer birria that I have ever eaten. It was a mind blowing complex of spices seasoning the birria. It's worth looking into for a casual meal.” We love birria. The best we’ve had has been by Oaxacan cooks. I’ve added these two locations since they are close to where we are staying and likely stops for supper.

      Thank you much!

      1. re: Steve Drucker

        "I just read all the TA reviews, in Spanish and English, of Casino Español. Are we talking about the same place? None were negative."

        OOPS! I made a mistake, confusing Casino Español, which I generally liked, with Centro Castellano on Calle Rep. de Uruguay.

        Casino Español is a visual and atmospheric experience as well as a gastronomic one. The menu is vast and there may be good things and lesser things.
        NOTE: we have eaten there only once. I'd probably go again.

        Birria at Taquitos Frontera: I was pounding the table with my fist in sheer joy at the sensation (complex and muy picante).

        El Racó fish 'n cheese: I know of one dish on the menu that combines fish and cheese, It's a very rich stuffed trout combination. There are sufficient other tempting options so you don't feel you have to eat fish 'n cheese. For example; Huauchinango a la Sal: ideal purity realized. Fish. Salt crust. A touch of olive oil.

        I am not at all a fan of 4* eating places, with very few exceptions.

        La Veracruzana bathrooms are tiny but in good working order.

        That's all for now. I have to go. Regreso luego.

        Get bread from Rosetta. They have had a stand out front in, although I haven't looked recently.

        And there's Le Pain Quotidien, a boulangerie Française. (OMG! It's a chain! ;-)
        I had a basket of great breads, butter and marmalde for breakfast and my wife had a beautiful fruit cup. The bread was too much to finish, so we took it with us. We were walking in and around Parque México. Later, for lunch, we stopped in at Bistro Mosaico and bought some country pate. Then we went to the corner to La Naval and bought several small bottles of wine, and cheeses!

        We took this into Parque México, found a bench, and enjoyed a picnic.

        Please look into Panadería La Pilarica, on Calle López, just off Calle Ayuntamiento. What I sampled of their bakery goods was better than average. (Just around the corner from El Caguamo.)

        In fact, for a mind bending, hallucinatory but legao experience, pop into Pulquería Las Duelisatas, in Calle Arandas. The noise is horrendous n=but the pulque is available in various curados and is "interesting".

        Las Duelistas is next door to Molinera Progreso. Just about every thing available in spices, dried fruits, notes and mole,

        1. re: Anonimo

          Corrections and additions:

          "hallucinatory but legao experience" should be "legal"

          Bistro Mosaico, the original is at Michoacán 10, near Insurgentes, Condesa.
          La Naval is on Insurgentes at Ave. Michoacán.
          Le Pain Quotidien is located at Amsterdam 309, Hipódromo. I just read that the first was in Belgium, not France.

    2. Some that I would give higher priority to: Contramar, even if you just get a couple tuna tostadas. It's become something of an iconic DF dish, which I think all visitors should try. And to me Máximo and Nicos would warrant at least a "probable".

      If Mero Toro and Pujol are "on the bench" for being non-casual (and certainly not cheap), so be it, but that's some outstanding food to be passing over.

      Some that I would give less priority to: Con Sabor a Tixtla (I intend to elaborate on why shortly). Flor de Lis -- I find the tamales range from excellent to just eh, though I do like the place. Maque -- again it's pretty good but not what I would call a must. Same for Delirio and Matisse. To be fair, Maque and Matisse are among the better breakfast options in Condesa.

      FWIW, Alto Tango is no more. Nevería Roxy instead, maybe?

      Some others I would add: El Bajío for sure. El Huequito for tacos al pastor (at the risk of sounding like a broken record). And El Califa. I know Cristina is an ardent anti-fan but it's not a common opinion. If El Califa were garbage, Enrique Olvera wouldn't have recently taken a group of visiting world-class chefs there, including Alex Stupak, Lars Williams, and Rosio Sanchez (the latter two of #1-ranked Noma).

      Anyone want to chime in on Quintonil? I haven't been yet but the buzz is strongly enthusiastic.

      10 Replies
      1. re: Soul Vole

        Soul, I want to read more on your take of Con Sabor a Tixtla.


        1. re: Soul Vole

          Panadería La Pilarica, duly noted for Mercado San Juan outing

          Thanks SV re Alto Tango closure.

          Interesting parsing of El Caguamo, La Morenita and La Veracruza.

          I.T. people tell me the half life of a laptop is 18 months. Restaurants are not far behind--both live stressful lives. Hence this earnest inquiry to get the latest 411 on the list.

          1. re: Steve Drucker

            I think Contramar is a must - try to sit outside. It was our only real splurge so perhaps I am biased. I had chiles in nogado made with fish - awesome!!!!

            I second,third and fourth Calafia - we went twice in five days. I personally thnk El Cardenal is over-rated stiff and stuffy - and this was my second visit. We walked out of Azul - sooooo pretentious (this from a former resident of the Napa Valley.)

            1. re: Mariana in Baja

              Mariana, where is Calafia, and what's its specialty or focus. Please tell us more.

              Chiles en Nogada, made with fish? They actually had that creamy walnut sauce on them? Were they served cool or warm?

              OMG, that didn't have all that sweet fruit in the filling, did they? We had some machaca de pescado at Chendo's in Zihuatanejo, with chopped fruit in it, and it was very unappealing.

              1. re: Mariana in Baja

                Mariana, you have posted twice now that Azul was pretentious and that you walked out. You are absolutely entitled to think what you like, and I would like to hear more about why that is your opinion.

                I will say that 'pretentious' is the last thing I would call either of the Azules. I believe you were at Azul/Histórico, where I have had the pleasure of eating on any number of occasions. I don't know what you expected there and don't know what you found there, other than your qualifier 'pretentious', but as a fan of the house, I would be really, really interested to know.

                I am not, as you mentioned about yourself, a former resident of Napa Valley and don't know what you meant by adding that phrase--I wish it had told me something about Azul/Histórico that turned you off, but it didn't.

                Who I am is about the least pretentious person on the planet, so maybe I just don't understand what you mean. I do know traditional and delicious Mexican food, however, and I know it's on my plate every time I go to either of the Azules.

                Please tell me more, I truly want to understand. I'm sure others want to know also, as quite a bit has been posted here about the Azules and I think you're the only person who has called Azul/Histórico pretentious.


                1. re: cristina

                  My reference to the Napa Valley was because there are many many pretentious restaurants there and I guess I just didn't expect or want it in DF. We asked to see the menu and asked if there was a selection of wine by the glass. (We do speak Spanish.) The front desk man was quite rude - cannot remember his exact words. I guess we should have overlooked his attitude and gone ahead with lunch. We had such a wonderful time in DF and that experience ws the exception. Loved Contramar - cannot tell you what all was in the chiles in nogada with fish but it ws amazing - not sweet - yes, lovely creamy sauce. I understand there is more than one Calafia -we were at the one in Condessa on Nuveo Leon acrss from Starbucks. Loved the tacos al pastor - very traditional food at 1/4 what we pay in Todos Santos and five times as good.

                  1. re: Mariana in Baja

                    A group of eight friends just had a wonderful *cena* at Azul/Histórico. Several things: first, the place was packed to the max. The tables were filled with people who were obviously happy to be there, every one was laughing and eating heartily. Second, dress ranged from jeans and shirts for both men and women to dressier clothing for both genders. Third, the waitstaff was attentive but not obtrusive, filling all of our needs and wants without hesitation or reminder. Fourth and not least important, the food and drink were stellar. Our group went specifically for the chiles en nogada, which no one had tried there except my wife and I. Consensus: extraordinarily fine, and the rest of the items we tried were also delicious.

                    I continue to be at a loss to understand Mariana's 'pretentious' comment. I looked up the word; here's what Merriam-Webster says:
                    " : characterized by pretension: as
                    a : making usually unjustified or excessive claims (as of value or standing) <the pretentious fraud who assumes a love of culture that is alien to him — Richard Watts> "

                    Mariana, help me out by telling me WHY you thought Azul/Histórico fit that definition. Thanks!


                    1. re: cristina

                      A I said above, our feelings were based on the reception we got from the host - not the food. It ws empty at 2:30 on a weekday and we felt we were being treated as dumb tourists. I will definitely try it on my next visit based on your recommendation. And again everywhere else we went was truly wonderful

                      1. re: Mariana in Baja

                        2.30 on a weekday is still early for comida at many Mexico City restaurants. By 3.30, Azul/Histórico would have been packed.

                        Last night, our group started arriving at 7.30. There might have been two tables filled. By 9.30, there was a line of people waiting for tables.

                        I think we here in the capital might tend to eat a bit later than people in the 'provinces' (according to capitalinos anywhere outside the DF is 'la provincia') . Our reservation hour last night was much earlier than we normally would have started, but one of the group was on an early-night schedule due to a wee hours flight this morning.

                        Mariana, next time you come over, let me know--we'll go together. It would be fun to meet.


                        1. re: cristina

                          Thanks, cristina, and let me know if you ever come to Todos Santos and I will attempt to guide you through the land mine of over-priced, mediocre and truly ffabulous

          2. Chow Mexico City, Report.

            Best of trip: El Hidalguense, Diana Restaurant; and the Tolucca chorizo stand one half block south of La Pilarica bakery near Mercado San Juan, just at the corner same side of the street.

            Honorable mention: Con Sabor a Tixtla and La Pilarica bakery.

            On our day or arrival come time for comida we were completely bushed. We called a safety and went to Fonda El Refugio. Salad was superb, as were thick slices of Lengua Veracruzana which included green olives and capers. Sopa Azteca was forgettable, as was the main plate assortment of enchiladas, quesadillas etc.

            Friday began with a best of trip street tamale from the Friday morning Merida south of Obregon market vended by a white uniformed woman surrounded by moms and school kids all eating tamales. Later, we finished up early on our museum rounds. I checked via my Telcel unlocked phone and La Veracruzana opened at 11. When we got there at 12:15 we found that the internet was wrong—it opened at 1. We walked a block west to Con Sabor a Tixtla. EXCELLENT—I wish we had had a chance to return. Fresh clean flavors with complexity abounded both in an order of tostadas and in a superb bowl of albondigas redolent of cumin, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, bananas, tomatoes and a bit of chiles.

            By the time we finished at Con Sabor a Tixtla La Veracruzana was open. Vg ceviche followed by good Calameres mojo la ajo. All in all, OK, but wouldn’t return.

            Saturday. At the ten block market along the center of Alvaro Obregon, look for the four chef-jacketed women with the large booth making blue corn quesadillas and so forth with about 15 or so constantly crowded little plastic stools to sit on. A do not miss.

            El Hidalguense for lunch. The best huitlacoche quesadillas of our trip. INCREDIBLE mixote of chicken, deeply flavorful smoky gamy bbq lamb. Superlatives fail me. We returned Sunday for the same exact meal. RUN, DON’T WALK. Fri, Sat Sun only,.

            Azul Condesa. Fiestas Patrias big night out. Exc ceviche, caldo de pollo and salad. Exc robalo Yucatan style. Ok mole negro and chicken. Exc ice creams. VG food, great value/pricing, would gladly return. Thank you Cristina for this terrific tip.

            Coox Hanal. Centro. A letdown after the Sopa de Lima and Pan Cazon. All around us people were eating pork shanks which the waiters reheated to order in a microwave up front. We ordered the pork pernil. Ok, wouldn’t run back. Pan Cazon , layers of mackerel (?), tortillas and a simple sauce of tomatoes was estimable. Great atmosphere.

            Tacos Alvaro Obregon. Local place for tacos al pastor. Ok, in the n’hood, not a destination.

            Los Panchos. Great old place, eternal white shirt and black vested waiter professional to a tee, superb caldo de pollo and a surtida of smoky perfect carnitas. Would gladly return.

            Entremar. Contramar was booked, so to Polanco we went, complete with Kevlar vested burly security guards flanking the front door. Exc ceviche and fish tacos. Grouper tips in Chipotle sauce was so so, but the grilled fish was great. Would gladly return.

            Casino Espanol. GREAT pulpo. Large portions. Good looking lamb ribs (shoulder) I wish we had ordered. Would gladly return.

            La Pilarica Bakery. GREAT empanadas—bacalao, savory queso, vg butter and choc chip cookies. This was lunch for our next day bus trip to Oaxaca. If I lived here I’d weigh 300 pounds easily.

            One half block south of La Pilarica at the corner the Tolucca chorizo stand. Must get one each taco de chorizo verde, rojo and longanizza, with everything including some fried potatoes. Then repeat. You will likely be offered some of the house made head cheese. Together with El Hidalguense and Diana Restaurant the best food of our stay in Mexico City.

            Diana Restaurant. A world class continental meal. Precision pan roasted robalo atop asparagus, likewise textbook executed rack of lamb and the most beautifully composed tarte tartin I’ve eaten in years. Two rounds of drinks, two each of apps, main courses, desserts $75 per person. Sigh. Astronomical for Mexico City, a bargain on the world stage.

            Bistrot Broka. Charming courtyard, reasonably priced drinks, exc house made sangrita. To complete a Monday night light supper we ordered the ‘special tapas’—the only offering. It consisted of quartered large mushrooms broiled dry and heaped on a plate, a small heated round of commercial brie cheese, thin sliced and broiled Vienna tinned sausages and frozen barely reheated in tepid oil French fries. $250 Mxn. We laughed it off and went for tacos and Bella Italia ice cream up on Alvaro Obregon.

            El Hueguito, Gante. Tacos al pastor. Ok, nothing special for this noon time snack.

            Flor de Lis. Maybe we hit an off day that Sunday morning, both service and food were scattered. Tamales that were first forgotten then delivered to the table old and dry, eggs albanil that lacked flavor and hotcakes which were served with cold syrup after a lengthy wait.

            12 Replies
            1. re: Steve Drucker

              Man, you ate like a CHAMP! Definitely making me want to return...

                1. re: Steve Drucker

                  Ha, I wish. Stuck up in Baltimore with no DF plans in the near future...

                2. re: kukubura

                  Oops--other: Cocina Mi Lupita. A great mole negro and chicken thigh. While we were there, a TV crew came and shot an interview. I got some great pictures of the slightly sour faced owner--a guy of a certain age manning the mole cazuela while he answered questions. Would return had I not first seriously overdosed at the Tolucca taco stand--which I will do hereinafter.

                3. re: Steve Drucker

                  Great report, Steve. You tell it like you saw (and ate) it.

                  Where is Restaurant Diana? I don't know anything about it.

                  1. re: Steve Drucker

                    Steve: next time, don't miss Nico's!

                    1. re: Steve Drucker

                      I wished I had more time to search on DF recs before our recent trip last week. But we did eat at Diana and our meal was not in the league you mention. Tasty corn soup with huitlachoche, excellent palm heart and beet salad with v good goat cheese, but scallops overcooked/way too salty, duck breast not rested enough after cooking/skin not crisped. Wine list by the glass not inspiring. However, excellent Martini Guayaba--just a hint of passionfruit and salt rim replaced sugar. Service not up to level it aspires to (waiters chatting w each other in the dining room, couldn't get the bill for 30 mins). To us, it tasted like a meal that you might get at any decent hotel. Our favorite meal was at Maja in Roma---fantastic wines. But we'll be back to DF to try some of your other recs, so much to do and eat, kind people.

                      1. re: rubadubgdub

                        I'd be very interested to hear more about your Martini Guayaba and its passion fruit.


                        1. re: cristina

                          Oops, I translated guayaba and it's guava, not passionfruit. Although called a martini, I would describe it as a margarita served up. They used Gonzalez tequila and some puree/juice they had made. Just half a fine salt rim--unexpected. Refined with just a hint of fruit and not too sweet.

                          1. re: rubadubgdub

                            Sorry about Diana as it's not a cheap date. When we tried it the new chef had arrived about 60 days prior and clearly there was a very competent chef de cuisine running the show. I have no way of knowing from at a distance, but it sounds like a kitchen staffing change.

                            Owner operated places tend to be the most consistent across time. Too, the most recent rec's the most reliable. Six months later I still dream about El Hidalguense and Los Panchos; Diana it's understood was a lucky snapshot it time.

                            Please continue to report back!

                        2. re: rubadubgdub

                          Sigh. That Diana was good was solely of the moment. A few months prior to our visit a new, hot, very professional chef had been brought in to revamp the restaurant. The hotel did lots of PR. Luckily, his influence still dominated during our visit. By this time now, lacking any recent reports to the contrary, he's probably moved on--as your visit confirms.

                          Do try and go to El Hidalquense, and the Tolucca stand. Both are run by true artisans who take pride in their entire operation. You might want to bring a stash of extra napkins when you stop by Tolucca.