I have to confess that the title I chose for my earlier post on Guanajuato, ("Guanajuato: Eating the Mummy") was meant to seduce you, titillate, and horripilate, with a promise of the delicately macabre. After all, Las Momias are among the icons of Guanajuato. But in reality, we prefer not to visit them "in the flesh," but to keep them at a safe distance.
In truth, there was nothing at all macabre about our wedding anniversary dinner at Restaurante Las Mercedes. I did indulge my imagination with an appetizer of Chile Pasilla Relleno de Queso, Envuelto de Tortilla de Harina con Natas. When I thought of the dark, shriveled chile pasilla, shrouded in a sheet of tortilla de harina, an alternate name, "Momia Envuelta" leapt into my imagination. The reality was a pungent chile, filled with requesón, in a very buttery wrapper. The flour tortilla, made in house, took on some of the qualities of a strudel, but with more substance. It was an appetizer with an earthy heart, despite the refined presentation.
Doña Cuevas enjoyed a "Napoleon" of nopal, (or, may we call it a "Nopaleon"?) with smoked salmon, goat cheese, capers and anchovies, sided by a very dark crushed chile salsa. That had a very nice balance of acidity and unctuousness.
I had better return to the beginning. After a whirlwind ride in a Guanajuato taxi through calles y colonias, tuneles oscuras y carreteras panorámicas, we were deposited at the gate of the sunny contemporary Mexican house in the Colonia San Javier hills. We were greeted like old friends by our host, Sr. Jesús Cárdenas and our model waiter, Pedro. La Chef, Sra.Luzma Gonzáles, was in the kitchen.
Sr. Cárdenas is a very good host, charming and engaging in a very friendly and informal manner. Pedro's service is nearly perfect, quietly attentive and unobtrusive.
Jesús enjoys interacting with interested guests, explaining the origins of each dish and its ingredients. The menu is verbal, and we had several excellent selections among the choices.
We were brought amuse bouches of tiny, crisp envelopes, perhaps made from fried flour tortilla, filled with a cool black bean pico de gallo. We were also brought complimentary, small raspaditos (shaved ice) drinks of mezcal de la sierra with the juice or puree of xoconostles, a sour cactus fruit.
Then, the above mentioned entradas, or appetizers, the "Nopaleon" and the Pasilla Chile.
My second course, a dramatically presented (an empty bowl set before me, a dried red chile protruding from julianas de tortilla, a wooden paddle perched on the dge of the bowl, holding clantro, cebolla and limón; then the Sopa Negra de Cuitlacoche is served at the table. It was an excellent choice, and for all its earthy complexity, lighter than anticipated. My wife wisely chose a nice salad of mixed greens, flor de calabaza with herbed goat cheese, and a light tarragon dressing.
Doña Cuevas continued with the salmon theme for her plato principal with a perfectly cooked, moist fleshed salmon fillet, a little mound of very rich mashed potatoes, a bit of spinach, touched with capers and anchovies.
I chose a Chamorro de Cerdo en Caldillo de Frijól Negro, which was very good. It carries a lot of porky meat. I enjoyed it, the bean broth more than the pork shank, but it was too much to finish.
Already sated, we regretfully were going to skip dessert, but Jesús, in his charmingly convincing manner, said that Chef Luzma had prepared a special Anniversary dessert. It was a small basket of good chocolate, filled with a light cream of garambullo, a variety of ripe cactus fruit. It rested next to half a small cake of a budín de elote or steamed corn cake. I liked the combination very much, especially the corn cake.
With a bottle of very good Argentine wine, Roca Valdivieso 2004; one bottled water, 1 cafe Americano and and 2 cafés express, the total bill was $1010 pesos Mexicanos, about $77 USD, apart from a well deserved tip to our waiter. We consider the meal a fantastic one, and a bargain by our standards.
An earlier review from another blog, "Living and Working In Mexico")
Restaurante Las Mercedes
Calle de Arriba No.6, Fracc. San Javier, C.P. 36020, Guanajuato, Gto.
Telephone: 01-473) 732-7375 y 733-9059