Friday, October 15, 2010

Birria de Chivo Don Rubén, Pátzcuaro


Avenida Lázaro Cárdenas laces up lower and middle Pátzcuaro, from la Estacíon to the edge of Centro. A short distance above the Glorieta Tangaxuan is the Galería Vicky y Rafael, parent to the former biker bar, the Bar Chopper. The Bar was a raffish neighbor to the Hotel San Felipe, now the Hotel Misíon Pátzcuaro.
For a short while it housed the Mercado Buen Provecho. Recently, we noticed that the  Bar Chopper space had been transformed into Birria de Chivo Don Rubén. Chopping continues, but now it's of a different sort.
We need a definition of birria here.
Birria apparently originated in the state of Jalisco, Michoacán's neighbor to the northwest. Large pieces of meat, originally goat, but often of sheep or even beef, are smeared with a spicy adobo rub and steam-baked overnight. A large container is placed below the slowly steaming meat to catch the savory juices, which produce the essential consomé. Over time, there have been many variations of the method, producing widely varied results. I think I read in a Diana Kennedy book, that the word, "birria" means "a deformed, grotesque mass". But, it's really a lot better than that, and quite suitable for Mexican food newbies not quite ready for the far more grotesque menudo. 
See fellow blogger Mexico Cooks! for a mouthwatering description of the birria at El Chololo, south of the Guadalajara Airport. That is on my "must visit" list for its special style of birria, which I have not seen elsewhere.
We have been to Don Rubéns twice. It's a clean, fairly attractive space, with decor influenced by the Galería Vicky y Rafael, in the form of antiques enhancing the space. On our first visit, we met the young owner, Sr. Phineas Piña Escobar, who'd studied gastronomy in a college, but I don't have much info beyond that.

On my first visit I had a plato mediano de birria, a pottery bowl of reddish consomé with substantial pieces of chopped goat meat. On the second visit, the soup/stew could have been a little hotter temperature, but it was acceptable.

The meat is surprisingly mildly flavored, but the consomé is moderately spicy. You may enhance the "heat" from a compartmented salsa and condiment tray with two salsas, one a tart green distinguished by a fresh heat and lots of lime juice. The other, a salsa roja. The first time that was made from chiles cascabeles, which a rich, nutty and slightly smoky flavor. On our most recent visit, the salsa de cascabel was unavailable, and an intense salsa de chile de árbol took its place. The condiments include the obligatory limes and chopped onion plus cilantro, something not always seen at birrerías.

You are brought medium thick, freshly made tortillas, hot from the comal.
The birria is served in a bowl with its consomé, although I imagine that if you requested it as tacos, they would oblige. The first birria I ate there was leaner and slightly less rich than the second visit's, but both were good. Unlike the popular and successful Birria Don Prisci, Don Rubén's does not fill out the bowl with diced vegetables and minced meat bits. (I have to say that I enjoy Don Prisci's as well. They are just different.)

Don Rubén's also offers tacos de guisados. Guisados are stewed, sauced preparations, ready to fill tortillas. I asked about the guisados arrayed in clay cazuelas, along the edge of the comal. There were Chicharrón Prensado en Salsa Roja, Chicharrón en Salsa Verde, (which is one of my least liked Mexican foods), Tinga de Pollo, Carne de res en Salsa Negra, and a cazuela of beautiful, whole beige frijoles.

Chicharrón Prensado en Salsa Roja. Beware! Tasty but deadly.
Purely in the interests of research, I ordered a taco de chicharrón prensado en salsa roja. It was a big scoop of oily red stuff on a full sized tortilla. All but one of us sampled spoonfuls. I was left with eating the rest of this very rich guisado. I liked the taste, but the fat and chile content was a leading cause of nearly instant heartburn.

Los Chiles de Muerto

Four of us had three platos medianos, one plato chico, one taco de guisado,, four jugos de naranja with two partial refills, and a cup of the strong, unfiltered coffee. The coffee really rocks!

The total bill was $237 MXN, averaging just under $60 MXN each. So, you can easily eat there for under $50 MXN, if you don't order extras.

There are 2 for 1 happy hour specials on cervezas, from 12 noon to 4:00 p.m.

My Ratings.
• Food: ***1/2
• Service: ***** Friendly
• Price: 1/2$ (meaning, an average of $50 MXN per person)
• Ambience: "Patzcuarense", with antiques in showcases. A couple of mops and buckets left about for "realism".
• Cleanliness: *****
• Restrooms: *****

Worth a return visit, for a distinctive and different taste from the typical local birria.


Bob Mrotek said...

In my opinion (siempre humilde) the best birria comes from the twin cities of Santa Ana Pacueco, Guanajuato and La Piedad, Michoacán. The consomé is like the nectar of the Angels and a nice hot cup of it will definitely put hair on your chest. Check it out Don Cuevas :)

Michael Dickson said...

Been meaning to give that place a try. You´ve inspired me more.