Monday, April 15, 2013

Five Over Easy in Mexico City

During our April, 2013 visit to Mexico City, we tried four restaurants new to us and one reprise. I am going to describe them briefly.

When we arrived at the Great House in San Miguel Chapultepec, we were tired, so for a simple supper, we ate nearby at La Poblanita de Tacubaya, on Calle Vieyra 12 near Avenida Revolucíon. (Click for map.) La Poblanita is a popular, classic, old line Mexican restaurant specializing in mole. But we had Caldo de Gallina, an especially sabroso variant of chicken soup. The bowls were laden with chicken meat, rice and garbanzos. Ordering a plate of flautas, three chicken filled, crisp tacos dorados, was an error. The flautas were buried under a blanket of lettuce, tomato, crema and cheese. Service on that visit was desultory.

On another visit a few days later, Doña Cuevas ordered Sopa de Tortilla, which was almost a pudding of fried tortilla strips drowned in caldo, covered with an obscene amount of cheese, avocado and chicharrón. I got Sopa de Hongos, a much simpler soup loaded with thickly sliced mushrooms, but I couldn't finish it due to an excess of salt. The service at that busier time was much more responsive, yes, and cheerful.

Sopa de tortilla
Is it fair to review a restaurant on the basis of two visits, and four soups?
Of course not. But I think I got a feel for the place, so here goes.



Service: ***

Price: $$

Ambience: Faded Fiesta Poblana

Restrooms: Good

Our next venture was at the cool, hip, Baja style seafood bistro Pablo El Erizo, at Fernando Montes de Oca #6, Colonia Condesa. The big player in hip seafood is, of course, Contramar. But I had memories of a very noisy dining room and very high prices, so I chose the newer, smaller and more intimate Pablo El Erizo. I'm sure that the clever name played a big part in my choice.

I immediately liked the small, well lighted dining room with its non stereotypical decor, free of flotsam and jetsam.

We were served a basket of variety breads which were better than the usual dull stuff in restaurant baskets.

We began with an order of Tostaditas de Atún Sellado, Estilo Ophelia. Very good.

Tostaditas de Atún. The strips are fried tortilla strips and crispy leeks

An order of Camarones a la Plancha was different from the usual with a light salsa, and a chipotle mayonnaise on the side.

In fact, the quartet of table salsas was distinguished.

Me, I'm a sucker for octopus, so I had Pulpo a la Parrilla. It was very plain and, let's face it: quickly boring, accompanied by a bowl of frijoles negros de olla. Now I recall that I'd had an almost identical octopus dish at Sobrino's, on Álvaro Obregón, Colonia Roma.

We ordered a somewhat redundant Filete de Atún en Costra de Pistache for la Señora, good but not especially distinguished. The snow peas were a nice touch, but the shredded white ¿potato? was tasteless. The small bowl held a sweet, somewhat gooey teriyaki type sauce. But it was addictive, and even enhanced my octopus.

I drank a couple of glasses of a medium dry Altozano Vino Blanco ($70 pesos each!) and la Señora had agua mineral or limonada.

I finished with a cafe express (good!) and a Panna Cotta dessert. It was a work of art, and tasted almost as good as it looked.

The bill came to over $1000 pesos, including tip. Was it worth it? For the experience to satisfy my curiosity, yes. For a return visit, probably not. Of course, one could order more modestly.


Food: ****

Service: ****

Price: $$$+

Ambience: Sea froth

Rest rooms: Good

We alternated big deal meals with simple, local suppers.
On another evening, we decided to try La Piazzetta, on Calle Verendi at Avenida Parque Lira, Colonia San Miguel Chapultepec. It was within walking distance of our lodgings.

It's a tiny place, with six tables; up a few steps at the corner of  curving Calle Verendi, which gives it a picturesque  European charm.

Pasta, panini and pizzas are on the menu, but we had a Prosciutto and Mushroom pizza, and a couple of pretty good salads.

The salads were o.k. but the pizza was distinguished by its very thin and crisp crust. The sauce and toppings were decent, and we were very satisfied with our simple meal.


Food: ***1/2

Service: ***  Leisurely, but what's your hurry?


Ambience: Cozy, neighborly.

Restrooms: Clean and serviceable

Escarapela Bodegón Argentino, Colonia Condesa.

This cellar like boite at Avenida Nuevo Laredo # 62, Colonia Condesa, was our biggest dining disappointment. We arrived early in the afternoon, so the restaurant wasn't crowded, even on a Sunday. That was a good thing, as the tables are set very closely together and the room gets crowded later in the afternoon.

We were quickly served the obligatory chimichurrí and a spicy, emulsified mustard based (?) sauce.

We began with a pair of the popular empanadas; one of hand chopped beef, the other of "Roquefort". Both were decent. I liked the Roquefort better. Both could have been hotter.

Chopped beef, left; Roquefort, right

Doña Cuevas ordered a generous Ensalada Caprese , of thickly sliced (but essentially tasteless) tomatoes  and fresh mozzarella. It was garnished with wisps of dried tomato and dressed with a fresh basil vinaigrette. It was a relative highlight of our meal.

Our main courses were wildly variable in quality. La Señora ordered a cut of vacío, which was very good looking, but still quivering, so she sent it back for further cooking. It came back a satisfactory medium rare. This was a decent piece of beef.

On the other hand, my bife de chorizo was a pathetic, undersized specimen, flabby, luke warm, and without char or sear. I sent mine back as well, and it returned slightly warmer and passably edible. This bife de chorizo was undoubtedly Worst of its Class, compared to the those I have enjoyed previously elsewhere.

I drank a Bohemia Clara and a café Americano (very good, too!)

Our bill was $581 before tip, a reasonable price in my estimation. If only the food quality had been more consistent.


Food: **1/2

Service: ***

Price: $$1/2

Ambience: Bohemian wine cellar, caricatures and posters on the walls.

Rest room: very small, just functional, but clean.

Mojing Comida China
Located at the corner of Calles Humboldt and Artículo 123, Colonia Centro.
We had visited Mojing Comida China a few years ago with our friend Ron. It is one of the very few "authentic" Chinese restaurants in Mexico City. Since our earlier visit, it had closed, then reopened under the name "Dalian", then reverted to the name Mojing, again under the original owners. We saw significant changes in the menu and the service. Service: there are now Spanish speaking waiters, which makes communication much easier for us. The menu has been extensively revised, with most entries having a photo and a Spanish caption as well as in Chinese characters.

A notable enhancement to the neighborhood is that the colony of homeless men that was across Artículo 123 is gone, replaced by an EcoBici rack and a freshly painted wall.

Because we were only two diners, our options were more limited than if we'd had dining companions. But we did quite well nevertheless.

We asked for "Raviolis Chinos al Vapor" (jiao-tse) but they were not ready yet. So we ordered the "small", $82 peso Sopa de Mariscos Agri-picante.
Seafood Soup for two
When it arrived, we were staggered by its quantity. It was in a bowl sufficient for four, and then some. But we did our best and it was good. The seafood was mostly small shrimps, some callos de hacha, and surimi. The spice level was enough to keep us interested but without being overwhelming.

For our second course, we had Camarones con Sal y Ajo. This was a great way to prepare large shrimps in the shell. There was a thin, crunchy coating of what may have been egg white and cornstarch, binding the salt and chopped garlic to the crispy shells. We were tempted to eat all the shells, but knew better that we'd suffer for it, so we limited our nibbling to the tiny legs.

We also ordered bowls of steamed white rice to go with the shrimp. At the end of the meal, we had leftovers of every course to take back to our guest house for a light supper.

Later, as I reviewed my photos, I realized we'd ordered the same shrimp dish on our earlier visit. But the two versions were very different.

Earlier version. Apparently a mistake.
The earlier version seemed to have nothing to do with salt and garlic, but had a spicy red sauce on large shrimp. The dry fried version of this visit was much more to our liking.



Service: ****

Price: $$

Ambience: Chinoiserie favorites. This was the largest dining room of restaurants we visited. They have buffets at certain times, probably on weekends. Daily combination specials at lower prices during the week.

Rest rooms: Clean and functional

We look forward to eating there again.


Tancho said...

“Is it fair to review a restaurant on the basis of two visits, and four soups?
Of course not.”

How many visits do you give them, man you have a lot of
It has to have some good reason for us to return after just one bad visit. Usually we might give
them another chance 6 months later. Maybe that’s why we don’t go out too often…..

DonCuevas said...

As you will have read above, we visited one restaurant twice (La Poblanita). I wouldn't bother with it again.

It was our second time at Mojing. I'd go back.

Escarapela is best not revisited by us.

Pablo El Erizo was an interesting experience but other seafood restaurants in el DF give better value for money, eg; Fonda La Veracruzana, in Roma Sur.

Don Cuevas

Felipe Zapata said...

All those shrimp sure look good.

DonCuevas said...

Felipe, I think that you and your lovely Señora would enjoy dining at Mojing.

Don Cuevas

churpa said...

Faded Fiesta Poblana and Sea Froth? I love it. Also thanks for the recommendation of a good Chinese place in Mexico City. I've always been curious.

DonCuevas said...

Thank you, Churpa. I try to entertain my readers.

Don Cuevas

Kim G said...

We tried a restaurant in the Barrio Chino on the other side of Balderas, probably in Marroqui, and got pretty disappointing fare, at least from my San Francisco-bred perspective. But we'll have to try Mojing Comida China. The shrimp and soup both look authentic. But I've historically found that neighborhood a bit on the scary side. I guess it's better now?

In general, I'm disappointed with foreign food in Mexico. There just aren't enough immigrants from other places to provide both a good market for it, and people who know how it should really taste.


Kim G
Boston, MA
Where great Chinese food is available if you look hard enough, and decent Chinese food is fairly easy to find.

Kim G said...

For seafood, you should really try Cafe Danubio in el Centro Historico on Uruguay, near Lazaro Cardenas. It's old-line, and expensive, but good.

DonCuevas said...

Kim G, I first ate at Danubio on my last night in Mexico before flying home, after a 2 week stint in language school in '92. I was clueless as to the size of the portions at Danubio, so unwittingly ordered la Sopa Especial de Mariscos Verde. I'd also ordered Huauchinango Relleno de Mariscos. The soup came. It was delicious. It was a tureen full. It was also very rich.

Then came a large huauchinango, a medley of seafood in a creamy sauce spilling from its side. As I had no dining companion, I was unable to eat it all, and "para llevar" was not a viable option. A pity to waste it.

Still, a memorable experience. We ate at Danubio several more times in the '90s, but after a while, it was too much of a good thing.

Tip: nearly across the street from Danubio is Restaurant Centro Castellano, where we had several wonderful meals in that era. From TA reviews, I'm not certain it's as desirable a restaurant as it was then.


DonCuevas said...

Kim G., If you can liberate yourselves from SF expectations, I think you can have a better than average Chinese meal at Mojing.

About foreign foods in Mexico: you may be correct, but as I haven't been to very many foreign restaurants there, I have to withhold judgement.

Argentine/Uruguay is well represented. Lebanese/Middle Eastern, French (have been to and enjoyed Bistro Mosaico in Condesa, but none of the higher end French restaurants. French cuisine is not much in my dining short list. There are several strong contenders to represent Italy. I know that there is a range of Japanese restaurants, of which Nagaoka is reputed to be among the most authentic, but I am not much attracted to Japanese cuisine. I could name a Polish restaurant or two, as well as other nations represented in an international cuisine lineup. I think it's when we expect these restaurants to be equal to what we enjoyed in their native countries is when we risk being disappointed.

Thanks for commenting. It's been a pleasure to respond.