Sunday, August 03, 2014

Centro Castellano, Colonia Centro, Mexico City

Back in the '90s, during our first visits to Mexico City, we discovered the pleasures of dining at the Centro Castellano restaurant, on Calle República de Uruguay. The CC serves the old school variety of Spanish food, in an atmosphere to match. There are at least three dining rooms on the ground floor, all decorated in a lavish taberna Española style.

Horno de leña
Tile mural near kitchen door
Back in those days, a couple could dine lavishly, even excessively, on the rich specialties of the restaurant for a modest sum. I have a somewhat hazy memory of an early meal there costing about $350 pesos. Now, it is somewhat more costly.

In the afternoons, the restaurant offers a complete Menú del Día for $200. We prefer to order a la carte, based on an earlier experience of lackluster menues.

About two weeks ago, we walked from our hotel to the crowded street where the restaurant is located. (I must note that another famous, Old School Restaurant, this of Basque influence, is very close by: El Danubio. Although both are ostensibly Iberian, the two could not be more different.)

We were warmly greeted and seated near the kitchen door. We had at least two, helpful waiters.

Mario. A captain of the dining room.
One of them motioned to me to come into the kitchen to look it over and to meet the chef and his team. I could hardly believe this. I was welcome to bring my camera, but the kitchen staff plied me with so many delicacies that I had scarcely time to photograph them.

Don Cuevas in the kitchen. Chef on the right.

When we were seated at our table once again, things proceeded less well. I ordered an appetizer from the suggestions menu; Pimientos Piquillos Relleno de Cangrejo. The presentation was gauche and the crab salad filling undistinguished. But not bad.

Pimientos Piquillos Relleno de Cangrejo
Señora Cuevas had Setas al Ajillo, a generous portion of bracket mushrooms, infused with garlic and olive oil.

Setas al Ajillo

We spent some time choosing our platos fuertes. Lamb was represented on the menu in two ways: lechal or chuletitas de cordero. When we asked about the difference, we were told that lechal was very young, milk fed lamb, sacrificed at two weeks old! I was too softhearted to order this. So, I asked for chuletitas de cordero, or baby lamb chops.

Doña Cuevas wanted fish, and I recommended Huachinango Deshuesado a Las Brasas, a whole filet baked with parsley and garlic. But due to user error, she asked for an elaborate version, covered in mariscos. I was very surprised to see this when it arrived, and when we expressed some doubt, our waiter brought a menu so we could confirm it. Sra. Cuevas accepted it. The presence of surimi (two ways: fake crab and fake anguillas) among the mariscos was not a crowd pleaser. Neither were the well cooked vegetables

Filete de Huauchinango covered in mariscos
My baby lamb chops were good and especially abundant although cooked a degree more done than I prefer. The Papas Francesas were not very hot. Presentation: what you see is what you get.

Although the food was okay, neither of us was able to finish our mains, and as we were traveling, para llevar was not a viable option.

Of course, we had no room for dessert, but I did have a good café express.


Food: ***1/2

Service: *****

Cost, in 100s of pesos, per person: $$$$$

Ambience: Spanish Taverna

Key words: Huge portions

En fin: Very nice experience, but the food needs work.

República de Uruguay 16, Col.Centro
5518-2937 / 5518-6080

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Tancho said...

So you are Mr. Incognito reviewer in the kitchen....I like that! Many places we have been to have not yet learned about the perception and belief that you eat with your eyes first when presented with a dish. The plate of lamb with tossed fries proves that.
Continued Gracias for your efforts to educate and entertain !

DonCuevas said...

De nada. We were treated so well that I was reluctant to criticize the food.

Don Cuevas

Steve Cotton said...

Where is the Basque-inspired restaurant located?

I second Tancho. Thanks for helping me fill my dance card. My next trip to Mexico City, I will merely be changing planes.

Felipe Zapata said...

That menu del dia price of 200 pesos was for ONE PERSON?! By the way, you look skinnier. Have you done something or is it an optical illusion?

DonCuevas said...

Yes, Felipe, for one person. This is a high class joint.

My skinniness is an optical illusion as I really doubt that I have lost weight.
I have been eating less at meals, most of the time, but I don't think that has affected my figure.