Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Oaxaca Sojourn — Part 8. Return to La Biznaga

Tortilla making at La Biznaga Oaxaca 
Yesterday, on a late developing impulse, we decided to return to La Biznaga, one of Oaxaca's most deservedly popular restaurants. It was last year that we went for the first time, urged by our local expat friend, Bixa, who convinced us that the horror stories of their infamous rudeness to customers was highly exaggerated, if at all founded in reality. From our experiences, those stories can be dismissed as Internet fables.

This time, Bixa was unable to join us, so we winged it on our own.

Despite major ongoing repairs to the street, García Vigil, the patio dining room inside was as attractive as ever.

La Biznaga dining room
We enjoyed our meals, with two exceptions: one significant and the other minor. But in the end we were pleased.

To optimize your dining experience at La Biznaga Oaxaca, it pays to study the menu in detail. In fact, there is more than one menu. There's a printed menu, a pair of very large blackboard menus (with much the same listing as the paper menu), and then tucked away around the large, attractive patio dining room there are supplementary menus on blackboards, such as the "Lasagna Menu", which seemed oddly anomalous to me.

The more or less complete main menu is available on La Biznaga's website. (The link to the rest of the web site from the initial page is small and can be missed.)

Another couple of small blackboard menus are behind the bar listing beverages of which you otherwise might be unaware. One has a short wine list; the other advertises Cosaca draft beer and pulque.

I had done extensive preliminary research to assist us in examining the very extensive menus.The first item was an appetizer called "Las Calendas". It had Oaxacan quesillo (string cheese) with chopped flor de calabaza (squash blossoms) and chile poblano, wrapped in hoja santa. This was an excellent starter. There were three generously filled packets, plus a small hill of good frijoles negros machacados in the center. It would be enough to to serve as a light lunch. Vegetarians should like this.

Las Calendas
Doña Cuevas had an Ensalada La Tehuana, of sliced pear, watercress and a generous handful of blue cheese with a sprinkling of nuts and pumpkin seeds. The dressing was pale yellow and citrusy. (Keep that "Roquefort" cheese in mind as we go along.)

I had a taste, and although it was all right,  in my opinion it didn't come together that well. The pears were somewhat underripe. Compare and contrast this salad with a similar but substantially better salad of pear, arugula and Parmesan shavings we had last year at the Neapolitan restaurant, "Mexita".
Insalata di pere, rucola e Parmigiano,  Ristorante La Mexita 2014
Ensalada "La Tehuana", La Biznaga 2015

The big disappointment of my meal was the soup, "Sopa del Establo". Bixa had it last year and allowed me a taste. It was rich, creamy; with a bold flavor of "Roquefort" cheese. In addition, the presentation was simple but beautiful.

Sopa de Establo 2014
This time, it was little more than slightly thickened broth with almost no presence of blue cheese. 

What happened? Waiter: "They changed the recipe."
 He took it back with no fuss and it was taken off our bill. Why would they ruin such a wonderful soup? 

Sopa del Establo 2015
We then ordered our main courses. (You have to be well trained and in good shape to eat like this.)

Doña Cuevas had Pescado Mojado, dorado fish in a brilliant orange-red sauce of achiote (bixa orellana), tomato, chile and grains of corn. It seemed like a riff on Pescado Tikin Xik. (Recipe in Spanish.) I tasted it and thought it was too many intense flavors clashing, plus somewhat too salty, and fishy, but my wife liked it.

"Pescado Mojado"
I comforted myself for the failure of the soup by ordering Filet of Beef "Necio". It was very handsome and the lagoon of sauce around the reasonably tender filet was very good, accompanied by tasty, homestyle mashed potatoes. The sauce was made from mezcal, prunes and chiles pasillas. I spooned up the sauce to the last drop.

Filete "Necio"
With our meal, we drank agua mineral and I had a couple of mugs of pulque natural, which was light, tart and refreshing with no intoxicating after effects. (When consumed in moderate amounts.) La Señora had a Cerveza Obscura Cúcapa, a Mexican craft beer.

In keeping with my strict dietary regimen, I abstained from eating either tortillas and bread, and ate only half of the mashed potatoes. 

We also passed on desserts, and instead had some so-so coffee. (The café Americano resembled brown tinted water, so we sent it back for a second shot of espresso, and it returned in more than satisfactory form. Again, no charge.)


Food: ****  (Lost a star because of the soup and the weak café Americano. But mostly because of the soup.)

Service: **** Unobtrusive but not fully attentive.

Price: (one $ = $10 USD: $$-$$$$$ La cuenta nuestra aquí.

Restrooms: Dark, a bit primitive, but acceptable.

Tips: Large servings; think carefully before ordering more than you can eat.
And: look at the specials both on the printed menu and the blackboards.

Contact info:
Gral. Manuel García Vigil 512,
Centro, 68000 Oaxaca
Teléfono:01 951 516 1800

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