Monday, October 16, 2017

La Nueva Pizza Mandala

Photo from Pizza Mandala website
Pizza Mandala left its historic location, on Calle Lerin in Pátzcuaro, sometime last summer. The cozy pizzeria with Bohemian atmosphere, on the ground floor of the Posada Mandala, close by the famous arches of El Sagrario, has now made a giant leap forward. Its new quarters are in a spacious house at Ibarra 130, Pátzcuaro. Inside the modest gate is a broad grassy area, with a shade tent. It would be suitable for a major fiesta.

The entrance is close to Refacciones Sami's, if that is meaningful to you.

I was apprehensive that the quality of the food might have slipped due to the move, but I needn't have worried. If anything, the pizza, and even the salad (of which I'd never been a fan) were better than ever. Moreover, the three dining rooms are spacious, naturally illuminated though large windows.

More formal "upper" dining room
The Bohemian atmosphere, alas, is vestigial.


The menu is the same as before, with an emphasis on umami-rich toppings: anchovies, olives, goat cheese, etc. The Mandala Ensalada "Niçoise" is quite unlike a classic Salade Niçoise, but is good in its own right.

The six of us ordered 3 large pizzas: two Mandala Plus, and the worthy, but easily overlooked Margarita Plus.

Mandala Plus
Margarita Plus
We washed this down with cerveza, agua mineral, and vino blanco. Note that it's possible to get individual bottles of Peñafiel Agua Mineral, an improvement over the previous glasses of mineral water from a bulk bottle.

Beer served with frosted mugs!
Large ("pizzas grandes") run about $140 MX. A large salad, $50 MX. There's also a short menu of pasta dishes, but as I rarely order pasta in a restaurant, I can't give an opinion on those.

Here's an update: the Official Pizza Mandala Menu


Food: 8

Service: 8

Ambience: pleasant, upper middle-class Mexican home. Smooth jazz plays in the background.

Cost: up to $200MX pp.

Horario: Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.
Opens at 2:00 p.m. Closes 10 p.m.

Calle Ibarra 130. Pátzcuaro Centro, Michoacán. (The Google Map is slightly erroneous, as it places the Pizza Mandala a little too far east.)

Tel: +52 434 342 4176

EXTRA: There are two modest rooms offered for rent, at $400MX per night. The bath is shared.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

El Nopalito CDMX

Los Nopalitos (Las Cuevas, Michoacán)
We'd a long day of travel, flying from New Jersey to Mexico City. We'd had a couple of home made sandwiches on the plane and several beverages. (United Airlines is now serving excellent Illy coffee, at least on international flights.) But by the time we arrived at the Hotel Brasilia in mid-afternoon, we were ravenous.

I had seen El Nopalito on the Google Maps site, and it seemed a likely prospect. The typically terse Google Map reviews were favorable. Even though it was near the Hotel Brasilia, we took a taxi as we very tired and the walking route had at least one pedestrian bridge to traverse.

The entrance to El Nopalito is unprepossessing. It looks like a garage entrance.

Don't pass this by!

But just beyond, all is transformed. There appeared two spacious and attractive dining rooms. The first is partly outdoors and the second, obviously newer, is under a roof. Beyond appears to be an ample garden space. I imagine that it's used for special events.

El Nopalito's attractive dining rooms
"Árbol" comedor
Our table held some tempting noshes. Our genial waiter explained that these were not free, other than the salsas and the chips. But we were starving, so we dug in without restraint. The trio of salsas was outstanding. There was a brisk, fresh salsa verde, a salsa cruda, a fiery salsa roja, and a thick, dark, barbecue type sauce. We dipped the crisp totopos (tortilla chips) to sample each salsa. We tackled a bowl of guacamole. The guacamole was past its peak of perfect freshness, yet we ate it with gusto.

Salsas and guacamole
Taking center place on the table was a pair of crisp, brown quesadillas de papas y carnitas. They were quite good, although pulling out the fastener toothpicks was a challenge, but we soon met it.

We then turned our attention to the very extensive menu. Rather than take up space with images here, I'll post links to the photos.


Main MenuCocina de la Familia, Cocina Tradicional Mexicana, Del Mar 

De la Taquería, de Nuestra Parrilla


Food for a crowd

It was hard to choose what to order, but we finally decided to start with soups.
(We were intrigued by "Taquitos Borrachos de Barbacoa", but the barbacoa had not yet come out of the oven. A Google review says it's available starting at 3:00 p.m.)

I chose Sopa de Médula, a soup rarely seen on our local restaurant menus. If ever.

Sopa de médula
Here's a video recipe, in Spanish, of how to make this Sopa de Médula at home.
It's not for the sqeamish.

Sra. Cuevas had a classic Caldo Tlalpeño. It was good, with lots of enriching garnishes, despite a somewhat thin stock.

Caldo Tlalpeño
Caldo Tlalpeño is more commonly found on restaurant menus. Here's a recipe.

When I see "Mixiotes" offered, my eyes light up with anticipation. It typically is composed of well seasoned pieces of meat, often lamb but other meats too, baked in a parchment pouch. Originally, the parchment was derived from the inner tissue of pencas de maguey. Now it's usually just parchment paper, which is acceptable, but never the use of aluminum foil.

I found this image of a maguey and I just have to share it with you. To me, it speaks of the essence of México.

The menu offered Mixiote de Carnero, which should be veal, but to my delighted surprise, it tasted definitely like lamb. It was a very impressive dish.

Mixiote de Carnero
It was huge, with surprise morsels of meat tucked away in the rinconcitos of parchment. The spicing was complex. I found a large leaf inside, and when asked, our waiter told ust that it was hoja de aguacate: avocado leaf.

La Señora selected Enchiladas Verdes de Pollo. This is a standard menu item, available in most Mexican restaurants. But this version was exceptional. Not only was it beautifully plated, the enchiladas were generously filled with quality white chicken meat, in a tangy tomatillo salsa. The traditional queso fresco y crema garnish was applied tastefully, not drowning the enchiladas in richness.

Enchiladas Verde de Pollo
With our meal, Sra. Cuevas drank an agua de mango, then an agua mineral. I had a pricey Michelada con Clamato ($85!), then a Cerveza Victoria.  All these were summed up in la cuenta. But we considered it money well spent.

RATINGS (Calibrated on a 1 to 10 scale, 1 being dismal and to be avoided. 10 is the supreme heights, but rarely reached. A 5 is mediocre but acceptable in a pinch. Any rating above 6 is worth of attention.)

Food: 8

Service: 9  Our waiter was outstandingly helpful and genial.

Ambience: 8 Very pleasant and attractive dining rooms.

Cost: $$$ 1/2 per person. $=$100 pesos  This is not cheap, but it's worth the price.

Restrooms: Clean and very functional

Summary: an outstanding example of a superior traditional Mexican restaurant. Excellent food, outstanding friendly service.
We would definitely return if we are in the area again.

Contact info: Av. Insurgentes Norte 1037, Gustavo A. Madero, Guadalupe Insurgentes, 07870 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico

Tel: +52 55 5537 3375


(Implies breakfast service)

(Implies breakfast service)






Friday, October 06, 2017

Hotel Brasilia, CDMX

For our return from the United States, we had planned to stay four nights in the Hotel Stanza in Colonia Roma Norte. But due to the earthquakes in the two previous weeks, we changed plans. We decided instead to spend a single night in the Hotel Brasilia, located a few blocks from the Central de Autobuses del Norte. Friends had stayed there recently and had traveled on buses of Primera Plus lines.

The taxi ride from the Aeropuerto to the hotel took about 20 minutes. Our taxista was a talkative and informative older man. We arrived unexpectedly early at the hotel, so our room was not ready. The hotel decor has a '70s feel. The lobby area is spacious enough for Mexican roller derbies. To one side is what I call the "Lemon Drop Lounge".

Lemon Drop Lounge (web image)
Brasilia lobby (web image)
The manager stored our luggage in the safe room, and we went to comida. I had spotted nearby Restaurante El Nopalito on Google Maps; but we took the hotel taxi as we were very very tired from our long day's journey. I'll describe El Nopalito  in another post.

The Hotel Brasilia is an older, but generally well maintained property. We splurged on a jacuzzi suite, at $1300 pesos. The spacious suite consisted of a short hallway; a salita; the bathroom complex, containing toilet, shower, jacuzzi and sink; and an ample bedroom, with a large desk/shelf and a king sized bed.

Suite bedroom (web image)
The salita had a small table and several office type chairs and a small, comfortable sofa. Dominating the bedroom area was a very large overstuffed leatherette easy chair.

There were two TVs, one in the salita, the other in the bedroom, but we were tired and didn't watch either. Furthermore, we were not Certified TV Remote Operators and so, tv viewing was not available to us. We needed sleep more than anything.

But first I wanted to bathe in the soothing waters of the jacuzzi.
When I filled the jacuzzi tub and immersed myself, it was pleasant at first, but when I fired up the jets pump, it became disgustingly stinky. Cold sewer-smelling water gushed forth. I immediately got out and went back and showered again. The shower was fine.

I called the desk and when I finally got an answer, they sent up the maintenance man and for some reason, a bell man. The Maint Man got immediately to work, and probably flushed the tubes with fresh water and was sweet and clean.

Wifi signal was strong in the bedroom but very weak in the adjacent salita.

There was a Dolce Gusto coffee maker, with two coffee capsules (I may write a diatribe about these in another post.) which seemed easy to operate, but it didn’t make coffee. But it was not an issue, as we carry instant coffee and an immersion heater.

The 5 office type chairs would not roll. In fact, I don’t think they had any rollers. So it was awkward to position them. In fact, the long desk was uncomfortably high.

There were numerous electrical outlets and wall switches a-plenty.

The king bed was o.k. although the bedclothes tangled easily.

A highlight of the bedroom was a super cushy, overstuffed easy chair that looked like a recliner, but wasn’t. Our seventh floor room was quiet except for the occasional sound of a passing emergency vehicle.

A mediocre but nutritious breakfast buffet was offered in the hotel restaurant. $135.

The Hotel Brasilia is adequate, moderately priced and convenient to the Terminal Norte Bus Station.

Location: Hotel Brasilia
Av. de los 100 Metros 4823, Ampliacion Panamericana, Tlacamaca, 06770 Gustavo Madero, CDMX, Mexico

Tel: +52 1 55 5587 8577