On the Town: Tapeando

Berezi Gastrobar
Plaza Samara: Antonio Dovali Jaime 70, Santa Fe. 
Tel.  5292 4753

A scallop never looked so good
This smart new ‘bar de tapas’ is located on the mezzanine level of a new but characterless mall in Santa Fe, overlooking a pretty landscaped garden.  It offers Spanish classics well done: croquetas those perfect little béchamel balls, are crunchy out/creamy in and served with pleasantly mild ali-oli. We’ve never seen, in Mexico, the little skewered gildas, named after Rita Hayworth’s character in the eponymous film.
Costillas, little morsels of pork  rib are falling-apart tender and lightly sweetened with balsamic.
And callo con romesco y velo de azafrán is a minimally cooked scallop that sits proudly on a dollop of smoky/tangy hazelnut-thickened sauce from Catalonia and is worth the trip to this un-loved part of town.

Álvaro Obregón 179, Colonia Roma Tel. 5511-0429
Tapeando at Capote
Open: Tuesday- Sunday: 2 p.m.-2 a.m.

Pedro Martín, the Canarian chef once of Tezka and other high-falutin’ D.F. venues has opened an unpretentiously cool bar at the end of Alvaro Obregón with a few tables in and out (which are these days quite difficult to procure). The menu is all tapas, simple-to-complex little dishes, reasonably priced meant to be shared and accompanied by wine from the wallet-friendly list. Service, however, tends to range from perfunctory to downright rude, a rarity in this town of smiling hospitality.

Kaah Siis
Mazaryk 123, corner Schiller,  Col. Polanco
Tel. 5250-0274
Open Monday- Saturday 1:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.

A new venue for interesting ‘Alta Cocina Mexicana’ offers two tasting menus based on local artisanal and seasonal products. Dishes can be shared or one can take advantage of the tasting menu. The eight course mega is a bit too much even for this glutton – go for the six.


You're the Top: Q&A With Máximo's Chef Eduardo García

Gabi & Lalo photo © by Peter Norman
Máximo Bistrot Local opened its doors at the beginning of 2012, and quickly became the hottest place in Mexico City. It’s an unpretentious European-style bistro in the once opulent Colonia Roma neighborhood, which is in the midst of a redevelopment boom. Cool and chic Máximo replaces a dowdy medical supply store; once a trash-strewn corner with little foot traffic is now a well-known gastronomic destination. You can find the best brandade de morue this side of the Seine here. Or a classic ceviche. While Mexico-born chef and owner Eduardo García likes rustic French cooking, his feet are firmly planted on native ground, and he often includes typical Mexican ingredients such as chilies, hot and mild; cuitlacoche, the rich corn fungus known as “Mexican truffle”; or country herbs like epazote in his dishes.

The chef formerly worked under Enrique Olvera of Pujol, the esteemed local palace of experimental gastronomy, and also toiled in Manhattan’s star-strewn Le Bernardín where seafood reigns.
García represents the new generation of Mexican cooks who, while well aware of what’s going on in Spain, California and New York, have come back home, incorporating these ideas into their native cuisine.

Eduardo García puts ‘local’ in Máximo Bistrot Local
The chef has brought expert gastronomic skills to his own place, opened on a shoestring and run with his wife, the affable Gabriela, who acts as host. Máximo Bistrot Local’s publicity claims thatmateria prima is local and organic, if possible. The chef visits the city’s spectacular markets daily, choosing what looks best, then adroitly improvising a new menu each day. The food coming out of his kitchen is worthy of hyperbole.

How is what you cook related to classic Mexican cuisine?
Our menu is based not only on Mexican cuisine, but also on local ingredients — hence the name “bistro local.” But I like to include a few “authentic” dishes. The relationship between my cuisine and Mexican cooking is all about ingredients, methods and philosophy. I think my growing up in Mexico and having trained here infuses everything I do. For example, I often take advantage of the huge variety of chilies used in our cooking, and the specifically Mexican ways of preparing them, such as toasting and grinding.

And to classic European cooking?
I wouldn’t say “classic European” but French and rustic Italian. Again, the methods are a big part of the relationship. I take what I consider to be the best techniques from the aforementioned European traditions.

What are the advantages of running a restaurant in Mexico City?
In the city, purveyors are more focused than in other parts of Mexico. We’re in the middle of the country and everything is available here; I can get seafood from either coast hours after it is caught.
the provinces — Mexicans tend to be conventional when it comes to food.

What’s coming up on your menu? 
I’m planning a trip to visit small restaurants in Europe to get more inspiration for my menu. I’m more interested in experiencing local, time-honored cooking than the avant-garde stuff.

What is you latest ingredient obsession? 
Fresh seafood from Ensenada. There are extraordinary ingredients there. Percebes, for example, are barnacles not well-known outside of Spain, where they cost a fortune. Here they are accessible and I’ve been experimenting with them: I included them in a ceviche recently.

What is your favorite restaurant/chef in town?
I don’t hang out much with the “top” chefs or at fancy restaurants. My favorite place is Fonda Las Margaritas in Colonia Del Valle [a quiet residential neighborhood south of the center]. It’s where I like to eat on my day off. It’s a simple old-fashioned neighborhood fonda that does really authentic no-frills Mexican food.

And out of town?
Casa Oaxaca, in Oaxaca City. My friend, Chef Alejandro Ruíz, is doing incredible things with local market foods there. I always look forward to seeing what he’s up to.

Where do you see the restaurant scene headed here in Mexico City?
The culinary scene here is expanding, as are people’s palates. I think that Mexico City is becoming one of the top destinations for food. New restaurants as well as old established ones are using more fresh and local products. And that’s a real good thing.

And what are your life plans?
I’ve been offered jobs here and abroad, book deals, even a TV show! I’ve turned them all down. Because I just don’t have time to do anything but cook, and make sure everything in my place is the best it can be. I’ve seen some of my contemporaries fall prey to the “star chef” phenomena — and their restaurants suffer for this. You can’t be a star and maintain a great kitchen unless it is established and you are able to train younger chefs to be as good as you. I know I’m not there yet. We’re doing amazingly well, are always full and now have sidewalk rights so a few more tables. But it’s very hard work, six days a week, exhausting. I hope I can keep it up.
Gabi & Lalo II photo © by Peter Norman

Note: This article is reprinted, by popular demand, from Zesterdaily.com, for which I am a columnist.


The Best Thing I Ate This Week: White on White

"It's not Italian" I muttered,  as I nodded in assent against my better judgement, not wishing to go against the grain. We were ordering for my birthday dinner at what's just about my favorite restaurant in the world.

Ajo blanco, or white gazpacho is a traditional alternative to the better known red gazpacho. It's ubiquitous in the south of Spain, Andalucia to be more precise, during the warm months. A soup cool in every way, it's as good as the sum of its ingredients, and the balancing skills of its maker. Olive oil, pulverized almonds, vinegar, garlic, perhaps a little bread are whipped into a smooth cream and served over green grapes.

The warm months have arrived in Mexico City, dry dusty desert-like days will be upon us until the rains come. So, yes, a cold soup is a good idea.

It arrived after squash blossom flowers which were fried so light they seemed to levitate off the plate like little cumulous clouds.

The soup was textbook perfect. The balance between sweet, salty, tart and umami was 3 star Michelin.

But Rosetta specializes in regional Italian fare, not southern Spanish. I asked the brilliant chef Elena Reygadas why, why she did it. "My Spanish grandmother made it and when the weather turns warm I get nostalgic - and there just aren't so many cold Italian soups I like." Chef Reygadas' touch is to add a little green apple and tarragon. So the soup is her own. Any Italian would approve.

Go for the white gazpacho while you can. Then eat pasta.

Note: Listen to an in-depth interview with the author: http://colinmarshall.libsyn.com/s3e18-first-rate-second-world-eating-with-nicholas-gilman