For decades there has been a paucity of decent, sit-down dining options in the centro histórico. While there are a few good daytime venues, nocturnal revelers who might prefer a modicum of civility to the marvelous but decorum-less sautéed innards tacos of Los Cocuyos, can count the choices on less than one hand. But things are looking up.
A Japanese restaurant, unassuming at first glance, has opened its doors and promises to deliver some very fine, bona fide Nippon noshes. Ah-Un is set in a sensibly decorated colonial space – light wood and exposed stonework predominate – tables spill out onto pedestrianized Motolinia, while a spacious bar surrounds the kitchen. Neighbors include an old cantina, a convivial comida corrida joint, the hidden-gem jazz bar Zinco and hip Mezcalería Talismán, which is under the same management. But none offer a kitchen of such refinement.
Nary a dollop of cream cheese is shmeered onto chef Masa-sensei’s jewel-like nigiri sushi or rolls. His sashimi platters are arranged with an artist’s eye. Rice bowls, eclectic prepared dishes such as pickled unagi, deep-fried fish heads and a couple of non-Japanese favorites such as ma-po tofu and Thai som tum are concocted by Aida-sensei. His single, multi-layered rice/meatball, descends from its crispy browned panko crust to a layer of sticky rice to a steaming, fragrant ground beef interior – it’s a glorious, edible planet.
These chefs are off the boat, so to speak, from Japan and are dedicated to doing things as they ought to be done. Fish is as good as it gets; the best toro, salmon and Hamachi are flown in and the perfumy, mustard-colored uni (sea urchin) is a profound umami experience.
Buttery little strips of Wagyu beef from the homeland are flash-seared and served over nigiri – they shouldn’t be missed. A full bar includes a decent selection of sakes. Price vs. quality is generous.
The term Ah – Un refers to the Gods of the beginning and end of things in several eastern belief systems. This fine restaurant has only been open for a few days and needs fine-tuning. But I think this is just the beginning.
Ah-Un Restaurante Japonés
Motolinia 31, between Madero & 16 de Septiembre, Centro
Open: Thursday – Saturday 1 p.m. – 1 a.m., Sunday – Wednesday 1 – 11 p.m.
Food: (1- 10) 8 – True Japanese cooking doesn’t get much better in CDMX, and there is stiff competition.
Ambience: 7 – Relaxed and pretty modern Japanese surroundings are marred by antro-style music played a tad too loud; outdoor seating provides a Fellini-esque show but can be rough on the nerves.
Price: A decent lunch can be had for $250, a full meal with sake for $600 p.p.