Note: As of January 2014, Chef Salinas has left Turtux. The jury’s out as to whether the quality will continue to be as high.
San Angel, pretty and old-fashioned, was never a gourmand’s paradise. Everybody raves about the margaritas at the San Angel Inn, but its food is ho-hum. The Fonda San Angel tried hard but vied with Sanborn’s and lost for quality.
But now one can travel south (of the Viaducto) for fine dining a la Mexicana. While Colonia Roma may be on the cutting edge gastro-wise and the centro is putting ‘histórico’ back into the cazuela, it’s Avenida de la Paz that’s finally getting on the upscale traditional bandwagon. First it was Paxia, now there’s Turtux.
The affable chef and gastronome Margarita Salinas de Carrillo is recognised for her work in promoting Mexican cuisine throughout the world. She has campaigned for the UNESCO proposal to designate Mexican Cuisine as ‘Intangible Patrimony of the World’. She is a notable cooking teacher, and has written about the regional cuisines of Oaxaca, Michoacán and Chihuahua amongst others. Her restaurant Don Emiliano in Baja California won umpteen awards, and her book ‘Tamales y Atoles Mexicanos’, was just published by Larousse. And she has cooked for President Obama.
With chef Margarita’s newest venture here in Mexico City, we can all dine like a president. The name means ‘butterfy’ in Maya, but the food is multi-regional.
Her menu—almost as good to read as the food is to eat–is ‘tweaked traditional’, which, I’m happy to report, is all the rage these days. Artsy-fartsy pretention is left at the door. Grandma’s recipes are revived, overhauled, put together from the best local artisanal ingredients, gussied up a little bit to appeal to the 21st century diner, and served on a plain white plate with a little drizzle of something just for effect.
A case in point is an entrada 0f laminillas de pulpo al cilantro: the octopus, sliced razor thin and drizzled with a simple little cilantro salsa glimmers like a stained glass window – it’s lovely to look at, delightful in the mouth but simple, without annoying pretense.
The fideo seco, the classic dried noodle dish borrowed from the Catalán lexicon and ‘Mexicanized’ with chili, local cheese and avocado, is perfection itself, the pasta conserving just enough bite to please while the roast chili aroma dances around the nostrils.
Terciopelo de hongos is, as its name suggests, velvety and creamy and redolent of mushroom, the faint aroma of epazote the only reminder that you’re in the land of the Aztecs and not the Gauls.
From the menu of platos fuertes a standout is borreguito en pulque con ayocotes. This is a stew of what might have been euphemistically called lamb, but is, in fact the more mature and flavorful mutton. But the meat is falling-apart tender in its brick-red sauce, made fruity and deep by the addition of fresh pulque. Little ayocotes (dumplings of corn masa) add body to this down-home dish.
Totol en mole de pistache (young turkey in a pistachio mole) is one of the more unusual offerings. The light celadon-green mole perfectly complements the delicate meat, which is nicely cradled in a huarache de maiz criollo (masa base of local corn). It works on every level.
Fish is perfectly done, not overcooked, and the ‘salsa verde’, reminiscent of the classic Spanish garlic/parsley sauce but here with the addition of perfumey cilantro.
Desserts are all muy mexicano and as good as they sound: titles like tarta Eréndira de chocolate de metate y chiles secos or flan de la Abuelita Celia are both tempting and sweetly descriptive.
The wine list, compiled by Margarita’s son the sommelier – this is a family run operation – is small but well chosen; most selections are from Baja California and prices are accessible.
The simple space, in a small ‘centro commercial’ is pleasant if non-descript: outdoor patio tables offer a more cheerful setting. The price range is $300-500 pp, depending what you drink.
Devoid of off-putting chichi snaz, Turtux offers well-chosen, carefully prepared Mexican recipes in a comfortable, casual setting. It’s a great addition to the growing roster of Good Food in Mexico City.
Av. de la Paz 57 (inside the mall)
Col. San Angel
Tel. 5550-3632 / 5550-2753
Open Tuesday – Saturday 1:30 -11:30PM, Sunday, Monday 1-6PM
An article with plenty of verve. I enjoyed reading it and can’t wait to go to Turtux.
Don Cuevas February 19, 2013
What’s the price range?
I hope that you return to reviewing humbler, less expensive fondas, puestos and such for our economic benefit.
C.M. Mayo March 4, 2013
Glad to see this, Nicholas. I’ve eaten here twice and I can say that Turtux is a splendid addition to the scene in the south and I wish them much success.
food delivery March 6, 2013
WoW…. that just amazes me to taste!