I recently came back from a month in India, with a 4-day stop in Shanghai at the end. It was my first visit to China, and the food lived up to my expectations. The endless variety of dumplings, the shop windows full of glistening roast ducks, the surprises like tofu skin salad—I was in heaven (click here to see photos). The only problem was returning to Mexico City. While I love my hometown—it has no shortage of culinary delights—the Asian food scene here is sparse.
So the best Christmas present this year was the discovery that a Chinese restaurant had opened while I was away. Last time I travelled, I was dismayed to find that a Starbucks had planted itself practically under my window during my absence; this Asian invasion is so much more to my liking. Asian Bay, located in the thick of Condesa’s restaurant melee, is no ordinary chop suey joint. It’s a high level ‘Chinese food-for-Chinese people’ restaurant.
The young chef, Luís Alfonso Chiu is the son of immigrants from Canton. He grew up in the deco/colonial house, now converted into the restaurant. But the family feeling continues. As chef Chiu presides over the kitchen or mingles with clients his proud parents, Alfonso and Patricia, quietly run the ship.
Chef Luís recounted how his grandparents, who arrived here during the Mexican revolution, had been ‘asked to leave’ during the growing anti-Chinese movement of the ‘20’s and ‘30’s (astute business people, the Chinese were resented by the Mexican upper classes). His parents were born in China but the lure of Mexico remained and they immigrated–lucky for us. The chef grew up here, is as Mexican as mole, but loved the food of his ancestors, so he went back to Canton and Shanghai to study cooking.
Meanwhile, the pretty house has been converted into a pleasant restaurant – the covered plant filled courtyard is bright, warmed by touches of wood and bamboo. And of course, there’s the requisite fish tank.
As for the food: I’ll let you in on a secret: two menus are available, one for ‘gringos’ i.e. non-Chinese whose perceived tastes are simpler, the other, similar but more ample, for Chinese patrons (don’t worry, the Chinese version is translated into Spanish). The menu is divided into appetizers, soups, meats, poultry, fish, and dim sum (Chinese ‘tapas’). I’m a big fan of dim sum and there’s satisfying selection here, with a choice of steamed, baked and fried. No clichés are to be found.
The har gow, morsels of shrimp perfumed with ginger, wrapped in rice pasta and steamed, are fashioned with loving care. Xiaolongbao, those famous pork dumplings from Shanghai that squirt soup when you bite into them, are as good as those we lusted after there. Char shiu bao, poofy, steamed bread encasing a mouthful of sweet, fragrant pork – are the best I have tasted anywhere. The salt & pepper squid is crisp and tender.
The menu is mainly Cantonese with nods to spicy Sichuan and mild, sweet Shanghai-style cooking. ‘Fish filets Sichuan style’ is a refined version of the Sichuan hot pot, a hell’s brew of fiery peppers in liters of bubbling oil. Here the boneless filets are served on a plate with a reassuringly conservative oil/Sichuan pepper sauce that doesn’t overwhelm.
A Five-spice duck is bathed in a finger-licking, slightly sweet brown sauce – this reminds me of typical Shanghainese dishes. Pato Pekin is roast duck served the traditional way, carved tableside and rolled into little burritos with a bit of hoisin sauce, scallion and cucumber. Vegetables, simply listed as verduras chinas de temporada turned out to be, recently, beautifully sautéed baby bok choys, dressed with a little stock and a hint of ginger. Perfection itself.
The only caveat I have is that the dim sum are priced disproportionally to the rest of the menu: $70-80 per plate of 4–high even by New York Chinatown standards–whereas main dishes hover around $130. Dinner, with a beer or tea will be $250-300 pesos–money well spent.
I wondered how you say ‘buen provecho’ in Chinese.“You don’t,” a Chinese-speaking friend explained, “You just eat.” Fine with me.
Asian Bay Restaurante
Av. Tamaulipas 95 (between Vicente Suarez & Campeche) Condesa
Open Monday – Thursday: 12:00 -10:30 pm
Friday, Saturday 12:00 -11:30 pm
Anonymous January 3, 2012
Wow, good dim sum in Condesa – excellent news!!
Nate @ House of Anni January 3, 2012
That’s great to hear that you have a Chinese-trained chef running the restaurant.
It’s true that the Chinese don’t really have a saying like “buen provecho”. We just say, “eat! Eat!”
Don Cuevas January 3, 2012
OMG, we will be there next time we visit el D.F.
Marie B. Meyer January 3, 2012
Xiaolongbao!!! That will be a great way to start off the New Year! Thanks once again.
Patrice W. January 7, 2012
DELICIOSSSSSSSSAA!! One of my favorite meals in DF. The dim sum, as good as anything in Shanghai. Better than San Francisco. Larger, more succulent, juicy. Oghmygawd!
Jonathan January 19, 2012
Asian Bay was very good. Chef Luis is the man and was kind enough to give us 5 pieces in our dim sum orders for our party of 5. Any pho places in DF?
The Fresh Prince of DF January 24, 2012
MiBong on Campeche is the only place I have had Pho, not bad: http://mibong.com/
Boon February 12, 2012
Great southern Chinese food like you get in Hong Kong. The steam prawns with garlic was fantastic. The glass noodles at the bottom of the plate soaked up all the yummy sweetness of the prawns, yum! We had it twice with Mexican friends and they loved it. They never had anything like that before. The braised tofu and braised lamb were good too. The fried sesame balls with sesame fillings are great as desserts. They also have a good selection of noodles & fried rice, we tried the Braised Beef Noodle Soup (very popular for lunch in S China), it’s good too.
Alexdown February 21, 2012
BAD. I asked xiaolongbao and they gave me four different random dumplings on a plate..only one was xiaolongbao. In the shuizhuyu the oil was burnt. Decent chashaobao indeed. I’m thinking if I should give them a 2nd chance…
Anonymous February 22, 2012
Great food, just about as good as Singapore, Vancouver and Hong Kong – and I have lived in all three. Among 6 of us the bill was 250 pesos each incl drinks and tips. We had about 5-6 dishes. All good. This could be a weekly addiction if I lose control. Thanks for this find!
Anonymous June 23, 2012
Super disappointing, and inexplicable service. Food came out in this order: mains without rice, followed by a soup, after which they cleared the table and brought out rice, then the appetizer dumplings we thought would arrive first. In between they cleared plates without meals even being finished. Not going back.
The chef replies:
Hi, I am the Executive Chef Luis Chiu of Asian Bay. I am so sorry about you bad experience and would like to apologize. From June to July the restaurant had really tought times about the service. We had bad luck with waiters that knows little about real Chinese Food. As you experienced Mexico lack of real Chinese Food, so people do not know about tradicional chinese dishes. Those times, we only had 2 experienced waiters, while 3 of the other waiters were not. So, we would like to have another chance and show you that we have the best Chinese Food in México. Please, if you agree, send me an e-mail to email@example.com with your name. I offer you free DIM SUM in your visit if you give us another chance, and feel free to come on weekdays, thus I can offer you a better service. My sincere apologies, Chef Luis Chiu
Anonymous July 23, 2012
Yes I have to agree with the last post, sadly my experience was not good either.
Being an Aussie and spending alot of time in Asia, I have been craving some authentic food here in DF for ages, so I was very excited to read your review of Asian Bay.
When we went they had sold out of dim sum so were off to a bad start but it got worse, the service was appalling, our dishes arrived cold and in fact once dish must have been waiting so long in the kitchen that the sauce had almost congealed…We had to at one stage go find the waiter as he had forgotten our drinks… Just awful wont be giving it another chance