El Tajín – Change of Guard

2050 0

Alicia Gironella d’Angeli, is throwing in the towel. She has been operating Restaurante el Tajin for long enough and, at 85, while by no means retiring, is ready to devote her energy to other projects.

Chef Gironella is one of Mexico’s foremost cooks and authors (she wrote the new Larous­se de la Cocina Mexicana among many others books) and is an original and tireless promoter of Mexican cuisine. Her late husband Giorgio d’Angeli was founder and president of Slow Food Mexico, an organization that has been instrumental in getting the cuisine of Mexico made a UNESCO Patrimony of Humanity. They founded El Tajin in 1993 in order to promote classic Mexican cooking, as well as present educational workshops and classes.

The restaurant serves creative but traditional food, many recipes based on the cuisine of the state of Veracruz.

Recently, the proverbial keys were handed over to the capable chef Ana Arroyo who promises not to stray too far from the original concept, while introducing some recipes of her own. Amongst several new plates we sampled recently was a standout huachinango in piquant mole verde, served over intensely flavorful, heirloom beans. A simple taco of lengua was a fine marriage of earthy tortilla that housed expertly cooked, tender tongue. And a classic Veracruzano chilpachole, the crab-based, chile infused seafood soup from that eastern state, was textbook perfect. The chef is working closely with local purveyors such as De la Chinampa and Milpa Alta, as well as Mercado de 100 in order to procure the best, freshest and sustainable ingredients. She plans to experiment with changing seasonal dishes and modify older standards.

But chef Arroyo promises not to touch a few beloved classics such as huachinango or lengua a la veracruzana. She assured me that “when Alicia turned the kitchen over to me, she gave me free reign to work with her menu – I will stick closely to many of her original recipes while introducing my own touch. I may only change the presentation or the ingredients or perhaps the techniques. There are cooking methods that we use now, such as ‘al vacio’ that weren’t known in Mexico 10 or 15 years ago. It’s traditional cooking using modern technology.  This is how Alicia wants it.”

Food (1-10) : 7
Ambience: Open, airy – there’s room to breathe. Music is minimal.
Price: $$ Moderate

El Tajin
Miguel Angel de Quevedo 687, (inside the Centro Cultural Veracruzano), Coyoacán.
Tel: 5659-4447 or 5659-5759
Open daily 1 p.m. – 6 p.m.

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About The Author

Nicholas Gilman is a food writer based in Mexico City; he's author of Good Food in Mexico CIty: Food Stalls, Fondas, Fine Dining.