A restaurant critic worth his sel de mer will let the dust settle before he presents a review of a new establishment. In cities around the globe, the last couple of years has given rise to gangs of social media-ites who seem to compete with each other to be first in line to tweet, Insta or otherwise share with their devoted followers the news of the opening of a star chef’s venue, the latest cool cocktail bar, the private pop-up to which one wasn’t invited. This in lieu of a deeper investigation and true analysis of gastronomy and of the restaurant and chef’s real merit. Reservations become impossible to procure even before the doors open to the public. This is not fair to chefs, owners, staff and least of all to the hungry public which has little recourse but to believe what it is told. It is easy, both as a critic and consumer, to become entangled in this Hollywood-esque ballyhoo. The situation here in Mexico is no different, where the ‘legitimate’ press is of little use: analytical criticism in any genre is as rare as a quetzalcoatl. It is in the hands of the discerning consumer to sort through the barrage of information and make prudent choices. Good luck.
Meanwhile, Mexico City’s gastronomic scene continues to expand exponentially, especially in Colonias Roma and Juarez. So, with the understanding that paint is still fresh, waiters unpracticed, recipes still in development, I present a handful of promising venues that have opened recently. All are recommended with the caveat that they are new, wet behind the ears, so to speak. I will wait until they cut at least one tooth before I lay a review on any of them. It’s only fair.
Just about everyone agrees that Eduardo García aka Lalo is the best chef in Mexico. So,Havre 77 his new venue for French classics is a guaranteed winner. It’s set in a pretty Porfiriato mansion and features an unparalleled raw bar. Prices reflect quality: be prepared to spend upwards of $700 per person.
Havre 77, Colonia Juarez. Tel. 5208-1070
Open Monday-Saturday 1:30-11 p.m.
Restaurante Tandor de Ali (Lucerna 46, colonia Juarez) is a great new addition to our tiny Indian restaurant scene. It’s a modest locale where flavors are bold and prices are reasonable – about $250 per person.
Galanga Thai Kitchen is an extraordinary new restaurant run by chef Somsri with her husband Eleazar who know what they are doing. Such iconic dishes as som tum (green papaya salad), pad thai, larb (chopped and spiced meat) and massaman curry (a tart fruity blend) are prepared with respect to tradition. But the menu also includes less commonly seen options like gang pad ped yang, a red curry with duck and pineapple or gang yang, BBQ’s chicken with Thai spices and tod mun pla, a fish cake lightly perfumed with res curry. The chef has managed to get her hands on such rare but essential ingredients as kaffir lime and galangal so flavors are not compromised. She will adjust picante-ness to individual tastes but turns the fire up, as it should be, on request. Presentation is artful and ambience relaxed. Prices are reasonable, averaging about $300 per person. Highly recommended.
Galanga Thai Kitchen
Guanajuato 202, Roma
Open Tuesday – Sunday, 1-10 p.m., closed Monday
Cosa Nostra: Pasta e Fagioli Popup
Pasta e Fagioli is a popup cook fest that exudes bonhomie. It is hosted by two chef partners, German-born Daniels Maria and Marco Carboni who hails from Modena; they know how to make their guests feel at home. I attended a recent dinner at the Hotel Deliza, a warm raw brick-walled space in Roma that reminded me of a N.Y. West Village townhouse. Attendees casually milled about, gin cocktails in hand, greeting friends and making new ones. The culinary theme was Franco-Italian. A plate of dips, garlicky eggplant, “five kale” pesto and tarragon perfumed guacamole started things off. Tortellacci filled with artichoke were perfectly al dente, sauced with a lightly tart chevre and flecked with woodsy hazelnuts. This was followed by a brasato de res al Nebbiolo a wonderful Italianate bœuf bourguignon, a slow cooked reduction that rendered the chunks of beef meltingly tender and aromatic; this was accompanied by a slice of warm toasted polenta. The final act was a pretty almond merengue with lemon sorbet. Daniels, who owns and operates Conde Sandwich Bar and the bakery next door explains that “The inspiration for our food comes from Italy – though many dishes are similar to French classics – as well as local, seasonal Mexican ingredients. We ping pong them around till we are happy and they go on the plate.”
Prices are reasonable: $400 per person, which includes a cocktail; wine is extra.
This is the ‘cosa nostra’ to which I hope to return. The next event will take place February 25th.
See https://www.facebook.com/pastaefagioli/ for upcoming events.
Listen to my new podcasts on www.talkingabouteverything.com:
Ep. 39:Author Nicholas Gilman on Mexico’s historic center and its revival
Ep. 40: Nicholas Gilman talks with Juan Pablo Ballesteros about Limosneros and Modern Mexican Cuisine