Out of the Frying Pan: Padella

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On a recent jaunt to “do” the art galleries of San Miguel Chapultepec, lunch time approached. We decided to stick with this pretty, mid-century residential neighborhood that borders the south side of the park. Tree lined streets are quiet and dotted with the occasional tienda, café or comida corrida joint. Prestigious cultural institutions such as the cutting edge Kurimanzutto Gallery and the Mexican-zen Casa Luís Barragán are contained within its borders. But that lovely, sunny Saturday, we were hard pressed to find a ‘nice’ place to dine – we ended up in an unmemorable fonda.

The bleak culinary landscape of the colonia has begun to change, however, with the recent opening of Padella. This welcoming bistro is set in a pre-deco French-style former residence, re-designed by architects Marco Lozano and Erika Alfaro of Arquitectura Básica; the multiple dining rooms are rejuvenated respectfully conserving aspects of their architectural heritage. The overall feeling is homey, casual; music is jazzy, not in your face.

The menu, designed by young up-and-coming chef Diego Isunza, is based on southern Franco-Italian home cooking, i.e. stews and sauced dishes—‘padella’ is Italian for saucepan. This is food meant to evoke someone’s grandmother, if not yours or mine.

A classic French boeuf bourguignon is textbook perfect: winey, luxuriantly rich. So is the succulent short rib, whose dark, sanguine sauce seems to have reduced for days.

I loved the estofado de lentejas con mariscos and never would have thought to combine lentils with seafood – it’s a matrimony made in heaven – or perhaps Nice.

Pappardelle con ragú de cordero is pure Tuscany –house-made wide pasta, done properly al dente, serves as a bed for yet another profoundly meaty  lamb stew perfumed with a touch of saffron.

Fricassé de pollo is classic French bistro all the way, the tender morsels of bird sautéed in white wine and finished with cream.

Simple starters such as burrata with arugula or embutidos—chorizo de Pamplona, salami, jamón Serrano—are nice if no challenge to the palette. A theoretically homey minestrone, was on more than one occasion insipid, a Niçoise-style salad overdressed and un-pretty. This section of the menu could use a bit of refining.

Desserts, while well executed, sit well within the tried and true category: apple tart, panna cotta, carrot cake and the like serve more as afterthoughts than avatars of gratification.

The wine list is well chosen, as it should be given that the principal partner is Andrés Amor a respected sommelier.

Gentle gripes aside, Padella is very good, its kitchen a harbinger of great things to come. It is a worthy destination and unique in the city.

Padella
Calle General Antonio León 72, San Miguel Chapultepec
Tel. 7591 0982
Open Monday – Saturday from 8 a.m. – 11 p.m., Sunday, 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
www.padella.mx

Food (1-10): 7 (Mains deserve a higher rating)
Service: 8
Ambience: Comfortable/casual, rooms are divided, unobtrusive music
Price: $400 average per person

1st & last photos courtesy of Padella

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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.