Belkisw | Jan 17, 201808:39 AM     7

Here is a report from our latest foodie trip to Mexico over New Years, apologies for the length in advance! Highlights were El Moro, Fonda Margarita, Carmelitas, El Cardenal, Quintonil, Aperi, Hueso and Red Cabbage Café. Biggest disappointment was the Pujol tacos omakase.

Mexico City
Azul Histórico- disappointing but beautiful
The place is beautiful, and the service wonderful. We had a waiter who took us on a Mezcal tasting tour for about 40 minutes, and allowed us to try some of the rarest Mezcals out there. On to the food, their famous tortilla soup was yummy but not very exciting. We had a ceviche with an Asian twist and guacamole. It was tasty but a tad too salty, with the soy sauce overpowering the dish slightly. Then we had the mole enchiladas. The mole was interesting, not sure I liked it though. And finally we had the conchinita pibil which was dry and nothing exceptional at all.

El Cardenal- heavenly breakfast
The perfect breakfast that I am still dreaming of. We sat down to an anis cinnamon roll with nata de leche and hot chocolate, simply heaven. Then we had the best huevos rancheros of our trip, the dish just needed a tad more of the delicious tomato sauce. And the chilaquiles were absolutely divine.

El Moro- best churros of my life
Hands down best churros I have ever had, so crunchy and thin and a bite of heaven. Went back to the original location twice during the trip it was so good.

Quintonil- excellent meal
Brilliant meal, I will say from the outset. We started with blue corn tortillas with salsa, habanero and beans- delicious and I liked how traditional it was. Then we had the epic cactus pad salad, delicious and so refined, the pairing with mezcal and beet juice was ok, pure mezcal would have worked better. Then peas and pork- smokey heaven and the perfect crunch of fresh peas, with very good pairing. Then scallops and beef tongue- nice, warm, buttery, herbaceous, and again a good pairing. The escamoles and avocado was interesting but didn’t do much for me, was a bit lacking in flavour though maybe the point of the dish is more about texture. The pairing didn’t make sense either. Then we had an octopus pancake of sorts that was very tasty but needed more heat and was a bit rich. Then salmon trout which was lovely, with this delicious squash honey- it’s the perfect bite, though there were an unnecessary slice of squash on the plate as well. The sweetbread tacos were tasty, but a bit too sweet bread for me (am generally not a fan of the taste and texture of sweet bread. The ox tail was delicious, very Mexican in flavour and packed a punch, but the texture was not what it should be. Then a nice and tart cactus sorbet, before a stellar first dessert, these "guava rocks" that were savory and sweet, a great texture, and you keep going for more and each bite is different. The final dessert was fantastic, this corn ice cream that is perhaps in my top 3 desserts of all time.

Lalo!- nice
We sat down and started with a cinnamon roll from the break offering, which was delicious. Then we had the chilaquiles which were nice with a good amount of heat and the eggs were done perfectly. We then had the famous french toast which was so delicious but an absolute sugar bomb.

Pujol tacos omakase- massively disappointing, very filling, and perhaps there is only so much one can do to elevate a taco?
First off I will say that we knew doing the tacos omakase over the tasting menu was a risk, but I had heard from a fellow chef that the omakase is where the chef and his team are experimenting and doing some exciting things. We started with street snacks with an odd juice pairing. None of the bits were great. Then we had a scallop tostada which was nice if a bit oily and not the best scallops, but with a good pairing. Then came a vegetable taco with confit eggplant that was totally bland. Then we had a folded taco with uni and black beans, which was tasty when you got the right bite, but quite salty. Then came a delicious pork cheek taco, but it was also very salty. Then a pork pastor taco with pineapple, which was nice but not exciting. Then a taco with a chili stuffed with wagyu- it was one of my favourite of the meal, but by this point I was quite full. Then a break from the tacos- a croquette with seabass that was nice, not too exciting. Finally the famous mole dish that I have to say was not the best mole we had on our Mexico trip. Then an apple tamale dessert that would have been tasty if not for this burnt caramel ice cream that stole the taste from every other element in the bowl. And we ended with the thin coil of curros, that were nice and delicate, but can't hold a stick to the churros at El Moro in my opinion.

Máximo Bistrot- I am 50/50 on this one. Two of the dishes were great, two I didn’t love
We started with a simply delicious ceviche of seabass which was so fresh and bright. Then we had an artichoke dish that was very fresh and warming, but not super flavourful- more like comfort food but without the yum factor. Then we got delicious homemade raviolis stuffed with a ragu and two pieces of oxtail as well, very well done. Then a lovely strawberry sorbet, followed by a burnt sugar cake that really didn’t do anything for me

Rokai- if you are looking for sushi in Mexico City, this is the way to go.
So the chef offers two different omakases (of differing price because of the offerings included), but the menu also includes hot dishes, dessert, etc. Since we were there for sushi, we requested only sushi, sashimi, nigiri. They consulted and the chef agreed. It was a very, very good meal from that point on, with tons of uni, wagyu beef, toro, etc. Out of my sushi meals outside of japan, I would rank it in the top 10.

Fonda margarita- fantastic breakfast, not to be missed
Small note- if you want to try lots of things on the menu, you can ask for half portions of each item. We had the chicharron in chili verde, which had a very nice heat. Then the huevos rancheros- you have to ask for sauce or they come naked. I got them in a red sauce, that was delicious. And then we got the famous beans and scrambled eggs which were delicious as well and not too beany. We ordered a very good churro at the end, but it came cold which is my only complaint of the meal- I suggest you ask to make sure you get a fresh, hot one.

Contramar- very nice, especially for a weekend lunch
I started with some nice oysters, though they didn’t loosen them which I thought was a bit odd. Then we had the famous, and delicious tuna tostadas. We got a sashimi of mackerel which wasn’t great because the slices were cut very thickly. We got grilled shrimp that was very nice and plump and juicy, and grilled tuna tips that you can make into a lovely fish taco. For dessert we had a slice of nutella flan which was nice (my husband loved it), and the awesome fig tart which is so good because of its crust I think.

El-k Guamo- great for a quick, light bite in the historical center
We had an excellent polpo and crab tostada, with the perfect amount of acid and flavour.

El Arrayan- not great
Very nice chef, but not the best food. The coconut shrimp were oily and unexceptional. The tuna steak was good, though they could have brought a better dipping sauce- they brought an odd blueberry sauce and the rub on the tuna didn’t add much either. We ordered the tuna rare, and if the grill had been hotter you would have gotten that nice crust on the outside, and raw on the inside. Instead the outside was cook, but with no crust. The size of the piece of tuna was enormous. The mezcal was very bad quality.

Carmelitas- fantastic breakfast
Do not miss this place, and do not get put off by the wait, it is so worth it. We had the most stunning breakfast, which started with a delicious cheese curd dip, then the most perfect aporreadillo rojo with just the right amount of heat. Then the huevos motulenos that were nice, though less impressive. On the side we had a quesadilla which was very good because of the quality of the tortilla. I had a cup of the café de olla, coffee cooked with cinnamon and orange peel, it was so delicious and unlike at most places, it wasn’t pre-sweetened. Lovely service and a charming place.

Tentationes- go for the view, not the food
We ate our New Years Eve dinner here. The view doesn't get any better, so that really is the main draw. The tasting menu... well it was fine, but not a hint of anything Mexican, and it was sort of odd pan-European. Again, you go for the views, not the food. The cocktails were really not exceptional, nor was the wine list.

La tradicion- great hearty home cooking
First off it is worth noting that the place itself is not the most appealing looking, compared to the charming cafes and restaurants off the main square. But if you want traditional, delicious bubbling pots of food, you come here. Victoria the chef and her husband are lovely. We had the pork in tequila sauce, which was really yummy, the enchiladas with cecina, also very yummy, and then the steak in black chile sauce, which was truly delicious though a bit salty. We had a glass of the mezcal uasisi, which was very good, as well as a mezcal passion fruit liquor which is like a lovely dessert in and of itself. We finished off with the zapote in rum- a very odd fruit with a very odd texture/consistency, and you didn’t taste the rum at all.

Pacanda- get a scoop if you are in town
Delicious nieve de pasta ice cream, lovely balance of flavour between the almonds and the light hint of cinnamon.

Best carnitas of my life- we did a detour to come here to eat carnitas at Carmelo's. Jesus was it mind-blowing... I will be dreaming about that carnitas for years to come. I cannot stress enough how much it is worth the detour. Insanely delicious.

Lu- not worth it
The restaurant feels a bit like a train station, as does the service. We were done with our tasting menu 55 minutes after we were seating, with plates coming sometimes before the earlier plate had even been cleared. They first brought us buns (not very nice ones) with a lovely black chili dipping sauce that had great heat. Then the best course- a corn salad that was fantastic. After that came a tasteless squash stew, and then a very overcooked trout. But the trout came with a very nice mole, and a tasty side salad with a pungent cheese sauce, which helped the dish. We got a version of a cheesecake for dessert which was quite yummy. The cocktails though, including the margaritas, were terrible- tasted like they came from a slurpie machine.

Fonda Marceva- very nice breakfast
Lovely space, lovely staff. I started by ordering a cafe de olla- it was packed full of sugar, I need to warn you. We got the uchepos which were killer. The aporreadillo was nice and the quality of the meat itself very good and the sauce was nice and spicy, but not the best aporreadillo I have had in Mexico. The frijoles were so packed full of flavour. At the end, between the sauce from the uchepos, the aporreadillo, and the beans, I had a delectable soupy sauce left on my plate to clean up with a tortilla.

San Miguel de Allende
Moxi- good, but not outstanding
There is something about the layout of the place, and the freezing temperature in the winter, that meant we didn’t feel really at ease any time during the meal. We got the tasting menu, with a starting bite of a tostada with black beans, cheese, avocado, and greens, which was a delicious start. Then we had a zucchini flower soup, which was not exciting at all. Then a fish dish that had a nice rub and some other seasoning that tasted lovely with the bed of rice, but the fish itself was over cooked and dish needed salt. Then a fantastic steak hanwith a habanero chili. The steak was so perfectly cooked and seasoned. Then a very refreshing palate cleanser of mandarin sorbet and sunflower seeds encrusted with brown sugar. Finally it ended with a nice French toast slice for desert but with a bitter coffee syrup and a coffee ice cream that wasn’t great. It would have worked so much better with a nieve de pasta or vanilla ice cream. We also had breakfast at Moxi- the chicken black bean tamal was very nice, with a great light heat. The poached eggs and salsa were also very nice.

Cafe San Augustin- don't like the churros
This place has nice hot chocolate, but the churros nowhere as good as El Moro in CDMX for example. The dough is too sweet, the oil is not hot enough, so you don’t get the same browning and crispness, and the churros are fatter as opposed to thin and crispy, which I prefer.

Don Tacos Tequila- hip, decent tacos
This is a very hip joint. I would say though that the tacos aren’t fantastic. The don tequila taco was way too cheesy, needed lots of acid to cut through. The Mexica was ok. The el huerto was good when you got the right bit with the chile. The bigotes was the best taco we had. We also got a pastor that had way too much pineapple in it. The salsas that come with the meal were the real highlight, absolutely delicious, all of them.

Nomada- interesting meal, worth doing a tasting menu here I would say
We came here on a non-Wednesday (the night they do their weekly tasting menu) but they obliged us with a tasting menu of sorts. We started with a beet and tomato dish that was very clean and tasty, and the tomato slices had an amazing, sweet flavour. Then came a chile stuffed with goat cheese in a tomato sauce, nice but could use some heat. Then a mushroom risotto with truffle oil and serrano chilis, very nice and delicate, with a nice hint of heat. Next came the best dish of the night, octopus so perfectly cooked and in this heavenly sour sauce- it was a perfect dish.
Nice piece of steak, a bit over because grill was not hot enough to get rare but nice crust I assume,
but very tender and nicely seasoned. But came with the same charred vegetables as the last course which was a disappointment. Tasty mashed potatos
Mascarpone fig dessert, least favourite of the meal. The cream was warm, which was unpleasant and had a bit of a mealy texture.
The staff admitted to us that they use very little spice, because of their foreign customers- which is a real shame as a few of the dishes could really have benefitted from more heat.

Vía Orgánica- no good
The green chilaquiles were ok, not exceptional. The rancheros were tasteless besides some lovely little potatoes on the side. The only positive is that the juices were very fresh.

Baja fish taquitos- yummy lunch in San Miguel
The fondito and shrimp were delicious but make sure to ask for proper tortillas, not the packaged kind that we first were served. Then we got a tostada with tuna- the fish seemed canned though the menu made a point of saying it was fresh- but I don’t buy it. Then we had a tasty ceviche tostada that had good, light heat. Then I had a chili stuffed marlin taco that was absolutely delicious. I also tried a smoked marlin taco that was very nice. And they make a kickass michelada.

Aperi- do the chef's table, you will not regret it, some of those bites were so stunning
We initially had a booking for the tasting menu, but later heard about the chef's table option and changed our booking- I am so glad we did! We started with a cocktail at the bar that was not great- it tasted like a bad tropical drink at an all-inclusive. But then we were lead to the charming back room attached to the kitchen, and got to meet chef Matteo Salas. We started with a first bite of toasted rice, fava beans, and chickpeas, it was crispy but after a bite that was about it in terms of excitement of the dish. But it was paired with a wonderful glass of Casa Dragones tequila, which is really the best you can get in my opinion. We then had a fish tostada bite with olives and avocado that was nice, bright with acid, and crisp. Then a foie gras ball that was rich but I was not convinced with the flavour. Then came a stunning amberjack sashimi with the perfect amount of kick. Then a mussels pasta dish with seaweed and bacon that was beyond outstanding. Then we got a piece of trout cooked to perfection with a stunning mushroom foam. Then the main meat was an oxtail dish that was rich and needed acid, wasn’t the most exciting. Then a fantastic banana dessert, and then a lovely chili dessert that was spicy, salty, and lovely. It came with an unfortunate rum tea drink that just tasted of rum.

Hueso- fantastic food to eat in a group
I liked the family style nature of this place. You can only get a tasting menu if you are alone. But in a group, you can ask them to give you a sampling of their best dishes, which we did. We started with an amuse bouche of salmon pate that was fine, not great. But then came a delicious shrimp aguachile, a fantastic beef offal dish (I hate offal normally but went back for seconds and thirds), and a heavenly foie gras dish that I am still dreaming of. Then we had a killed pork belly dish, and a chocolate rack of lamb that was well cooked but unexciting. For dessert we had the 'bone' dessert that was gimmicky and didn’t have any real taste to it, an unexceptional cheesecake, but an amazing popcorn ice cream. The cocktails throughout were stellar.

Alcalde- odd meal, felt like a schizophrenic chef
We ordered a mezcal jaicama cocktail to start, which was basically served as a slushie. We spent meal waiting for it to melt so we could drink it, at which point it was way too sweet. First came the snapper sashimi with salmon roe and Serrano in a lemon cure, which was very nice and bright and tasted Mexican. Then came a nopales salad with burrata and herbs, nice and bright but not remotely Mexican. Then came chia bread which had a nice crust but didn’t really make sense in the context of the meal. Then we got the tamale ball in a sauce and on a bed of spinach, that was a pure, deep dive into Mexico’s flavours, but beautifully elevated. The corn flavour, the bitter spinach, the nuts- it was fantastic. Then came a red snapper in bell pepper and olive sauce- the fish was perfectly cooked, with lovely flavours, but tasted more like an Italian dish than anything else. Then we got pork tail which was crispy and flavourful but quite heavy and salty, but very Mexican in a good way.
Then came a hibiscus dessert with very intense flavours, great crunch, but was very sweet. And finally a pine nut milk dessert with rose petals that was very sweet but yummy.
Overall, it felt like chef trying to make a modern European meal, with a few Mexican dishes slotted in, with little relationship between them and an unclear progression

La Docena- get oysters and sashimi and that’s it
The oysters are decent, the "wagyu" beef dish was half fat and very oily, really not pleasant, but the saving grace of the meal was a fantastic toro sashimi.

Puerto Vallarta
Hiroshi at the Hotel Mousai- no good
We went to the sushi counter and asked the chef which seafood was fresh, he said only the salmon, scallops and mahi mahi. We got the salmon and scallops, which were both totally tasteless. The mahi mahi was better. The restaurant does not have a great sake collection.

Red cabbage café- best mole I had all trip
We started with the spinach salad, which I didn’t think was anything exciting, nor the peanut soup. But the mole poblano was kickass, with so much depth and spice, and the chicken underneath was perfectly cooked. The chile en nogada was sweet, spicy, creamy, and had the great crunch of pomegranate. Both dishes were outstanding.

Coco’s Kitchen- maybe we were unlucky and it was a bad day?
The famous almond french toast was under cooked totally mushy, and the churros hotcakes had way too much baking powder in the batter and left that awful taste you get as a result.

Tintoque- good fine dining option in PV, first half of the meal was strong, second half wasn’t, and was basically all dessert...
We got the tasting menu, which started with a glass of tuba, which was tasty and sweet. Then an amuse of an oil fish empanada with habanero onion sauce that was nice, and very Mexican. Then we had an aguachile with octopus and escolar fish that was bright and delicious with a nice mild heat, though the octopus itself didn't add much to flavour. Then came an outstanding beet salad with cheese. Then octopus tamale in a tomato sauce that was absolutely fantastic- the octopus was so delicious and well prepared. We then got another escolar course, where the fish was totally overcooked on both our plates, that were decorated with these two silly slices of zucchini that had no role. The spicy pineapple sauce though was lovely. We then got a slice of beef that was very nicely cooked but came with a gummy potato puree- it was not an exciting main dish. We then got a bowl of coconut ice cream to share. It was ok but we were disappointed to see we were already on to dessert after 5 courses of a 9 course menu. Then we got the one good dessert, a delicious passion fruit cheesecake mousse. Then came a chocolate dessert that I thought was really no good. The final course was a single petit four that was basically just sugar, no other flavour, and in my view you cannot call this a course.

Final note, for those of you who get the serious Tequila/Mezcal bug and want to buy some excellent bottles to bring home, having gone to Palaccio Hierro and a few other stores in Mexico City, I would recommend La Europea as having the best selection, as well as some very good gusano salt.

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