Postcard from Mexico City: ‘For Main Course We’ll Have That’

Am slinging out these final food shots from our fall visit to Mexico City like a short-order cook in a bad diner, but I am off taking new photos of meals in an entirely different spot on the map.

Most of these are from the Roma Norte neighborhood where we stayed. Am keeping my comments at a minimum, so the pictures will have to serve in helping you decide about restaurants when journeying there yourself.

Particularly enjoyed the abundance of vegetable dishes, including a no-pasta spaghetti, at Bowie Cocina de Humo, but the restaurant does take its name seriously. Every course is tinged with smoke-infused flavor. By the end of the meal, my mouth almost felt as though I’d been smoking. We found the much-heralded Nudo Negro with its show-off parade up to the kitchen to receive your amuse-bouche from the hands of a chef a tad bit pretentious, but the long-roasted eggplant, split open and topped with humus tableside, melts in your mouth.

There must be thousands of less expensive places to eat a Mexican-style breakfast in Mexico City, but the park-facing patio of Café Toscano on Orizaba is so pleasant the higher price tag was absorbed without question. Both the red and green chilaquiles are wonderful, and the fresh juice combinations round out the meals.

We loved the neighborhood comfort feeling of having pizza on the patio at Cancino Roma or shrimp arancini and a bowl of robust roasted tomato soup at Macelleria, where, as you can see from the featured photo, the restaurant correctly profiled us with the name of the house wine. Few tables at the popular Huset fail to order avocado pizza.

The variety and freshness of ingredients and recipes never disappointed us at Delirio. Fresh salads and sandwiches, moussaka and falafel and fresh meringues are among the celebrated bakery’s fare.

Veering even farther away from stereotypical Mexican food, the curries and toms at Galanga Thai Kitchen are worth seeking. The green papaya salad in particular drew us out for a return visit. With its flavorful chicken, roasted eggplant and falafel moistened with spinach, Paprika enticed us back for multiple meals as well.

From there, jump into downtown for the old-school formality of service in the high-ceilinged Casino Espanol, worthy of entering for viewing the stained-glass in its Porfirio-era home alone. The croquetas, boquerrones and seafood soup transported us to Spain.

We almost avoided Casino Espanol after reading a review describing it as the type of restaurant attracting old suits entertaining young mistresses, but there were only a pair or two seeming to fit in that category. The poor Mister and Vic, unsuited and in the company of old wives.

Whether squiring old spouses or young paramours, diving into a throwback to the past is a recommended ingredient balancing out all the trendy contemporary kitchens so abundant in this bustling culinary capital.

 

 

Postcard from Mexico City: Trolling for seafood in Roma Norte

We kept trying to find just the right seafood fit for our tastes while we were in Mexico City. The ceviche de atun with ginger at the reasonably priced Marlindo was among our favorite dishes, and the shrimp atop a tostada were beautiful. But Marlindo definitely is an ultra-casual neighborhood spot without much atmosphere, better for grabbing a quick bite than for lingering over a bottle of wine.

El Parnita is amazingly popular and bustling, but the dishes failed to excite us. On the other hand, we found ourselves the only ones in the dining room for lunch at Lucas Local. But the softshell crab sandwich at Lucas Local was phenomenal, and the pulpo and dried shrimp ceviche was refreshingly good and imaginatively presented in a coconut shell. Softshell crab is never easy enough for this Chesapeake Bay girl to find; wishing I had returned for seconds.

Our final week, we finally hit our favorite spot, Campo Baja. Casual, bustling rooftop with an open-kitchen concept, and it was not even a full block away from our apartment. The approach to each dish was distinctively different, making wandering through numerous shared plates feel as though we were venturing into new territory.

If you are visiting the neighborhood, hope our photos help you find the right spot to suit your seafood mood.

Postcard from Mexico City: Pausing for a playful food break at Mercado Roma

Close to 60 vendors are squeezed into the multi-story Mercado Roma, yet somehow I ended up with no photo overviews to show you even though we ducked in there several times. I tend not to enjoy the crowds crammed into narrow aisles of gourmet food halls, but, by visiting midday midweek, we found sitting at a counter very pleasant.

Serrano ham, Puebla-style cemitas, Spanish tapas, cheeses. One quickly senses this is a playground for chefs from established restaurants to experiment. So many places seductively beckoned us, but we stopped twice near the front at Saigon Cocina Vietnam. Large, plump shrimp punctuated with lemongrass atop rice starred in a made-to-order daily special. The flavorful scene-stealer proved to be the tuna banh mi spiked with the perfect amount of ginger sandwiched in fresh, firm French bread. A nice bottle of red can be procured from an outpost of Tinto Mx to accompany your meal.

The danger in eating at the counter at Saigon Cocina is posed by its neighbor, Que Bo, lurking behind your back. Chocolatero Jose Ramon Castillo tempts you with a display case full of gleaming Crayola-colored chocolates. On several occasions I managed to limit myself to letting just one melt in my mouth, slowly releasing layers of complex flavors. Also, tucked away in a back corner of Mercado Roma is a booth full of gourmet paletas, Bendita Paleta, that represent successful crossbreeding of traditional Mexican popsicles and Italian gelato waiting to be dipped in a chocolate of your choice.

On a Saturday when the market was hopping, we opted to seek refuge in the soothing, serene surroundings of a full-service restaurant upstairs, Seneri. Chef Fernando Martinez adds a contemporary twist to traditional foods from his home state of Michoacán, and he won us over immediately with an amuse-bouche of a rustic corn taquito topped with a sassy-looking fried charral, a crispy little whitefish we enjoyed mountains of served aboard one of the floating boat/restaurants on Lake Patzcuaro about 25 years ago. The crudo de pescado nestled in a foamy bed adorned with perky flowers was almost too pretty to eat, but we managed. Chicken de campo was enriched by a sauce of wild mushrooms. Avocado ice-cream served as a refreshing but not-too-sweet dessert. The entire meal was perfectly paced. We were never rushed, yet never left glancing toward the kitchen in search of the next course.

Mercado Roma might have won me over on the concept of gourmet food halls.

Leaving you with a glance at more of the chocolatero’s mouth-watering creations….