Monday, February 01, 2010

Mexican Food, Inc.


Conchas are sweet Mexican rolls. The word means seashells. With a cup of El Cardenal's famous bitter hot chocolate, redolent of cinammon and almond.


This is nata, which is fresh cream. Creamy cream that you slather on a bun called a bolillo, which has just arrived piping hot from the oven. You sprinkle sugar on top and then you die of happiness. 

I don't think there is another country on Earth that prepares eggs in more ways than Mexico. These are scrambled eggs with ham en cazuela swimming in a hot red salsa made in the molcajete, with bits of fried tortillas and two slices of Panela cheese. It was pretty spicy but sublime. 

I'll take Manhattan. The poor owner would never get the irony of naming his fruit cocktail stand after an island where the fruit SUCKS.

At La Capital, a fantastic newfangled cantina in the Condesa neighborhood, where yours truly was born and raised, this classic staple of Mexican home cooking, fideo seco (vermicelli in reduced chicken and tomato based broth), is presented in a very fancy way with delicious ripe avocados and dots of cream. On top, shredded dry chile guajillo. 


La piece de resistance: pescado zarandeado, for which I don't have a suitable translation, a whole fish rubbed with achiote (I assume) and gentle spices, with a fantastic chipotle mayo on the side, served with red rice and beans. 
We also had extremely colorful and delicious shrimp escabeche tostadas and tuna tiradito, but I was so busy eating I forgot to snap pictures.


It was my friend Lani's birthday and he couldn't decide if he wanted humble tacos or a more celebratory experience. He opted for the latter, so we went to Pujol, a most renowned nouvelle Mexican food restaurant, where you can eat the tacos in the form of liquid foam, as in this surprising "gringa". The gringa is usually a taco al pastor (pork in a spit) with melted cheese (and garnish of cilantro, onion and pineapple, plus your choice of salsa). At Pujol it's a foam of cilantro on top and and below it the exact essence of the flavor of the gringa in a shot glass. Lots of fun and I bet much less caloric than the actual gringa. As you can see, we also had martinis. 

My appetizer was a tamal de cuitlacoche, which is the corn fungus also known as Mexican truffle. It was covered with a foam of Oaxaca cheese, which is like the Mexican version of mozzarella. To be honest, the tamal itself was subtle and delicious but the foam was not very successful.  Quite frankly, authentic Mexican food is more amazing and sophisticated than anything anybody can ever invent, but chef Enrique Olvera gets brownie points for trying. 

This was fish Pastor style, with a delicious coat of adobo, puree of pineapple and chunks of pineapple with onion, cilantro and chili. It tasted like tacos al pastor (which, if you must know, is what Anthony Bourdain loved best when he was in Mexico City) and it came with house made tortillas, which were plump and fabulous. The next two days I had actual tacos al pastor, the original pork, chicken and a new version made with beef that was pretty awesome. I am sticking with the tacos. I don't know how I have managed to live in New York for 18 years without decent tacos al pastor. I honestly don't. 
After my visit to Pujol I now understand why restaurants in Mexico are usually flooded with light, even at dinner: you have to see the colors of the food. They are part of the deal. Pujol is in semi darkness, which is unfortunate, because my pictures suck and because that is not the point.   

My friends also had: Aguachile de pulpo. Olvera's version of an octopus dish.

Beef tongue in an olive sauce. This was excellent. 

Lani had this amazing red snapper in some sort of mild chile sauce. For dessert, I ordered 3 leches sponge (cake), again a pretty pedestrian dish deconstructed. The best part was the specks of intense raspberry jelly. 


  1. Love the food pictures! I'd love to have some crepas de huitlacoche right now! We used to have the best at a (now defunct) restaurant in Monterrey!

  2. Where was the pescado zarandeado pic taken? I want to eat that . .and I will treat anyone to same for the name and address . .was it La Capital?

  3. JD, indeed it was at La Capital, which is on Nuevo Leon almost corner with Campeche.
    Very good place. Enjoy! (And thanks for reading!)