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Mexpert's Blog

Travel news and information on Mexico from Mexico.

Category Archives: Dining Out

Alejandro Escalante, author of La Tacopedia, “the world’s first taco encyclopedia,” has put all that knowledge to work in the kitchen. Why just read about Mexico’s variety of regional tacos when you can also try them at his latest restaurant venture, La Casa de los Tacos? The full taco tour will take you from coast to coast. Where should you begin? Start with the sublime Tacos de Pechito made of beef breast slow cooked for six hours until it resembles something closer to beef butter, then spread on fresh handmade tortillas, topped with roasted onions and served with a selection of homemade salsas. It’s like brisket served Mexican style, says Escalante. After all, he adds, “the tortilla won the space race,” becoming the bread of choice on the International Space Station. But you don’t have to go that far. La Casa de los Tacos is located on the corner of Carrillo Puerto and Francisco Ortega, in Mexico City’s Coyoacan district.

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Mexico City’s booming western suburb of Santa Fe is really a city within a city, with its own business district, schools, restaurant row(s), shopping centers, residences and hotels. Already home to a Sheraton Suites (the area’s first hotel), Fiesta Americana and Fiesta Inn, Westin, Camino Real, NH (Spanish chain), Novotel (French chain) and Distrito Capital, a Mexican design hotel, Santa Fe will soon see the opening of a 223-room Marriott and a Presidente InterContinental, along with branches of its top restaurants Au Pied de Cochon and Palm. For more new and noteworthy developments in the neighborhood, read on.

LUCY SHANGHAI: Sleek, spacious and with a ceiling reminiscent of Beijing’s Bird’s Nest stadium, this modern “Oriental urban kitchen & bar” borrows from East Asian cuisines, including Thai, Malaysian and Vietnamese, to create its own signature dishes. Choose a roomy table indoors or out on the wide covered terrace and let Memorias de una geisha, a sweet-and-sour cassis-and-cranberry martini, or Bali Waves, a refreshing blend of gin, lemongrass, ginger, lime and ginger ale, welcome you to the Lucy Shanghai experience.

No relation to Joe’s Shanghai, a favorite NYC spot for pork dumplings, Lucy nevertheless serves a spectacular version of her own. A Latin-Asian fusion, the Dumplings de Pancetta are rice-flour empanadas filled with soy sauce-and-wine marinated pancetta sautéed in a spicy chipotle chili sauce (100 pesos). There are six dumplings to an order so you can share if you must. Other mouthwatering starters include the Shanghai fish ’n chips (bass tempura with a citrus mayo dip; 170 pesos) and Min Pao de Cerdo o Pollo (sweet-and-sour minced ribs or chicken thighs served with steamed Chinese-style tortillas; 80 pesos).

Star dishes include a fabulous Asian chicken almondine made with breaded chicken breast in a crunchy toasted almond crust (180 pesos) and smoked Peking duck three days in the making served with wok fried rice flavored with duck juices, sesame seed tortillas and plum sauce (260 pesos). Leave room for dessert. Like everything else on the menu, the desserts are infused with the flavors and aromas of the orient, including the seasoned tapioca and ginger chocolate mousse.

  • Lucy Shanghai
  • Juan Salvador Agraz 97
  • T: 5292 4022

WONDERFUL WORLD OF WINE: You’re probably familiar with the concept of food and wine pairing, but do you know which varietal brings out the best in a Habano? Delving a little deeper into the wonderful world of wine, the Sheraton Suites Santa Fe Hotel this week kicked off the first of eight Wednesday night wine workshops that go beyond the cursory to reveal a little more about wines from around the world and why we love them. Each session showcases a variety of grape, from Chardonnay to Shiraz, and a different winemaking region, along with related topics like the health benefits of wine, the increasing popularity of artisanal cheeses, and changes in wine production. Coming up next week is Spanish wine tasting, featuring “guest grape” tempranillo. Side dish? Spain’s legendary aged ham, Jamon Iberico, also known as pata negra, how it’s made and why sybarites the world over make such a fuss over it. Each workshop costs 390 pesos per person (free for hotel guests), including discounts on purchases; dinner/workshop packages are available.

PLAZA SAMARA: The area’s newest shopping center has a smart collection of shops, as well as a select gourmet supermarket. When complete, the complex, which includes office towers, will also house Santa Fe’s Marriott hotel.

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20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and Mexico City’s Sheraton Maria Isabel Hotel & Towers have teamed up to bring you a classic Friday night feature: dinner and a movie. On the third Friday of the month, plus special holidays like Mother’s Day, you’ll be able to see recent releases accompanied by a menu inspired by what’s on screen. Movies & Dinner starts this Valentine’s Day at the hotel’s Amici restaurant, with a screening of “What’s Your Number?”, starring Anna Farris. Her culinary costars include Ensalada Valentina (with fire-grilled shrimp and tropical fruits in a honey-fig dressing), Filete Amoroso (filet mignon in a mushroom sauce) and Sueño de Amor (white chocolate mousse with a bougainvillea coulis). Already have plans for Tuesday night? There’ll be a repeat function Friday the 17th. Highlights from the roster of upcoming films include Miss Bala (March 16; expect something Norteño), We Bought a Zoo (May 10 and May 18; expect the unexpected), and The Descendants (June 17 and June 22; expect a luau).

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A roundup of the best of 2011, according to Me(xpert), wouldn’t be complete without some wine, cheese and musical accompaniment, so here are the year’s top discoveries and achievements in those categories.

Best Wine-Related Revelation. For someone who believes wine goes with everything, a highlight of 2011 was discovering a new way to pair wine ­– with wildlife. Better known for its tropical fish-filled lagoons and flying guacamayas, Xcaret is also home to one of the country’s most impressive collections of Mexican wines. Swim, snorkel, sunbathe in the great outdoors, then retreat to the park’s cool, elegant wine cellar for a memorable meal and wine tasting. For more details, see “In the Riviera Maya, Soaking Up More than Sun.”

Best Cheese App. I had a clear winner for much of the year, after lunching at Adobe, a popular eatery in Taxco, Mexico’s silver capital. Their queso en salsa verde is crispy on the outside, oozy on the inside, bathed in a perfectly tangy-spicy sauce, and elevated to star status through the addition of roasted onions. I kept coming up with excuses to return to the tiny town just so I could order it again (“I have no photos of the church from that angle…”). A couple of months later, on a trip to Xcaret (the one and the same), I tried a rare delicacy: smoked Oaxaca cheese. It had been whipped into a light but flavorful cappuccino de queso ahumado cream soup that had everyone at the table oohing and aahing. So, now we have a two-way tie. Though the two dishes are completely different, each will haunt you, but in a good way.

Best Background Music to Play in the Foreground. Musica De Fondo/MTV Unplugged (2011) by the Mexican psychedelic rock band Zoe. Check it out here http://zoetheband.com/english.

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When you have millions of mouths to feed, new restaurants open at a dizzying pace. Here are Mexico City’s top new hotspots of the summer season, plus a longtime favorite that is making headlines again.

Sabor Amor: A casual, colorful setting for what the owners describe as “not your mother’s Mexican cooking” (“cocina Mexicana poco tradicional”); you will too, especially if you order the spicy frog’s legs. Charming ground floor dining room with outdoor patios, second-floor bar and top-floor rec room with table games, billiards, XBox. Alvaro Obregon 206, Roma. T. (52 55) 5584 0956.

Acquarello: Munich’s Michelin-star restaurant has opened in Mexico City, featuring renowned chef Mario Gamba’s gourmet Mediterranean cuisine in an ultra-refined setting. Presidente Masaryk 298, Polanco. Open 2 to 11 p.m., except Sunday. T. (52 55) 5281 8212.

Babbel: Despite the name, you’ll get the East-meets-West concept behind its Latin-Asian fusion cuisine and eclectic decor; three floors, including a rooftop terrace. Menu highlights include tiradito de pulpo (octopus carpaccio with a spicy yuzu-ponzu dressing); seared tuna in a toasted chili-and-chapulin crust; and lychee macaroon with rose essence, strawberry coulis and lychee caviar. Moliere 48, Polanco. Live music 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Wednesday to Friday. T. (52 55) 5280 0440.

Agua & Sal: While landlocked, Mexico City has a passionate and ongoing love affair with seafood as this bright, breezy spot proves. Try the fish tacos and variety of ceviches (marinated seafood cocktails) accompanied by a great selection of homemade salsas and, of course, salts. Campos Eliseos and Temistocles, Polanco. Open noon to 6 p.m., to 10 p.m. Thursday to Saturday. T. (52 55) 5282 2746.

Pujol: The first restaurant in Mexico to rank among the World’s 50 Best Restaurants (the prestigious list compiled annually by S. Pellegrino), Pujol has been surprising palates for (I can’t believe it’s already been) 10 years with its deconstructed Mexican cuisine. Chef-owner Enrique Olvera keeps the menu fresh with seasonal changes; a tasting menu makes the decision making easier. Petrarca 254, Polanco. Closed Sunday. T. (52 55) 5545 4111.

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Called “one of the great food cities of North America” by award-winning chef, cookbook author and culinary show host Rick Bayless, Tijuana will be hosting the Baja California Culinary Fest in October. Festival events will also take place in nearby cities Ensenada, Tecate and Rosarito, each of which has made its own unique contribution to Baja cuisine (lobster tacos!). In addition to food, wine and artisanal beer tasting, the festival features tours of regional wineries, cooking seminars and other activities. Read more of what Bayless has to say about Baja cuisine in a June Q&A that ran on Grub Street San Francisco (http://sanfrancisco.grubstreet.com).

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Get a taste of Colombia in Mexico City, where the Maria Isabel Sheraton Hotel and the Colombian Embassy have teamed up to celebrate that country’s independence day with a weeklong food festival. Inaugurated last night at the hotel’s Amici restaurant, “Colors and Flavors of Colombia” features both nouveau and traditional Colombian cooking courtesy of Saúl Andrés Valdes, who comes from a long line of chefs dedicated to preserving and promoting Colombia’s culinary heritage.

The menu includes such regional specialties as bandeja paisa, or the Paisa Platter. Made of roast beef, pork, chorizo, blood sausage and ground beef, with a side of baked beans and other trimmings, this dish is so abundant it’s traditionally served on a platter. There’s a fixed-price executive menu from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and a buffet from 6:30 to 11 p.m. The festival concludes Saturday with a performance by a folkloric dance troupe.

  • Colores y Sabores de Colombia
  • Julio 18 to 23
  • Maria Isabel Sheraton Hotel
  • T. (55)  5242 5555

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