The French Restaurants may be just one added benefit of your trip to Mexico City.
The USA’s long and estranged post-war relationship with shows up in its relative lack of French cuisine, Freedom Fries notwithstanding. But one more plus to Mexico’s magnificent food scene is its long love affair with all things French.
And though most international visitors arrive in Mexico City seeking ever more tacos al pastor, and the kind of hard Mexican dishes you can’t get anywhere else, much of the truly high-end stuff is prepared by people who’ve trained in Europe – and then, probably, in France.
Like Mexican cuisine, French cooking has been recognized by UNESCO as an intangible part of the cultural heritage of humanity. The history of every secret dish and combination of ingredients is traced back to the Middle Ages and, everything varies widely depending on the region of the country from which it comes.
These are just six of Mexico City’s Top French Restaurants to choose from.
One of the city’s real classic French restaurants, inside the Intercontinental Presidente Hotel, Au Pied de Cochon is sometimes like a trip into history. Open 24 hours as a good hotel restaurant ought to be, there’s a truly grand terrace and the fresh oysters, onion soup and escargot never disappoint.
Part of the Casa de Francia, which serves as something of a cultural center for the French in Mexico City, Le Cordon Bleu is invitingly informal and always tasteful. But as the Casa takes a great deal of pride in the quality of its cooking and educational programs, you can expect plenty of fine cooking served up more of a bistro setting.
A classic since 1974, Cluny is one of those secret sides to San Angel that international visitors don’t often get to see (busy as they are with the Frida Kahlo museum and etc). And though the interior is wildly, even inspiringly art nouveau, you’ll start to see that the style is as pervasive in Mexico City as minimalism later turned out to be. (sigh.) Always remarkable, Cluny offers a prix fixe menu (don’t call it comida corrida, si vous plait) as well as a truly over the top dinner menu.
The Cuauhtemoc neighborhood may be oficinista-hell, and yes, you gotta keep your shirt tucked in, but there are some surprisingly good eats to be had. Though confused office imports are likely stumbling around, you’ll be in good hands if you head to the Arelquin. No mimes here. Straight-up bistro fare is served hot and the reviews tend to be more like ravings. One of the better wine lists in the neighborhood also means your post-office evenings get off to a good start, too.
A funky neighborhood favorite since 1970, La Casserole takes you to that Swiss side of France for decidedly more Alpen fare. The fondues are memorable, and the tongue, maybe especially so. And while the place keeps a lid on French stuffiness by being extremely welcoming and friendly, the food really is exceptional.
Another of the great (truly great) hotel bars in the city, this time at the Marriott, LIPP is based on the haunt of the same name in Paris’s Saint-Germain district. This Mexican version is long on taste, totally luxurious and characterized by traditional Alsatian fare. As French restaurants go, this one may have the very best selection of wines, and the menu is always alive with variety. Stuck? Try the rack of lamb, the braised duck and of course, the creme brulee.
2016 was a banner year, not just for good eats and good coffee, but for seeing some of our old favorites really come into their own. Hopefully not lost in all of the rave reviews were these ten top-notch new restaurants – perhaps the best New Restaurants of the past year. As we see it, these are the ones who are just getting going.
Photo above: Mia Domenicca
A Mediterranean corner in Colonia Roma, Mia Domenicca always feels like cooking for friends. Priding themselves on a kitchen that turns out truly memorable dishes, the place is casual and friendly, but the menu should leave no doubt that you’ve got some pretty sophisticated friends.
Taking the concept of “comfort food” to some considerable extreme, La Roma is not just good for the soul. With considerable attitude, it’s not really a biker kind of place (though it looks like it). Specializing in burgers, plenty of their sandwiches will meet the expectations of higher-browed clientele, and deeply satisfying, some of their heavier dishes will beg to be revisited.
Chef Jair Téllez’s next evolutionary step after winning acclaim for Merotoro and Laja (in the Valley of Guadalupe), Amaya’s menu is still more sophisticated. A fusion of Spanish and Mexican cuisine, the wine (raro or not) is also carefully selected for outstanding results.
The new place at the Four Seasons, Zenaya is seafood to write home about. Starting with traditional recipes from Nayarit, Chef Tonatiuh Cuevas traveled to the coast to soak up the seasoning of the beach. Quality and freshness have been well noted by some of the city’s most vocal citics.
Mexico City’s most beloved Japanese chef brings a much-needed update to the concept of Mexican-Japanese food. With an extremely traditional menu, you get the hyper-simple technique and the full blown Hiroshi treatment for every dish. This is not one to miss.
A pure vegetable-based cuisine for everyone, every dish is created with organic and artisanal ingredients. Soups, salads, and hamburgers all attest to the fact that vegan can be not just edible, but even really good, and without mammoth portions.
Innovative, high-quality dishes, in an unpretentious environment, Lucas focuses on seasonal everything, and so everything is fresh. With a nice mix of cocktails, for Roma Norte this is a decidedly sophisticated corner of the night.
Bastardo, like the child of none-too-respectable parents, is nothing if not creative. Chef Jorge Avedaño latest venture brings always unusual ingredients to the table and the results are something like a mix of down-home and high society. Among the best new restaurants, this is not one to underestimate.
Granada’s not just a bunch of overpriced condos for girls from Toluca. The second Granada entry in this year’s list, is a fusion of Mediterranean, Asian, American and Spanish food all from Valencian chef Ricard Camarena. Eclectic is a ood first word to describe it, but the flavors and technique somehow all make sense here – if nowhere else.
For daily delights inspired by a traditional bakery, you shouldn’t have to climb Mount Everest. But that’s where you’ll find this new and rather exclusive bakery and coffee shop with a pretty good menu tacked on to keep it innovative. Contemporary Mexican food comes in ample servings to make it one of the best new restaurants of the past year. And the terrace, for lunch is one reward for venturing out to Lomas.
Mole, the word comes from the Nahuatl, molli, is always among the most emblematic of Mexican dishes. There are multiple varieties of moles, each prepared with different chiles and spices. This mixture is then thickened with corn, vegetables and sometimes with a meat stock. And then it’s set to stew.
The interesting thing about mole is that over the decades it’s continued to evolve. More and more chefs and restaurants strive to include a mole on their menus, with original dishes inspired by nothing but that original dark sauce. Dishes today range from the most traditional to the most modern and extravagent. And they always bear something of the original identity in their complex characters and flavors.
Among the most popular is “mole poblano.” But as there are so many versions of moles in the city, the best moles in Mexico City are often far and away from those concocted originally in Puebla, or Oaxaca or Guerrero. From the pot, they come red, black or sometimes green, but for all the best moles in Mexico City start with the list below.
One of the city’s true classics, Azul is at home in an impressive old building and prides itself on a rather high Mexican gastronomy. The house mole is rather on the traditional side, but for the adventurous, there’s also a sweet version served with duck.
With very fair prices, La Poblanita’s portions are very generous, and the mole enchiladas, are not to be forgotten. Overall, a traditional and rather “poblano” style menu should fill up even the most finicky of guests.
A favorite since the 1940s, Los Panchos has been recommended by world-renowned chef, Enrique Olvera. One of the city’s most varied menus, the house mole is one of the star dishes, and always comes out not just sweet, but exotic, multi-layered and complicated.
Always esoteric, El Cardenal has been one of the best Centro restaurants for as long as anyone can remember. Most famous for the breakfasts, at lunchtime all the niceties go away and the real guns come out. A chicken breast stuffed goat cheese ought to get you going but the red mole is easily among the best moles in Mexico City.
Easily one of the most recognized eateries in the city, Pujol usually makes lists of the best in all Latin America. Cuisine is distinctly Mexican while the atmosphere is sophisticated and minimalist. Among the most popular of dishes is the “mole madre/mole nuevo,” made through a fusion of ancestral and modern techniques.
Priding itself on traditional and contemporary Poblano recipes, many of the moles are from carefully secreted recipes, each with a unique flavor. Order the chilaquiles with mole or the guava mole, both of which are exceptional.
El Familiar – Milpa Alta
San Pedro Actopan may be practically the world capital of mole and the majority of inhabitants dedicate themselves in one or another to the production of the sauce. El Familiar offers one particular mole with walnuts (mole de nuez), which goes spectacularly with almost anything. But the three-mole enchiladas offer an amazing sampler for those unwilling to commit.