Gorge on modern creations using ancient methods
Any analysis of Mexico City’s exploding food scene must start with Pujol. Chef-owner Enrique Olvera’s modern Mexican creations have put him at the forefront of the North American dining scene; Pujol is one of the world’s highest-rated restaurants, and Olvera’s influence has extended beyond his native land. (He recently opened his first American restaurant, Cosme, in New York City.)
The kitchen’s ever-changing menu highlights local ingredients, and utilizes both ancient and modern techniques. For a perfect example, look no further than the restaurant’s signature offering: baby corn covered in a mayonnaise made with coffee and powdered red chicatana ants, and served in a smoke-filled pumpkin shell.
Diners revel in Pujol’s famous mole sauces; the house mole is aged, and diners are informed how old the base is at the time of their dinner. (At the time of writing, the house mole was nearing 700 days old.)
Try it all with a tasting menu
In the intoxicating San Ángel neighbourhood, Paxia offers a modernist dining experience that wouldn’t be out of place in Copenhagen or New York. Chef-owner Daniel Ovadía wows diners who think they’ve seen it all through his playful, creative take on Mexican classics.
Multi-course tasting menus often incorporate such smile-inducing dishes as a deconstructed tortilla soup, mini-wagon of mole sauce, or bite-size churros. One of the country’s most lauded young chefs, Ovadía owns numerous restaurants around the city.
Among the main attributes of the Mexico City culinary scene is how it incorporates flavours and traditions found across the country; one can easily eat their way around all of Mexico without ever leaving the city.
Churros © Alexandralaw1977/Shutterstock
Family favourites fresh from Oaxaca
In a quiet corner of the ritzy Polanco neighbourhood, Guzina Oaxaca offers a contemporary take on the beloved staples of Oaxaca. Chef-owner Alex Ruiz, who first gained fame with his restaurant Casa Oaxaca in Oaxaca City, impresses hard-to-please foodies with his family recipes and hard-to-find ingredients. (Oaxacan produce and products are trucked in every week.)
Diners plow through orders of memelas (thin corn cakes), tlayudas (avocado leaf-mashed beans and cheese on a large tortilla), and little tacos wrapped in hoja santa (a popular, aromatic herb).
At the sleek, centrally-located St. Regis Mexico City, the J&G Grill offers a classy atmosphere in which to enjoy a curated selection of the international celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s greatest hits.
When not straining their necks to spot out-of-town celebs enjoying a discreet dinner, patrons often spy the dynamic young chef Olivier Deboise Mendez manning the partially-open kitchen. The menu incorporates fresh, local ingredients into popular dishes such as piping hot mini-pizzas topped with thinly-sliced Mexican avocados, and crispy grouper served with sweet peppers, papaya, and celery.
Influences from the USA and beyond
It’s not only Mexican chefs who are leading the new wave of Mexico City gastronomy, though. Anatol’s Justin Ermini is a Connecticut native who has worked with some of America’s foremost culinary titans. The restaurant at boutique hotel Las Alcobas offers a unique, farm-to-table menu for each season.
As an outsider, Ermini balances between offering the familiar – such as fresh-made guacamole topped with crunchy, earthy chapulines (grasshoppers) – and his own take on native ingredients.
Repeat customers swear by the chef’s black bean soup; made from Chiapas black beans, the velvety soup is packed with flavour thanks to the use of duck fat and a trio of chiles: chipotle, pasilla, and chilhuacle negro.
Guacamole from Anatol