Barrio Roma is the neighbourhood to the south of Juárez where I was staying. It’s a big district so it gets divided into Roma Norte and Roma Sur. It’s where I’d probably choose live if I ever happened to migrate to Mexico City as it’s quite nice and presumably safe. And of course there are some very good bars and restaurants here…
Google map here.
Maximo Bistro (Advanced B+), Calle Tonalá 133, www.maximobistrot.com.mx
This is perhaps the best place in town; refined but unpretentious. I came here in desperate need of some good quality food after three weeks of eating not particularly well. Both Mexican and European, particularly Spanish, influences are evident in the food which is fresh and seasonal.
It’s supposed to be hard to get in to without a reservation, but I managed to get a table on a Saturday night by arriving just as they opened at 6.45. The duty manager was a bit uppity at first but he let me in after a bit of negotiation (I promised to be out by 9pm which was ample time) and became even warmer for some reason when he saw me taking pics of the food (a secondary benefit of being a blogger).
I choose a table outside on the pavement but halfway through my meal a heavy rainstorm arrived which prompted the waiters to unfurl the awnings. I didn’t mind as it was quite atmospheric to sit under the awning and watch the torrential rain pound the street just a couple of metres away.
I started with a Caipirinha de Durazno; a Brazilian cachaça rum cocktail made with peaches. It was nice but could perhaps have been a little stronger (A-).
First I was given some complimentary aubergine and cabra goat’s cheese (B+) with some nice bread (B). After this, eight oysters which were great (A), served with a salsa which was less so (B).
The Sauvignon Blanc went pretty well with them (B-).
For the main, some delicious Lechon Confitado (confit of suckling pig) presented on (hallelujah!) a warm plate (B+) and served with a potato puree (B+) and Salsa Tatemada or ‘charred’ salsa where the chillies have been char grilled (B).
The house Cabernet Merlot suited this well (B). It was from the Valle de Guadalupe in California Baja.
After this I had some Mexican cheeses which were of equal quality (A/B) to anything I’ve had from Spain. There are a few differences though as many cheeses in Mexico (eg Manchego) are made with a mixture of cows’ and goats’ milk rather than sheep’s milk. In Spain all three are used.
To finish, some excellent homemade ice cream with raspberries and blackberries (A).
Overall a very good experience. Definitely the place to come if you are in need of some mollycoddling.
Riveira del Sur (Intermediate A), Chiapas 174
I first came to this big old cantina (at the behest of my old acquaintance Hamish who I hadn’t seen for at least ten years. He moved to Mexico City from Manchester, via a stint in New York and opened his own restaurant serving Mexican food with himself in the kitchen. Amongst other things he is now a food writer so I was very happy to put myself in his knowledgable hands.
While catching up on each other’s lives, he ordered some choice tacos and gave me an introduction to mezcal, his favourite Mexican liquor.
Hitherto I’d only drunk tequila and avoided mezcal, believing it to be inferior. Hamish put me right and explained that, while bad mezcal does exist, the good stuff is much more of an artisanal product, had more varieties and generally tasted better. I wasn’t about to argue.
Tequila can only be made from Blue Agave, whereas mezcal can be distilled from one of more than forty different types of agave.
We tried three different ones from a distiller called Espirituosa from Oaxaca which has very colourful bottles.
Also Maestro Tequilero Tequila Blanco Clasico, a clear tequila that gets good reviews.
The salt of choice for glass rims is Sal con Gusano de Maguey, or Salt with >Maguey Worm. Also known as Mezcal worms these are usually red (Gusano Rojo) but other varieties exist. They can also be put into the bottle to add flavour.
I was too busy chatting to notice which mezcal was best or make notes about the food but everything was very good as I recall.
We had Kibis (left in the picture below) which are small meatballs (of Lebanese origin, now very common in Yucatan) made with bulgar wheat and a mix of fried meats and served with a yogurt and mint sauce.
Taco Lechon Asado; a roast suckling pig taco with red onion.
Taco Poc Chuc; a Yucatan recipe of grilled pork marinated in citrus.
So, a good spot to sample the delights of Yucatan with an extensive range of bottles on the bar. It would be interesting to go later in the evening when it becomes a busy card school.
After writing this I discovered a Guardian article about it a year later.
Tacos Nena (Elementary A), Mérida 218, on the corner with Chiapas
One night Hamish and his girlfriend brought me to this street kitchen which is one of their favourite places to get tacos.
It’s a family business that’s been operating for more than twenty years and they now have a reputation for serving the best tacos in Roma.
They are only open after 7pm and you might need to wait a short while for a table. You would definitely need to speak some Spanish.
And that’s it for Mexico! Next, homeward bound!