By MICHALENE BUSICO, Special Contributor
Is there a
This three-story mercado (market) is like a thrilling appetizer to the city's dining scene. Brothers Salomón and Alberto Sacal, whose family has also developed boutique hotels and other properties downtown, wanted to create a place that "captures the diversity of Mexican products and cooking," Salomón says, as well as provide an "incubator" for up-and-coming artisanal producers. Wander through the striking market, designed by architect Michel Rojkind in the city's Roma neighborhood, and you will discover Tlaxcalli Amantolli's organic corn tortillas, pressed to order and griddled with queso, fresh huitlacoche and herbs; La Macarela's intriguing display of seafood caught off the Baja and Veracruz coasts; burritos filled with savory pork from Las Carnitas de Fransua; artisanal Mexican cheeses at Villa de Patos; the crackling, creamy custard tarts and sublime pastries at Da Silva, one of the city's best bakeries; and superb coffee from Oaxaca, Veracruz and Chiapas, by an upstart roaster called Buna. Still hungry? Head upstairs, where a rooftop beer garden awaits.
Querétaro No. 225, Roma; 55-5564-1396; mercadoroma.com.
Speaking of incubators: Chef Juan Cabrera is part of a new generation of chefs who have come out of Pujol, the ground
Medellín No. 79, Roma Norte; 55-5208-3925 or 5533-9002; fondafina.com.mx.
Maycoll Calderón, a Venezuela-born chef who has worked with luminaries including Juan Mari Arzak, Ferran Adrià and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, recently opened his first restaurant in Roma, part of a larger establishment that includes a yoga studio, a bar, and six guest rooms. But the restaurant is the real draw. It is a magical space beneath a
More recently, Calderón opened a speakeasy hidden behind a fonda in the Juárez neighborhood. Called Hanky Panky, it serves modern and Prohibition-era cocktails in vintage glassware. At the moment, it is invitation-only (you can contact the bar through its Facebook page, Hanky Panky Cocktail Bar). But an evening at Huset may lead to an invitation.
Colima No. 256, Roma Norte; 55- 5511-6767; husetroma.com.
The Juárez District is often called "the next Roma," as cool new spots like Hanky Panky, Hotel Carlota and a subterranean outpost of Rosetta bakery open shop in the neighborhood. But the most compelling evidence came when chef Eduardo García – whose Máximo Bistrot in swanky Polanco is the Chez Panisse of Mexico – opened a new brasserie here in a beautifully restored mansion. The oyster bar offers a fine selection of bivalves and cold seafood dishes, including Belon oysters and a version of a lobster roll with a slab of toasted brioche. But the stools are about the size of salad plates, and it is not a comfortable spot to linger. Book a table in the dining room, and don't miss the sensational Cochon de Lait Confit, a square of slow-roasted suckling pig whose crisp skin and spoon-tender meat may have more in common with a crème brûlée than any pork dish.
Havre No. 77, Juárez; 55-5208-1070; havre77.com.
Enrique Olvera is the most famous chef in Mexico, and
Petrarca No. 254, Polanco;
This plush new cocktail bar, secluded off the courtyard of the Four Seasons hotel on Paseo de la Reforma, is named for the milligram size of a standard cocktail jigger and features inventive drinks such as the Bugs Bunny, with carrot juice, Tanqueray gin and three-chile bitters. But we wanted mezcal, a request that happily resulted in an impromptu tasting. The bartender generously poured sip after sip of artisanal mezcals, discussing the flavor profiles of each and leading us to a decision: pours of La Niña del Mezcal Madrecuixe and Los Siete Misterios Mezcal Joven, both spectacular.
Paseo de la Reforma No. 500, Juárez; 55-5230-1818; fourseasons.com/mexico.
Tamaulipas No. 122, Condesa; 55-5286-2117 or 5286-8671; eltizoncito.com.mx.
On our last day, we headed downtown to the Centro Histórico, to walk the famed Zócalo – the public square – where preparations were already being made for Pope Francis' visit the following week. Our friend Joanne, who lives in Mexico City, insisted on breakfast at El Cardenal, a traditional Mexican restaurant in a French-style mansion decorated with tapestries and stained glass. By midmorning, the wait for a table was nearly an hour long. But it was worth it. Breakfast begins with a cup of champurrado – bittersweet Mexican hot chocolate – frothed at the table in an earthenware jug. Then came baskets of fresh, warm pan dulces; choose the conchas, cut them in half like a burger buns and fill the centers with nata, a clotted cream.
The menu offers carefully prepared home cooking, ranging far beyond breakfast fare, and it was impossible to resist barbacoa de cordero, tender lamb shoulder wrapped in a maguey leaf and slowly cooked with a rich, brick-red pasilla chile sauce. On the way out, we discovered that El Cardenal's proprietary Mexican chocolate is for sale if you ask for it, and so are the conchas – still warm from the oven. A pretty orange box of 10 bittersweet chocolate disks, enough for 10 liters of champurrado, was about $6.50. The conchas? About $1 each. Both proved to be excellent souvenirs from a delicious weekend in Mexico City.
Palma No. 23, Centro Histórico; 55-5521-8815 or 5521-3080; restauranteelcardenal.com.
Reserve late. For us, 3 p.m. for lunch and 9 p.m. for dinner were the sweet spots. Arrive much earlier, and you risk the sad experience of sitting alone in an empty dining room.