By Carole Reedy
Recent changes in the nation’s capital reflect the adventurous and innovative character of this grand city. Previously called DF (Distrito Federal), our village of more than 20 million inhabitants is now called Cuidad de Mexico (CDMX), an effort to exercise more political autonomy.
With Covid restrictions lifted, the city has experienced an explosion of visitors, foreigners and nationals alike seeking residency here. Many come for jobs that are unavailable in rural areas. Foreigners are retiring here due to the lower cost of living and quality of life. And in today’s work-from-home environment, CDMX allows individuals to live and work from an apartment or hotel in a vibrant cultural city for a fraction of the cost of London, New York, Boston, or Copenhagen.
The reasons for the popularity of the city are diverse. Mexico City is rated sixth in the list of best cities by Travel and Leisure Magazine. However, with good news comes an eye-opening reality: Mexico City is now the second most expensive city in Latin America…and the 21st most expensive in the world.
The peso is one of the strongest, if not the strongest, currencies worldwide as of this writing, which is as always advantageous to some and not to others.
Just as in most major world cities, rental costs are up and so are many restaurant prices. Inflation has been rampant, but appears to be slowing. Let’s take a second look at some of our favorites eateries as well as some new choices.
Rosetta, 166 Colima, Roma Norte.
Undoubtedly one of the most popular spots in the city, due mainly to the recognition given to its chef, Elena Reygadas, named best female chef in the world 2023. Rosetta now claims the 50th spot on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, according to a panel of 1,080 culinary experts. Among my friends, it is the restaurant most requested during repeat visits.
At a recent lunch our group enjoyed the most popular item on the menu–the salt-encrusted sea bass. I always have the risotto, this time with beet, radish, and cheese from Chiapas (you can never go wrong with the risotto, prepared in a different manner on each visit).
Prices do not appear to have risen much, although to me a glass of wine always seems proportionally out of touch with reality! This is true in almost all restaurants these days, where you can often order a margarita or other cocktail for a more reasonable price. Main dishes are fairly priced, but appetizers, desserts, and bottles of wine will quickly fatten your final bill.
Quintonil, 55 Newton, Polanco
Breaking into the Top 10 at number nine on the Best Restaurants list this year, chefs Jorge Vallejo and Alejandra Flores prove once again that fresh ingredients are the secret to success. They have appeared on the Best Restaurant list since 2015.
Here you’ll find an a la carte as well as a tasting menu, which is offered at a fixed price. The cost of the tasting menu is 4,500 pesos per person, and 6,825 pesos for the beverage pairing option (a popular choice). You’ll find all kinds of exotic items on the menu among expected favorites: Grilled avocado tartare with escamoles, a ceviche of vegetables in smoked cactus, Crottin cheese with pico de gallo and chili oil, Chicatana ant chorizo; santanero beans from Oaxaca and candied onions; red sauce with jumiles and epazote.
The restaurant was redesigned in 2020, the year the pandemic started and thus the ruin of many an eatery. Fortunately, the restaurants mentioned here were able to ride out the storm. Just blocks always from Quintonil you will find another of the most recognized restaurants in the world…
Pujol, 133 Tennyson, Polanco
Pujol has collected so many accolades it is difficult to find something new to highlight. Its founder and chef Enrique Olivera is world famous, full stop.
Olvera founded Pujol in 2000 with the goal of providing unique experiences in Mexican gastronomy using techniques from across the country. After starting out with just three waiters and three chefs in the kitchen, Pujol now appears on the Best Restaurants list year after year, and his restaurant Cosme in New York City receives accolades too. According to Larousse Cocina, Olivera is considered one of the Ten International Figures of the Gastronomic Industry by Starchefs.com.
What can you expect from Pujol? The outstanding mole negro from Oaxaca. “The mole we make is black mole from Oaxaca,” the chef tells us. “It has 100 ingredients: tomatoes, some nuts, herbs, nutmeg, and seasonal fruits.” It is best served with a corn tortilla and hoja santa. The secret is in the reheating of the mole over 2000 days.
Clients also seem to like the emphasis on Mexican spices and corn products used during the marathon tasting menu. Unusual cocktails are also served, many incorporating the very popular Mexican mezcal, which seems to have replaced tequila as the favorite drink of the country. No doubt about it, the price tag is high, but people from the US, Canada, and Europe don’t find the prices as daunting as we who live in Mexico. The tasting menu at Pujol is 2,565 pesos per person. There is no beverage pairing option as of this writing.
Your visits to the capital are not limited to the central colonias of Mexico City: Roma Centro, Condesa and Polanco. A trip further south to Coyoacan and San Angel is a must for all visitors. Here are the former homes of Frida Khalo and Diego Rivera, as well as the fascinating view of the life of Leon Trotsky in his humble home just blocks away from Frida’s Blue House.
Oxa Cocina Única in the Bazar Sábado, Plaza San Jacinto, San Ángel
Charming ambiance, excellent service, and a variety of dishes from Oaxaca have contributed to the recent success of this eatery. Although it’s located in the Bazar Sábado, which, as the name suggests, is open as a shopping bazaar only on Saturdays from 10 am to 7 pm, the restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner, except Mondays. On a recent visit we enjoyed perfectly prepared salmon in a pistachio sauce, sopes de pollo for appetizers, and the best of Mexican wines from the Casa Madero winery. Other favorites include the margaritas, bean soup, shrimp tacos, and of course the cafe de olla.
Bistro 83, 17 Calle de Amaragura, San Ángel
If you want a beautiful peaceful garden setting, spend the morning, afternoon, or evening (open from 8 am to 11 pm every day) at Bistro 83 across from Plaza Jacinto. Here you will enjoy Mediterranean specialties such as escargot, octopus, salmon, or carpaccio del res. There are also fondues, pizzas, and salads, all delicately prepared and presented.
Our favorite small and simple restaurants include San Giorgio for true Italian pizza in Roma Sur; Manila for duck tacos in Condesa; and Mog for hot and spicy Asian bowls and sushi in Roma Norte. These stalwarts continue as always with specialties that never disappoint.