The owner of more than 30 restaurants scattered throughout the US, Mexico and the Middle East, chef Richard Sandoval loves eating in his hometown of Mexico City more than anywhere else. “That’s where everything in food happens in Mexico; it has the best up and coming chefs, and all regions of Mexico are concentrated there.” Sandoval himself oversees restaurants in the hip Hotel Brick, including Brasserie La Moderna and Loncheria Olivia, a Mexican diner with a gorgeous terrace. Here, he reveals more culinary highlights, from the best tostadas to incredible tasting menus. » mkgallery’s Full Mexico Travel Guide
Insider Favorite: Maximo Bistrot Local
Chef Eduardo Garciá honed his skills in the kitchens of Mexico City’s famous Pujol, and Le Bernardin in New York. Here, in a former medical supply store in the up and coming La Roma neighborhood, he combines the region’s terroir with a more relaxed style of French (and sometimes Italian) food. “It’s Mexican in ingredients and bistro in ambiance—it’s a very relaxed setting, and very small,” says Sandoval. Garciá might cook local mussels in a simple butter sauce or serve sliced duck breast with a creamy risotto made with sheep milk cheese.
Regional Mexican Cuisine: Azul Condesa
“Ricardo Muñoz Zurita is probably the most renowned chef as far as research is concerned: He dug into Mexican culture and traveled the whole country to research his recipes,” says Sandoval of this restaurant’s founder. The bi-level has an outdoor garden, and is a great place to sample star regional dishes like a Oaxacan mole that takes three days to prepare and seafood Veracruz-style with a salty tomato sauce flecked with capers and Spanish olives.
Best Modernist Tasting Menu: Pujol
“Pujol landed on the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list for the second year in a row in 2012. The venue serves the city’s most acclaimed tasting menu—and it costs just around $100. “Chef Enrique Olvera plays a lot with textures, colors and flavors. It’s very modern and very contemporary: Last time I was there, I remember eating escarole with onion ashes,” says Sandoval.
Best Cantina: La Capital
“Traditionally, men go to cantinas to get together and have beers, but there’s been a cantina renaissance—they’ve been really popular in the past 10 years because with the recession a lot of people are going back to basics,” says Sandoval. La Capital is a modernized take on the genre, with an open kitchen and courtyard seating for snacking on finger foods like crispy tostadas and flautas (little fried tacos). Nuevo León 137; 555-256-5159.
Expert Sandwiches: Delirio
“This is a bakery in La Roma neighborhood from Mónica Patiño, one of the most prominent chefs in Mexico. It’s in the style of a deli-market, and she makes great torta sandwiches,” says Sandoval. Patiño stocks the deli cases with European-style charcuterie and local cheeses. Jars of her homemade marmalades line the shelves, alongside bottles of Mexican wines and other regional artisanal products.
Great Bread: Rosetta
Chef Elena Reygadas and her husband, an architect, turned a historic mansion into an Italian restaurant. Rosetta serves handmade pastas and has a fantastic Old World bakery. “She’s Mexican but spent lots of time in Italy. She bakes all of her breads in-house—they’re great, and so is the restaurant. 66 Roma Norte; 555-533-7804.
Hyper Locavore Project: Raiz Cocina de Estaciones
“There’s a great emphasis on Mexican ingredients right now. The chef here, Arturo Fernández, is young and doing some great, imaginative things,” says Sandoval. The Coronado Institute of Culinary Arts created the restaurant as a school project; its kitchen is staffed predominately by students, who use organic produce from the school’s rooftop garden to create dishes such as seared bass with vegetables and morita chile salsa.
Terrific Regional Seafood: Fishers
“This a very casual place with a great bar; there are five or six throughout Mexico. Obviously, the menu is based around fish—you can get things tuna tostadas, pescada la baja (whole fish grilled in charcoal), seafood tacos, fish soups and terrific ceviches. If you want to see seafood from all around Mexico, this is the place: They have authentic stuff from different regions. It’s a great place to know.”
Market Grazing: Mercado San Juan
“This market focuses mostly on seafood and has good little restaurants where you can get really traditional home cooking from mostly women cooks; it’s real Mexican culture.” The three-level indoor market, which opened in 1958, is one of the largest in the country; on its lower level, numerous stands sell the best foods of Guadalajara, like tortas ahogadas (pork sandwiches smothered in chile sauce), posole and tacos. Calle Ernesto Pugibet No. 21.