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restaurants

Back to Mexico City!!

This past year has been a struggle for me & John to readjust from the “every other weekend = a 3-day+ vacation to a beach, jungle, colonial town or archaeological site” schedule that we got accustomed to living in Mexico City. :) (Yes, I can almost feel your waves of sympathy washing over me.)   So after a long, challenging, nearly-vacation-free 2011, we made last minute plans to zip down to Mexico City today (Friday Jan 6th).  We debated going somewhere new & unknown to us, but for this particular trip, the comfortable & familiar won out. Consider it a greatest hits tour….just 15 months after the original tour.

Planning has been pretty light thus far… all we’ve really accomplished is starting a list of places we need to eat…. So far we have:

Point being– we are super excited to eat & wander through all the fun neighborhoods, mercados, etc. & track down some friends while we’re there.  More photos to follow of anything else new we discover while there. My current fascination is this— Bamboocycle, a company that makes bicycles out of bamboo. Love it!

Is it wrong to just want to replicate this photo again in person? Love ya, tacos al pastor (& even the sullen taquero).

Las Jirafas y la Mula in Santa Maria la Ribera

Back in December, John, friend Susan & I went on a long overdue visit to one of Mexico City’s up-and-coming neighborhoods, Santa Maria la Ribera. (Read as: no Starbucks yet) For additional colonia commentary, check out SMlR resident Jesus Chairez’s blog, or Lesley’s post re. her visit.  There are several cute little spots, like the oft-mentioned Russian restaurant Kolobok. We did not commit to a full meal of Russian food, but I can speak highly of both the empanadas & the wheat bread sold at the to-go window.  Jesus also recommends Salon Paris, one of the local cantinas.

But one place I’ve not seen heralded is the restaurant “Las Jirafas y la Mula” (the giraffes & the mule). They get double-bonus-points for having a sweet website complete with animated giraffes running across the screen.

Why is Las Jirafas y la Mula worth a visit? So glad you asked…

  • They have a cohesive, witty marketing theme: everything is tall or long, like a giraffe!! (ok, fine, so I’m not sure where the mule fits in…)
    • The quesadillas are an impressive 45 cm long
    • The beer is served in yard glasses
This mammoth quesadilla happily provided a light snack for 3, when combined with agua de jamaica & a 1/2 yard of beer.

This mammoth quesadilla happily provided a light snack for 3, when combined with agua de jamaica & a 1/2 yard of beer.

  • They have a display case full of kitschy giraffe accoutrements, which speaks to me since I feel giraffes are probably my closest animal relative (tall and elegant…?).
Hello giraffe pals. I always like to see a theme maximized to its full potential.

Hello giraffe pals. I always like to see a theme maximized to its full potential.

  • The yards of beer are stabilized by metal rods that slip into holes PRE-DRILLED into your table. Brilliant!
A well-engineered beer holder, if I've ever seen one. Sidenote: John & I were not intentionally trying to dress/act alike this day... I swear, we are not one of those couples who wear the same brightly colored hawaiian shirt whenever we travel together. Honest.

A well-engineered beer holder, if I've ever seen one. Sidenote: John & I were not intentionally trying to dress/act alike this day... I swear, we are not one of those couples who wear the same brightly colored hawaiian shirt whenever we travel together. Honest.

  • They have a salad-bar-esque station with various toppings for your quesadilla, including an excellent salsa verde (& plenty of chopped-up nopales for anyone who likes the slimy little devils).
  • Flour tortillas for the quesadillas! (yes, it’s true….I kind of like flour better than corn…pls don’t tell anyone in DF)
  • You can order either just plain dark or light beer, or beer with a variety of crazy flavors added to it. We wussed out on our first visit & just got a straight-up dark beer, but we will probably have to go back to try the cerveza de sabor….

We will be making a return trip soon to further bond with my giraffe friends, so will try to report back on the edgier beer options. This could also be a great lunch option after a visit to El Chopo on a Saturday afternoon– it’s just a few blocks west of that market, across Insurgentes.

Las Jirafas y la Mula: Calle Manuel Carpio #93, a la esquina con Doctor Atl, Colonia Santa Maria la Ribera

Here you can review the options for quesadilla fillings & strategize in advance on what you would like your "45 centimetros de sabor" to contain!

Here you can review the options for quesadilla fillings & strategize in advance on what you would like your "45 centimetros de sabor" to contain!

Newsflash: free water at restaurant in Polanco!

Living in the fancy-pants neighborhood of Polanco in Mexico City, we see loads of overpriced, trendy restaurants where the food tends to be sub-par. There are a few diamonds in the rough, but it is rare you can escape lunch (much less dinner) with a bill of <$200 pesos at any of the see-and-be-seen joints. These are the sorts of places where when I ask for bottled water to drink, they ask you what brand you would prefer (could anyone tell the difference??), and then bring out about 300ml of water for ~$3. *hate* Therefore, when a new chi-chi restaurant opens up in ‘Polancito’ (the area I call ‘downtown Polanco’, south of Masaryk between Anatole France & Alejandro Dumas), I am predisposed to just ignore it.

That said, when friend Heidi & I decided to have a girls’ dinner out last nite, we couldn’t be bothered to wander much farther than that very area. Heidi suggested a new restaurant called Brassi, and although I was slightly skeptical, the lure of its fun bistro decor was enough to lure us in.

We chose a table in the middle of the black-and-white checkerboard floor and sat down. After a waiter deposited our coats & purses onto one of the purse-trees that are de rigueur in Mexico City restaurants (bad luck -and foolish- to put your purse on the floor), I was shocked at what happened next. Another waiter arrived at our table holding what appeared to be an open, clear glass wine bottle filled with WATER & inquired if we would like some. He filled our glasses & left the big bottle of water on the table.

Now for any US folk reading this, this is not *remotely* novel. America is the land of free-flowing water, where any restaurant worth its salt will keep tasty tap water filling your glass as long as you keep slurping it down. Since drinking from the tap is not an option in Mexico, neither is chugging down as much water at dinner as your little dehydrated body might like– unless you want to pay more for bottles of water than for your entree.

Because of this, upon our water waiter’s departure from the table, I stared at Heidi with wide eyes & asked her, “Do you think this is free?? Do you think they will refill this if we drink it all???”  We were both hopeful, but uncertain. I informed her that if the food was anything above ground squirrel meat, I would definitely be coming back SOLELY because of the option to drink as much water as I wanted.

As it turned out, the food was pretty good. She had tomato soup; I had the Brassi salad speckled with carmelized pecans & pears soaked in port in a honey mustard dressing. We shared an order of mac & cheese, which was slightly under-salted but well-presented in its own wee cast-iron skillet that had spent a few minutes under a broiler to crisp & brown the cheese on top. For dessert, we split the largest order of profiteroles I’ve seen for $58 pesos– 5 puffballs filled with vanilla ice cream & doused in melted chocolate. While I wouldn’t say the cuisine is breaking any new boundaries, I thought everything was tasty & well done; (we also saw sandwiches being whisked by accompanied by thin french fries that may merit a future try). Along with 3 glasses of pinot grigio & 3 rum/cokes, ourbill came to about $880 pesos– not exactly a fire sale, but quite reasonable for a tasty 3-course dinner for 2 plus that many drinks. Knock off the alcohol & you’re probably down to more like $400 pesos.

Anyway, the bill’s arrival most excited me because of what it lacked: a charge for WATER. We handily polished off 2 large bottles of the stuff and it was free! free! free!

John likes to refer to me as “the waterhorse” because of how much water I tend to drink when we go out to eat, so learning how to ration 330ml during a 2 hour meal as been a struggle for me here. But now, I am excited to report that there is at least ONE restaurant in Mexico City who seems to have figured out how to treat the water in order to dispense it liberally from a tap in the dining area. Rest assured that I will be back to visit Brassi, perhaps on a day where I have ingested no liquids whatsoever just so I can take full advantage of this perk. :)

Brassi: Virgilio 8 at the corner of Oscar Wilde in Polanco. http://brassi.com.mx/

Who doesn’t have a line of credit at their local steakhouse?

In a sign that Mexico has learned well from its northern neighbor about how credit is great for encouraging people to spend money they don’t have, I recently observed the below sign at a steak/pasta restaurant here in DF that is popular with the work crowd.

This tabletop ad encourages the reader to "Savor it at MeLéE, now 3 and 6 months without interest," and clarifies that this offer applies with AmEx, for any number of people and with no minimum total required.

This tabletop ad encourages the reader to "Savor it at MeLéE, now 3 and 6 months without interest," and clarifies that this offer applies with AmEx, for any number of people and with no minimum total required. Their website elaborates on this promotion with "Este momento es lo más importante"-- this moment is the most important.

Shoppers in the US have faced plenty of reprimands over the years from financial gurus regarding the wisdom of purchasing, say, a 63-inch plasma TV on your credit card when you’re working for minimum wage at PetSmart and you’re underwater on your mortgage. However, I suppose there’s always the argument that a big-screen TV is a gift that keeps on giving, with years of potential mind-numbing reality show programming to share in its future?

I feel confident in saying that an 800-gram rib eye steak, while damn tasty, may not offer similar long-term rewards that you will fondly recall when paying off your $560 peso AmEx bill in 6 months. Or more realistically, when paying off your $1000 peso bill several months later. (If you’re eating lunch at places you can’t afford today, odds are low that 6 months later, your financial woes will have been magically sorted out.)

I had infinite questions about this lunch-on-credit strategy. MeLéE, despite its excessive use of capital letters, seems to be a popular spot for business lunches or the occasional affluent elderly get-together, ala “heaven’s waiting room”. If you’re at lunch with your coworkers, would it not be awkward to negotiate a payment plan with the waiter for your linguini alfredo? Or do you just get 3 months automatically if you use your AmEx? Or is there a box to check on the credit card slip stating “There’s no way I’m paying my balance off this month; please give me 6 months leeway”?  If they regularly have an older crowd in there, where does a $162 peso claim for a “Hamburguesa Gourmet Super Gigante” get prioritized during an estate settlement?

While the food and service at MeLéE was excellent, I for one can’t afford to go there on a regular basis, and have not yet decided whether to apply for an American Express card just for this purpose. I will be keeping an eye out to see if this trend catches on elsewhere here in Mexico City, though. Three months of no interest on a super-sized McNuggets meal with fries and a Coke could offer me *almost* enough time to digest whatever that spongy material is masquerading as chicken.

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