Mexico City Restaurants
80 Avenida Río Magdelena-Canoa
Tel: 52 55 5616 6336
Fish is an afterthought at many restaurants in Mexico City—not a surprise, as the capital city is hundreds of miles from either ocean. Chef José Luis Uribe makes seafood the star at this restaurant in the southern suburb of San Ángel. The fish soup, scented with olive oil, clams, and chunks of tender fish, is a great starter, as are the tostadas piled high with shredded crab. For your entree, your server will suggest the pescado del día al carbon, the catch of the day grilled over an open flame. There are other choices, but this is one place where your seafood shouldn't hide under a heavy sauce. The dining room is open and airy, thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows on several sides. If the evening is fine, ask for a table on the terrace.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 1:30 to 11:30 pm, Sundays 1:30 to 6 pm.
407 President Masaryk
Tel: 52 55 5282 2064
This place is above the competition—literally. To reach it, you take a private elevator from the row of high-end restaurants that cuts through the mostly residential neighborhood of Polanco. In the sprawling dining room, angled wooden slats hide almost all the outside world. You wouldn't be contemplating the view anyway, as the food by chefs Bruno Oteiza and Mikel Alonso commands your full attention. The Basque-inspired menu is divided in half—one side traditional dishes, the other modern interpretations. But in reality, their presentation is so unique that every dish feels like it was created on the spot. Take the ensalada escuadrada de camarón, which literally means squared shrimp salad. The crustaceans arrive propped up on a little table constructed of leeks and fried yucca, an effect that might seem overdone if the shrimp weren't perfect. A small army of waiters tends to your every need, applying the finishing touches to many dishes, such as the sauce on the rib eye with baby corn and pigs' ears, tableside. They'll even light your cigar or provide a little stand for your purse.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 1:30 to 11 pm, Sundays 1:30 to 5 pm.
Tel: 52 55 5514 3169
Star restaurateur Gabriela Cámara's "beach food" shack in Colonia Roma is casually decorated to remind you of a palm-thatched palapa. The menu, though, is more refined than you might expect: The signature tuna sashimi tostadas are served with chipotle sauce and braised leeks, and the pescado a la talla—grilled fish of the day—is smothered half in green sauce (parsley and garlic) and half in red (chile and achiote). It's so hip, you'll probably see D.F.'s number one heartthrob, Gael García Bernal—as long as you don't try to come for dinner. Until further notice, only lunch is served, which around here means 1:30 to 6:30 pm.
Open daily 1:30 to 6:30 pm.
Tel: 52 55 5255 0912
The name brings to mind all sorts of things, but it's really an abbreviation for denominación de origen, or the official region from which a particular food comes in Spain. This place is serious about its food, which is why the servers carve a leg of Iberian ham right in the front window. This salty cured ham is sometimes eaten alone, or just as often in dishes such as ensalada de higos con jamón ibérico, a salad that includes sweet figs and tangy goat cheese. Main dishes are mostly updates of traditional recipes, so there's pescado a la sal (fish baked in a salty crust) and risotto de abulón y morillas (a saffron-scented risotto with abalone and black mushrooms). During the day, the glass-walled dining room is filled with same-sex groupings: businessmen in expensive suits at one table, scarf-wearing ladies who lunch at the next. In the evening, soft lighting transforms it into a popular spot for young lovers. A more intimate space is the bar, a long slab of orange glass lit from below. It's a great place to sample wines from Spain, Mexico (a rarity, even in Mexico City eateries), and the rest of Latin America.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 1 to 11:30 pm, Sundays 1 to 5 pm.
Tel: 52 55 5525 8128
For a memorable meal in the Zona Rosa, think small. Bypass all the tourist traps along streets like Londrés and Genova in favor of this tiny restaurant on the quiet side street of Liverpool. (In case you didn't realize, all the streets in this neighborhood are named after cities.) Looking much like a fonda (country inn), the whitewashed walls are hung with copper pots so shiny you can see your satisfied reflection. It's known for its atmosphere (refreshingly laid-back) and service (charmingly old-fashioned), but the real reason to come to one of the city's oldest restaurants is the authentic regional cuisine. Look for dishes such as manitas de cerdo en vinegre (pigs' feet in vinegar) or chicharron en salsa verde (deep-fried pork rinds in a spicy green sauce). If you're here on Saturday, for dessert there's huevos reales, the "royal eggs" that are baked in the oven and basted with a light syrup.
Open daily 1 to 11 pm.
515 Presidente Masaryk
Tel: 52 55 5280 1671
In Mexico, it's the women who cook, and it's women who consequently get famous for food. Patricia Quintana, after countless cookbooks and TV appearances, is probably the country's best-known chef. Appropriately situated in the Gucci-Vuitton row of Polanco, her home base is full of well-dressed business people who, though they appear to have more fun than their counterparts back home, lend Izote a serious air. The Aztec-shtick decor and too-bright lights do nothing for the atmosphere, but the food is exceptional. Quintana tinkers with pre-Columbian ingredients and traditional dishes, and the results can be mind-blowing. Setas (oyster mushrooms) in bitter orange vinaigrette and crusted rib eye with apple and sweet potato puree are the kinds of things she does best.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 1 pm to midnight, Sundays 1 to 6 pm.
Tel: 52 55 5286 2015
While lots of eateries in La Condesa strive to outdo one another with daring decor or flamboyantly overprepared dishes, Litoral's approach is refreshingly straightforward. It occupies an uncluttered, loftlike space, and serves simple, elegant food (meaning you'll never have trouble identifying what's on your plate). The specialty here is seafood: Grilled octopus comes on skewers; shrimp arrives atop strips of fried blue tortillas. It's especially appealing for lunch, when one of the choice tables by the massive windows gives you a view of the passing parade of young fashion victims and older well-heeled types.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 1:30 pm to 1 am, Sundays 1:30 to 10 pm.
12 Plaza Jardín Centenario
Tel: 52 55 5658 6054
Sometimes it seems that you can find any kind of food in Mexico City except Mexican. Los Danzantes, in the southern suburb of Coyoacán, takes care of that. You'll find dishes made with traditional ingredients, such as a flat leaf called hoja santa (here stuffed with cheese from Oaxaca) and a zucchini blossom called flor de calabaza (in a delicious soup). If you're brave, try huitlacoche, carefully translated on the menu as "corn mushroom." It's actually a fungus that grows on kernels of corn, and it's a delicacy in these parts. Try it stuffed in ravioli, where you can enjoy the flavor without having to contemplate the blackish color. Grab a table on the covered terrace, which overlooks the gorgeous main square. If you're here on a weekend, vendors from the weekly market will offer you everything from faded postcards to handmade jewelry—a blessing or a curse, depending on your point of view.
Open daily 1 to 11 pm.
Tel: 52 55 5564 7799
Gabriela Cámara, the star restaurateur behind Mexico's impossibly
hip seafood shack Contramar, is tackling a
new protein. Its name derived from the Spanish words for fish and bull, MeroToro is the Slow Food queen's take on surf and turf. Still, expect a similar combination of refined food in an informal Condesa setting. Cámara's executive chef, Jair Téllez, combines the flavors
of Baja with the best possible ingredientsadmirer José Manuel Baños describes the restaurant's short seasonal menu as "Mexican cuisine in a Mediterranean style" (entrées, $15-$26)
Must eat: Grilled octopus with pickled vegetables, sea beans, and green chiles.
Chef Gabrielle Cámara's favorite new restaurant: Melissa Perello's Frances, San Francisco
10 Andrés Bello
Tel: 52 55 5280 2506
Buddhist convert Mónica Patiño is responsible for introducing the city to the dreaded concept of Asian fusion. But Patiño's interpretations of the genre are inspired: The corn chowder with curry and the braised oysters with chipotle béarnaise are top-notch. The vibe here is upscale (this is Polanco, after all) but youthful. In other words, you'll spot fresas (Mexican slang for yuppies) galore—as well as local rock stars (assuming you're able to recognize them).
Open daily 1:30 to 11 pm.
PB Hotel NH Santa Fe
44 Juan Salvador Agraz
Tel: 52 55 2591 0429
The business district of Santa Fe, with its shopping malls and office buildings, can be disappointingly generic, a Mexico City version of London's Canary Wharf. The restaurant Paxia, however, puts you back into fiesta mode. The young chef, Daniel Ovadía, has brought the playful attitude that made the original Paxia in San Ángel one of the city's most popular restaurants—but cuts out the long drive (and accompanying traffic). The menu takes a nostalgic look at Mexican home cooking, a south-of-the-border answer to the American comfort-food trend. Standout dishes include quesadillas with black mole sauce, osso buco with habañero chiles, and duck enchiladas. Colorful presentations complement the orange and chocolate hues of the contemporary dining room: A tasting of tequilas comes in holders made from Mexican lottery cards; fire-engine-red chamoy margaritas are inspired by Mexican candy; and blue, gold, and green tortillas accompany your meal.
Open Mondays through Thursdays 1 pm to midnight, Fridays and Saturdays 1 pm to 1 am, and Sundays 1 to 6:30 pm.
254 Francisco Petrarca
Tel: 52 55 5545 4111
Chef Enrique Olvera has often been described as being at the vanguard of cocina mexicana, and his restaurant Pujol makes almost every local's short list of the city's best. This small Polanco restaurant is elegantly understated, with whitewashed walls, discreet track lighting, and simple, minimalist tables and chairs, letting the dishes take center stage. Olvera focuses on Mexican ingredients, sometimes in the service of traditional recipes (duck with mole) and other times in more European preparations, such as avocado ravioli with corn foam, or venison carpaccio in banana puree. The restaurant's 200-bottle wine list, which includes several Mexican vintages, is an unusually broad selection in this not-so-oenocentric city. The menu changes seasonally, so the restaurant deserves repeat visits. You'll also want to dress for the occasion: Most men wear suits or jackets. If you'd prefer a more casual night out, try Olvera's spot at the hip Distrito Capital hotel in the Santa Fe area of town.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 1:30 to 5 pm and 7 to 11:30 pm.
50 Diego Rivera
Tel: 52 55 5616 1402
Always packed with regulars, this 17th-century former monastery is where locals take their out-of-town guests. There's nothing trendy here, just black-jacketed waiters carrying platters of regional favorites, such as Veracruz-style sea bass simmered with onions and tomatoes. The dining room, decked out in crisp linens, is lovely, but try to snag a table outside near one of the fountains. The restaurant is in the suburb of San Ángel—a bit far if you're coming from the Centro Histórico, but perfect if you're checking out the nearby homes of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 1 pm to 1 am, Sundays 1 to 10 pm.