Cozumel 94A @ Sonora
(at the corner of Alvaro Obregon)
Condesa, Cuauhtémoc, 06140
Mexico City, DF, Mexico
9:00am – 8:00pm Everyday
Just around the bend from the Hotel Condesa DF, we found this perfect little coffee spot. The chic design features furniture by industrial designer Luis Mercado and the decorated with stenciled drawings of culinary equipment on chalk board. The pastries are delicious and are perfect to the french technique. The chef / owner Alain Dubernard is a teacher at the Culinary Institute of America; and it shows in his attention to detail.
Strolling on our way from Roma to Polanco, we passed the Hotel Camino Real. It has an awesome facade by Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta and I’m sure an equally mod interior to match.
Most exciting was the fountain in the entry. It was unlike any we had previously seen. Instead of the normal geysers and sprays, this was an homage to the oceans power; a constant swirl of motion and just mesmerizing to watch.
The much hyped and reviewed Condesa DF in Mexico City (DF) easily lives up to its reputation as a top design hotel. From its prime location, adjacent to a lovely art & tree filled park, in the chic Condesa district – think NYC’s West Village – to its distinctive triangular form, everything about the Condesa DF sets it apart.
The main interior is an open triangular courtyard looking up 5 flights to the happening roof-top bar and the sky above. White shutters line the interior catwalks, creating an openness during the day and a protective barrier when closed at night. Dangling down the center is a vine of silver horns, splaying out like the bells of a foxglove, emitting a low murmuring of ticking and tocking – with a grandfather clock’s steady comfort rather then an alarm clock’s annoying reminder of time passing. The restaurant’s elegant white tables fall within this surrounding whiteness with a few protected rooms along the sides for enclosed dining. One of these contains an excellent shop filled with some of the choicest jewelry seen in all of DF – at surprisingly good prices. A second side room is a library filled with photo & design books dedicated to Mexico’s deep cultural and art scene.
We stayed in a Balcony-View Room. It was small, but well appointed with a very comfortable bed and excellent pillows (something often lacking!). The balcony turned out to be a window overlooking the tree’s that filled the street below. It was quite lovely to wake up, throw the curtains and gaze upon the flowing leaves while gathering in the fresh air and listening to DF’s ever-present songbirds.
The shower was like standing under an 80 foot water-fall – pressure that would give a Japanese Onsen competition. Fantastic! Interestingly the toilet was the only ‘industrial’ item to be found in the entire hotel. It could have come from a high-school or hospital. Once again the bathroom was on the smallish side, but nicely laid out and cleverly hidden behind folding partitions.
If there was anything to pick on at the Condesa DF, it was that the room seemed designed more for a single person then a couple. There was only a single key that combined as an electrical shut-off and the safe-box was locked via credit-card over code. This made it hard to be on separate schedules. One night I ventured out to meet a friend at a local night-club. We wound up having to take apart the key ring so the room had power and I need not wake anyone on returning home. But these were small inconveniences and easily managed.
The staff was pleasant and consistently polite and helpful. Our night’s stay included one of the more expansive and impressive continental breakfasts seen to date; containing a self serve bar of home-made granola, cereals, fruits, yogurts, along with honey, milk and cottage cheese. The was also an excellent selection of breads, alongside quality portions of smoked salmon, prosciutto, salami, white and hard cheeses, tomatoes, compotes, hard eggs, butter and creamed cheese. Decanters of fresh orange, carrot & grapefruit juice offered a vibrant start to the day. The coffee was as good as anywhere we found in Mexico – which means not great, but drinkable (There seems to be a tendency to dilute and over-boi)l. There is also an a-la-carte menu with huevos rancheros and other delightful Mexican dishes. Be sure to take a substantial breakfast to start your day, as you need the calories for the never ending activity that is sure to follow in the wonderful city of Mexico DF.
The steam room and “spa area” are the weak point of the Condesa DF. They seem an after-thought, a requirement tossed in to earn an extra star rating. Luckily, the tempest-like shower more then makes an adequate “spa experience” and is conveniently located right in your room!
A quick note on taxis:
We have never encountered a city where the rates and hustling in taxis is so widespread. This is something that should really be better regulated. So if this is the kind of thing that annoys you, please keep in mind to specify you want a ‘taxi-meter taxi’ when you order a car service AND to specify to the driver to use the meter. Otherwise the hotel (and every business in town apparently) will order what they term ‘a more elegant car’ – which is really the same car without the taaxi paint – and the rates can be up to 7 times the taximeter rate. We paid between 20 & 120 pesos for the same ride, until we got our head around the costs. Do not be put off by this, just know it.
Mexico City (DF) is a safe and amazing city, full of grand architecture, strong design and culinary artistry. The Condesa DF is a lovely home-away-from-home to base yourself. Centrally located on a quiet block in a leafy section of town; each evening we were happy to return, get cleaned up and every morning we awoke excited and energized!
Biko, another of Mexico DF’s restaurant jewels, is full of surprising textures, colors, flavors, scents and emotions. Looking at the two extremely artistic and diverse chefs, one can see where all of this creativity comes from.
Mikel Alonso is originally from Biarritz, part of the French Basque country. He majored in chemical engineering, and then decided to delve into Culinary Artistry at one of the most prestigious schools in Spain – the Luis Irizar in San Sebastian. Soon after, a job offer brought him to Mexico where he met Bruno Oteiza, a young Basque with an extensive resume, having worked in top restaurants both in Europe and Mexico. From these two wonderful minds, comes the creation of Biko.
For the last three years Biko has been included in the World’s Top 50 Restaurants and this year (2012) it has been awarded with the #38 position. Biko offers three menus: ‘Creative’,’Traditional’ and a chef’s tasting menu. The orientation is avaunt-grade Basque with a Mexican adaptation.
We were welcomed with a foam of beetroots, quite very gentle flavour and ethereal texture, while retaining the robust earthiness of the beet. Happily, we chose 5 dishes and desert from the Creative menu- as it seemed the most exciting! The staff was very knowledgeable and accommodating. An amiable touch was that when they noticed we were sharing, they plated each dish into half-portions for each of us, so we could better share the presentations individually.
Unfortunately, we were not able to take photos of our meal as we were only able to visit during dinner service. We think it is a bit rude during that time to bring out the camera and lights, etc in such a formal environment. So the photos do not match up with what we so scrumptiously enjoyed. Hopefully the words will bring out the flavors that live on in our pallets!
“Espárragos con Aromas de Campo” – White asparagus braised in the salamander with a mojo de alcaravea, rosemary and verdolagas bathed in a vinaigrette of green and white asparagus, topped by a sheet of camomile and flowers.
This dish could have been an example in any of the Modernist Cuisine Cookbooks. Delicate and delightful, truly giving off the smells of a sunny alpine meadow. A bit of gelatinized chamomile suspend over the bed of asparagus below. Each bite was light and promising, like the first day of spring.
What we found very impressive over the course of the meal was how each dish was more powerful then the prior. We ordered in no particular sequence, but the kitchen presented each dish in perfect progression. With the flavors continually growing stronger and the denser. As an accomplished sommelier will trot out white wines, then roses and finally the reds during a tasting. Such that the heavy flavors do not overwhelm the palette and hide the finesse of the lighter grapes.
“Hamachi y Aguacate” – Hamachi marinated in mirin, dark beer and soy sauce with avocado and micro croutons.
We just about ordered this simple yet exquisite dish again for dessert. The perfectly supple Yellow Tail was bathed in a sweet and sultry glaze. The fish was so soft that it reviled the avocado. Simple idea with mouth-watering results.
“Nuestro Frijol Liquido” – Liquified beans poured over a dumpling of shrimp with Avocado with a touch of Avocado leaves
The bowl arrived with a perfectly spherical ball of shrimp melded with avocado, surrounded by a sprinkling of herbs. This treasure was then buried under a bean broth poured over the top by the waiter, after we had a chance to take in the composition. Strong in flavor and delicate in texture, this was an outstanding soup breathed the aroma of earthiness from the pureed beans.
“Pescado con Costra de Hongos y Refrito Aireado” – Robolo (Sea Bass) grilled with sauce of mushrooms and almonds, with potatoes and fried quintonil and an espuma of fried garlic oil, vinegar and porrusalda.
A very nice fish that would have been much more memorable had it not been for the life-altering dish that came after and wiped it from memory ….
“Pescado en Pipián” – Robolo (Sea Bass) with a light pumpkin seed mole sauce, subtly flavored with purslane radish
One bite put me into shock. I was not able to take another bit of food, and could barely move, for approximately 3 minutes. Stunning in the literal sense of the word. I believe that this Pescado en Pipián is the perfection of Sous Vide cooking. The fish was moist and fresh and little puffs of steam came up and it just melted in your mouth. It was wrapped in a green cake of pumpkin-seed (Pipián) mole. Mole is almost never used for seafood, but in this case you can see how tradition can better for change. After having the Roboalo with Habenero and Polenta earlier in the day at Dulce Patria, we were very worried that it was not possible to produce a better Robolo.. Happily we were so very wrong!
“Frutas con pieles de otras frutas“ (Fruits with the skin of other fruits)
– Roasted seasonal fruit wrapped in skin of other fruit (yes you read that correctly!) and topped with puree of raspberry and green pepper. Accompanied pulque bread ice cream
Ok, this we ordered just for the name and concept, and conceptually it is amazing.
“Trufas Bronceadas“– Spheres of molten chocolate dusted with bronze, served beside wine cured strawberries, an oven-dried fried pulque & nut cake, served with butter & lemon ice cream.
However, no dessert can stand next to the ‘Bronzed Truffles’. Easily one of the most spectacular of desserts we’ve ever had! Spectacular being also in the form of spectacle – an amazing performance by a dessert! This was a 4 stage process that was a true culmination to an evening of gastronomy that had built from the first bite.
Fill your mouth with the malto-dextrin and let it melt on your tongue. (Think powdered sugar).
Place the spherified molten chocolate truffle in your mouth with the wine-marinated strawberry and wait until it explodes, a chocolate bomb going off in your mouth.
Follow this with the dehydrated cake to soak up the chocolate and add the slight woodiness of the nuts.
Taste the completely opposite, yet complimentary pallatte cleansing flavor of the lemon butter iced cream.
We immediately ordered the Trufas Bronceadas a second time. It is not meant to, nor do you wish to, share!
After a short, but impressive, time in Mexico enjoying the barrage of flavors that assaulted us each time we ventured outside. It was amazing to see a restaurant really stand out above the rest. Biko is true 3 hour culinary artistry journey that had us traverse a perfect plot triangle.
above – Trufas Bronceadas
(52) 55 5282 2064
Presidente Masaryk 407 Polanco, Miguel Hidalgo, 1550 Mexico City, DF, Mexico