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I have two nights there, travelling on business. The first night I am going to dinner but the restaurant will be picked by those who I am meeting. The second night I am on my own and, having done quite a bit of research, I have made a reservation for one (Yes, for one!-me!) at arguably one of the best restaurants in the city, Aguila y Sol. They even gave me a confirmation number to prove that I have a reservation when I show up there in two weeks. (I've never been given a confirmation number by a restaurant before!)

I am not interested in having anything there that I can find in D. C. or New York. I want something that I can only find in Mexico. Creative, innovative, imaginative Mexican if you will, something that I would fly back just to have dinner at. That good. That memorable.

Am I on the right track with Aguila y Sol?

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I have two nights there, travelling on business. The first night I am going to dinner but the restaurant will be picked by those who I am meeting. The second night I am on my own and, having done quite a bit of research, I have made a reservation for one (Yes, for one!-me!) at arguably one of the best restaurants in the city, Aguila y Sol. They even gave me a confirmation number to prove that I have a reservation when I show up there in two weeks. (I've never been given a confirmation number by a restaurant before!)

I am not interested in having anything there that I can find in D. C. or New York. I want something that I can only find in Mexico. Creative, innovative, imaginative Mexican if you will, something that I would fly back just to have dinner at. That good. That memorable.

Am I on the right track with Aguila y Sol?

We chose not to go to Aguila y Sol on our visit to DF last month. We still hit a good mix of places. Like you, we hunted down spots that you've appropriately defined as "imaginative Mexican" but we also went for traditional Mexican. Of the "imaginative" ones, we had our favorite meal at Izote. Perfect through and through, from creative dishes to service. Another favorite was Tecla, where we had lunch, but they also serve dinner. Contramar is only open for lunch and is jam-packed from open to close. Don't even think of going without a reservation. All seafood and while they had some very simple preparations that showed off some great Mexican style and ingredients, they also could get really imaginative, too.

Our biggest disappointment was Pujol. We were really looking forward to it and while it wasn't so much the food that was disappointing, it was more a question of poor service. No one really bothered to check in on us during the meal and the Mrs. wasn't feeling particularly good that night, so we opted for glasses of wine instead of a full bottle. I don't think they particularly cared for that option.

Again, the food was highly creative and put together some great combinations of Mexican ingredients, (too much "espuma" however) but here's my lasting memory of Pujol. In a city already suffering from terrible air pollution, and our lungs already feeling the effects of it after 5 days in DF, here we were in Pujol, with its very low ceiling and the unending crowd of chainsmokers that happened to be at every table around us.

On the one hand I can understand that if you're already breathing crap in 24 hours a day, why not be a smoker? But there's no way you can possibly enjoy the really cool flavor combinations that hit your plate at Pujol when all you can breathe is the smoke around you. There's some really subtle but cool stuff coming out of that kitchen, but the heavy cloud in the dining room dulls it.

BTW, both Pujol and Izote are on Open Table. I'd pick Izote. Ignore the comments you see here and there that Patricia Quintana is past her prime.

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I ended up going to Aguila y Sol with a Mexican friend who lives in the city. We had a tasting menu which ran to about ten or eleven courses and three + hours. This was an incredible restaurant easily on par (in its own way) with, say, Citronelle or CityZen here. A curious restaurant since they would not let me take photos (without a flash) nor give me a menu nor even let me write down descriptions of the various dishes. Having said all this they were warm, extremely friendly and brought several dishes for us to taste seeing how enthusiastic we were. They are also apparently paranoid and claim that a number of their dishes are copyrighted. Regardless, it was an extraordinary dinner that I would almost consider flying back to Mexico City just to go to. The best dish was a kind of ceviche which had rare diced Ahi tuna (warm) with cold dices of fresh coconut in a creamy coconut emulsion/sauce with an herb that I could not distinguish but it lent a kind of "bite" that also presented contrasting texture, temperature and fantastic depth of flavor. An Ahi carpaccio was incredible also. For meat there was sliced grilled filet (?) steak with a chipotle salsa that was fantastic. Doesn't sound that special but the flavor was extraordinary. Note that our dinner started at 3 in the afternoon and the dining room was full the entire time we were there-this is the prime dining time in Mexico City.

I also loved Mexico City feeling that in many ways it reminded me of Madrid except with unbelievable traffic.

By the way, Arzak from San Sebastian, has now opened a restaurant there. On my next visit I'll go there along with Izote and back to Aguila y Sol. This ranks as one of the best meals I've had. There were a number of courses (and their presentation) that had absolutely nothing in common with anything in this area. Comparing this to Topolobampo is almost inevitable but I thought this was better.

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Well we might need a new category for this: Guanajuato!

About 3 hours south of Mexico city is the state and city of Guanajuato. A Unesco World Heritage Sight due to the fact that it was one of the oldest areas colonized by the Spanish and they still have over 30 historic buildings. Really a beautiful city. Looks a lot like buildings from Florence or Madrid were plopped down into a very old Mexican city.

Casa Valadez was a great breakfast spot, with out of this world bread and salsas. I highly recommend huevos rancheros. But really you can't go wrong on their breakfast menu. I wish we could have had another meal here, as well. Website here. They also have nutritional information.

We also ate at the Hotel Santa Fe and both had enchiladas mineras a regional specialty. Chicken thigh over cheese enchiladas with a sauce with tomatoes, carrots and potatoes. A tiny bit bland, but very good with the chile sauce that was on the table.

We stayed at El Camino Real and it was a really nice hotel with a great bar and nice breakfast buffet that had some traditional Mexican items and some continental items. I really recommend this hotel although it isn't in the center of town.

We also found a couple great bakeries and wandering through the central market is a must they have food stall of all kinds, just be careful there about unpeeled foods, such as some salsas. It is a town that is used to tourists, but prudence is best when it comes to drinking bottled water and such.

We also ate at a restaurant up on the Northern Edge of town overlooking the town, perhaps Casa de Valencia. The view was great, but food not so great, but it was a group event so may not have been their regular offerings. Just don't get steak. Mine was raw, I don't mean rare I mean raw, and not very good. Cauliflower soup was very good though.

The town is known for its mines of silver and gold, pottery, leather goods and candies. Oh and frog souvenirs as the name Guanajuato means hill of frogs.

You can find pictures from my trip here.

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I travel to Mexico City regularly. It is one of my favorite places to eat in the whole world. Actually in Guadalajara now and in MX on Friday. In the meantime some of my favorites are Pujol, Azul (excellent traditional), Dulce Patria (high-class traditional from one of Mexico's best female chefs, and Merotoro (which is wonderful and rare food/wine from Baja California). I have found Izote, which will probably be recommended to you by someone to be underwhelming the two times I've been.

On a Saturday it is great to visit San Angel for the craft market and you can eat at San Angel Inn or the courtyard of the market area - both of which are great. The inn is a spectacular old hacienda.

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Since I work in International Development, I was fortunate that most of my meals this trip were cooked by abuelas over fires in remote mountain areas - they were delicious, but not likely to be places others will visit.

That said, I did have the chance to visit the new Azul restaurant in the Centro Historico, and it was great - I think I like it better than the one in Condesa.  It is in an old building that is now a hip boutique hotel.  It's amazing how much the Centro Historico has changed for the better in the last 5 years.  So, I add that to my recommendation above.

Also, if you have time (not food related) the Museo Dolores Olmedo in Xochimilco is wonderful.  She was a prominent art collector (think a Mexican Peggy Guggenheim) who was great friends with Diego Rivera and Frieda Khalo.  Her house (which is wonderful in itself with its gardens, live peacocks, and hairless Aztec dogs) is now a museum with the largest selection of Diego and Frieda in the world.  Off the beaten track, but worth it.

Other reflections - uber has made the city so much more easy to move around in.  It is safe, quick, and cheaper than the sitio cabs.  Use it!  Also, if you can, stay at the Four Seasons (one of my favorite hotels in the world) and enjoy their patio.  Pro tip - they will give you the government rate if you have an ID even if you are not on official travel.

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Nice! Hopefully some of these recs still hold up. Going tomorrow. Sis wants to take me on a pre wedding siblings trip. She is a nut about Mexican food and is planning it all. I have no idea about anything we are doing, but plan on reporting back, because I absolutely loved it the last time I went, but sort of went blind that trip and focused on street food. This time will be different ....

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15 hours ago, Simul Parikh said:

Nice! Hopefully some of these recs still hold up. Going tomorrow. Sis wants to take me on a pre wedding siblings trip. She is a nut about Mexican food and is planning it all. I have no idea about anything we are doing, but plan on reporting back, because I absolutely loved it the last time I went, but sort of went blind that trip and focused on street food. This time will be different ....

I am looking forward to your report. I am planning a trip to Oaxaca this summer. I am thinking of tagging on Mexico City too, if we have enough time. Please let me know how you feel safety wise there as well.

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15 hours ago, Simul Parikh said:

Nice! Hopefully some of these recs still hold up. Going tomorrow. Sis wants to take me on a pre wedding siblings trip. She is a nut about Mexican food and is planning it all. I have no idea about anything we are doing, but plan on reporting back, because I absolutely loved it the last time I went, but sort of went blind that trip and focused on street food. This time will be different ....

If you're looking for something a little more high end than street food this time, I had a wonderful meal at Quintonil last year.

On the other end of the scale, my favorite meal may have been at Yug Vegetariano on La Reforma, a decidedly unpretentious place that, for me at least, offers the platonic ideal of Mexican food.  (Don't let the name scare you off, the omnivore I dined with was happy too).  

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Few things first -

1) Safety - Mexico as a country is very, very unsafe .. for Mexicans. Americans do run into some crime there, specifically pickpocketing. However, murders of Americans are rare. Mexico city, however, is a pocket of 'relative' safety with murder rates somewhat higher than NYC (which has become quite a safe city), but lower than St. Louis, New Orleans, Atlanta, Baltimore, or Detroit (to name some comparatively unsafe cities). I think you take similar precautions as you do anywhere - don't search for drugs or prostitution, try to take registered cabs or Uber, don't get inebriated far from your hotel, avoid areas that are known to be unsafe, and don't talk to unsavory people that may come up to you.

2) Transportation - this is a BEAR. Traffic is like large Asian cities - relentless and non-stop unless early morning or late night. We did not even try the public transportation, because it's relatively inexpensive to take certified taxis - the pink and white ones or Uber. Most rides within the city cost between $30 and $60 pesos, which is $1.70 to $3.25 USD. In high traffic areas, they come relatively quickly but may not be able to reach you because of all the one way streets, and they can't call you because you have an international number. So, we got 'dropped' several times.

3) Location - because of transportation, this is crucial. Central locations include La Condesa, Roma, and Polanco. You're 1 to 5 miles from everywhere... but 5 miles can take 40 minutes, easy. So, when you are trying to go to further out locations, you may have long journeys mid day (like the Coyacoan Market, which we didn't get to b/c it was going to take so long).

4) Street food - is so omnipresent from 7am til after midnight. You can have be full for somewhere around $1 to $3 - like stuffed. It's safe, people don't really get sick like in other countries, and it's very high quality. I think you can eat at these stands the entire trip and not go wrong - for savories, sweets, fruit juices/shakes, and desserts. But, it's probably nice to mix in some fine dining, too. 

Landed mid day, and took a taxi to the city at 1.15pm and it took 45-50 minutes to get to our hotel (Hotel Marquis Reforma). The same trip took us 15 minutes yesterday early AM. We dropped our bags and took an Uber to fancy restaurant number one - Fonda Mayora, and we didn't have a reservation. It was Thursday, so no issue - we sat at the bar and ordered. We got some ceviche, soft shell crab tacos, and roasted pork with a yellow mole. Not conventional/tipico, but very beautifully plated and delicious. With a few drinks, the whole meal was around $30-40 (I think, because she would not let me pay for anything). After, we walked around the neighborhood and though stuffed, we ran into a street stand serving birria (roasted goat or sheep), and I crushed one of those. 40 cents USD!! Amazing.

In the evening, we went to downtown/Centro to the Torre Latinoamerica. To go to the top and avoid paying the fee, just ask to go to the restaurant instead of the observation deck. You get a beautiful panoramic view of the city, but have to buy a drink, of course. The food actually didn't look bad, but we were stuffed. We finished there and walked over to a craft beer bar/gastropub called La Hilaria and had a drink there. Then, I really wanted to try pulque - a fermented agave drink that has become quite popular with the hipsters, though older folks have drank it forever. We went to La Cueva to try it, a neat bar in an alley downtown. It's milky but not dairy, thick, viscous, and lightly alcoholic (I think around 3-4%). You buy it by the half liter or higher increments (some people had 2 liter mammoths on their tables). I liked it, sister did not. We were pretty exhausted and decided to go home, and while walking to the main street, we ran into a lady selling 'esquites' which is like elote, but it's off of the cob. It's served with cheese, crema (mayo), chili powder, lime. Very creamy, and very good. $1 USD. And because I'm a glutton, when the tamale guy passed on his bike, I got one of those and ate that at the hotel - 80 cents USD! Not a big tamale guy - I mean they are pretty good, but nothing I needed to have another one of.

The next morning, we planned to go to the pyramids at Teotihuacan. We had breakfast at a local spot in La Condesa that had a sign that said "Tacos Guisados" on it, but I don't think that was the name. We had chilequiles and coffee. The traditional morning coffee in DF is cafe de olla, which is coffee with cinammon. It's pretty tasty. The chilequiles were different than I expected, b/c the tortilla chips are in liquid and softened already, so there isn't that crispiness that I expected, but it was still fantastic. On the walk back to the hotel, there was a taco stand that was quite popular, and I couldn't help but get some al pastor. It was delicious - and the salsas can be very spicy. There was one that I pointed at, and the guy just said "no, muy pica" and pointed to a different one that burned my mouth. 

To get to the pyramids, you can take a public bus and I talked to some Americans that did that with no issue. This costs around $5. My sister decided we would get a tour guide/private driver and that was substantially more, and with our limited time I think it was a good call. Just ask your hotel the morning of, and they should be able to figure something out. I'm not sure if you could Uber there and back, because it's a bit remote. It took 45 minutes to get there, and wow! These are beautiful and interesting, with so much history. They were built pre-Christ and weren't in the greatest shape or much of a tourist site, until probably the '60s - '70s. They did substantial renovation and are continuing to do so. On a Friday morning, it was quite busy, and I heard on the weekends it's a zoo. We spent a few hours there, and then went to the Basilica de Guadalupe in the north end of DF, the site of the miracle of Juan Diego. Very neat, though the modern basilica next to the original one leaves a bit to be desired in terms of architecture. 

After this, sis had found this seafood joint - El K-Guamo - which has various locations in the Centro. This place blew my mind - fresh, fresh seafood and a fun atmosphere. We a had a mixed seafood tostada and a mixed seafood quesadilla (which is not our version of a quesadilla - this is called a 'gringo'; this is a folded over tortilla stuffed with good things - but does not always include cheese, interestingly). Both were incredibly tasty. They offered a cracker with ceviche as a starter, gratis, and that was awesome, too. Per usual, after this meal, we walked around and were seduced by another taco stand. This was a carnitas joint, and they chopped up tasty pig parts. We LOVED this - it was crispy and tender, fatty and meaty, and just perfect. And, then of course, we had to get dessert, so we went to the churro place that my sister had wanted to try - El Moro. It's freshly made and with a chocolate sauce, and is good as you think it will be. We had to go back and lay down, haha. 

The evening plan was to go to a Lucha Libre show (Mexican wrestling with those crazy masks!!), and prior to that we stopped by a very happening place called La 20. It's a chain, huge mezcal / tequila list, and is very scene-y. Not what we had in mind, but it was recommended by a family friend and our concierge, so we checked it out. It's fine - you felt like you were at a snazzy tequileria in Chicago or something. Nothing I'd go back to, but you if you are of gentle stomach and not quite so adventurous, it's still fairly legit and many locals go there. We didn't have tickets to the show, so we took an Uber there hoping to get them at the box office, as was recommended on many blogs. Scalpers typically sucker me, and it happened here - a friendly canelo haired gentleman had 2 tickets in the 10th row for $250 peso ($13 USD) each, and we were a bit concerned about them being fake. He actually walked us over to the ticket guy who scanned them as real, and we paid the man. What a scene inside! Groups of friends, many tourists, people on dates, and many, many families were there. it's a spectacle - people yelling PUTO and CULERO!! when the wrestlers come out, choregraphed fights and jumps and violence ensued, with the good guys winning some times, but the bad guys winning, as well. The beers flow freely and cheaply, and they have many people selling different snacks (American style nacho and cheese, Doritos, tortas). We stayed for a bit over half (1.5 hour) and then tried to get home. We had a lot of trouble getting a car/taxi - so ended up walking for a bit, found a cantina with live music. It was a hoot, but we were exhausted and finally got a taxi home.

The next day was to be our big meal, so we had a light breakfast at a famous bakery - Panaderia Rosetta - we went to the Roma Norte location and had a few different pastries - one figure 8 with cheesy filling and and a guava roll. Both were flaky and perfect. We took a long stroll in this area, stopping at some galleries, and being teased by incredible street food - it was barbacoa day (Saturday) and so many people were serving it with that fantastic consomme, but we held firm until our big lunch which was at Pujol in the Polanco area. Note that there is a new location, but the Uber app seems to take you to the old one (happened to another couple we met), and so if you try to go then just put in the address, not the name. This meal was an absolute pleasure. It's a 6 course feast - 4 you choose, and 2 are chosen for you. The first course was 'street food' and was a mini gordita plus baby corn roasted with a tasty sauce (should not have asked what was in the sauce, because there were definitely ants). The next four dishes were yoooge! This was not 6 small plates. Any 2-3 would have been fine for lunch, so by the time we got to the lamb chops and the duck (that was probably the best course) we could not imagine having any more. And then, yet, there was more. They had this great mole - two concentric circles of it - one was in the middle and made fresh that day, and the circle around it was the same mole, but cooked every day for the last 5 years! It was much darker and earthy but not very 'bright' or spicy. Separately, the fresh mole tasted brighter and spicier, but they tell you to try both and then to mix them up. Mixed, it was fabulous - it mellows the newer one and infuses the older one. Loved it, but were so stuffed. And, yet, there was still another course. They asked us to go outside and enjoy dessert on the terrace, and though it was a way for them to increase turnover, it turns out to be some 'forced socialization' with guests, as they seat you with others. There is a pre-dessert (pulque ice cream palate cleanser), whatever you chose (I got roasted pineapple), and post-dessert (churros!). This was not an inexpensive meal - without drinks the pre-fixe menu is a little over $100 USD, and drinks are not cheap. But, well worth it, up there with Gaggan in terms of international tasting menus.

Tragically, we could not make it for barbacoa, as she was just too full. We planned on just hanging at hotel and "Knocked Up" was on, so that was no problem for me. But, the cable went out, and we add a little bit of energy so we walked over to a cocktail bar that everyone on the internet talks about - La Clandestina. It was too crowded, so we were taken to the bar next door which had similar drinks and the same kitchen. We both had tasty Mezcal cocktails, and they gave us some Oaxacan cheese gratis, b/c the drinks took forever. It's just string cheese, never order it. 

And that was all, folks! What an incredible send-off by my sister - celebrating the end of my long and illustrious bachelorhood. She is the sweetest, kindest, and most thoughtful person I know. I couldn't be blessed more. She is one of my best friends, my most enthusiastic fan, and supportive of me always. She thinks about me all the time, about me being happy and healthy, and worries about me like a mom would, and yet she's 8 years younger than me. I had to hide tears as I left the taxi in the morning on Sunday, and I just hope that we can still keep taking these trips until we are two old fogies... Love you, Sheena!

 

 

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Departing for Mexico City on Saturday.  Staying at Marquis Reforma - no dinner plans for Saturday and Sunday.  Already booked Pujol (twice) and Quintonil for Mon-Wed.  Any suggestions on where to go for dinner on Saturday and Sunday that's not too far away?  Looking for inventive upscale Mexican cuisine.

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We flew to Mexico City on a Saturday.  Stayed at the Marquis Reforma, a very nice hotel in the business district.  Its central location is excellent for sight-seeing but not great for restaurants or bars.  Polanco is a posh residential neighborhood with parks, all the fancy restaurants, and generally a more relaxed atmosphere.  Might stay in Polanco next time.

We arrived in the late afternoon after drinking for hours (almost 3 hr. layover in Houston - we had access to many lounges).  We had no dinner plans so we went to the nearest El Tizoncito, a branch of the chain that started taco al pastor.   The al pastor was indeed tasty, but none of the other tacos were.  So go there just to try the al pastor and then move on.  

The next day, we did a tour of Mercado La Merced by Eat Mexico.  We picked up a couple of Lime scooters and whizzed up Reforma to Alameda Central before the tour to sight-see.  Every Sunday, Reforma is closed to traffic so people can bike, jog, or scoot their asses around.  At 9:45, we met our guide and he took us to La Merced.  Below is our itinerary with my comments.

1. Tacos McTeo. Carne enchilada tacos with cactus, onion and fries.  Tasty but nothing spectacular.  (pic below)

2. Fried Tamal.  One with mole and one with chicken?  The fried tamals were a bit dry and very filling so I only had a bite of each.  (pic below)

3. 5 Hermanos. Tasty tacos de suadero. I actually had 2, a brisket taco and a chorizo taco.  Both were tasty.  (pic below)

4. Moles Dona Balbi. We actually got to taste every mole with tiny plastic spoons. (pic below)

5. Señora Edith's Pre-hispanic Ingredients.  Tried crickets, ants, mosquito eggs, baby crawfish, fried fish, etc. (pic below)

6. Tacos de Cabeza.  Famous for cooking the head whole.  He goes through many heads a day with people waiting.  I had a delicious tongue taco on blue corn tortilla.  You have to season it yourself though with salt, onion, salsa, etc.  (pics below, including his tattoo which says "I don't give a fuck.") 

7. El Pollo. Quesadillas de Huitlacoche.  This was actually delicious, with corn smut and squash blossom.  

8. Mercado de Dulces. Didn't try any.

9. Ice Cream. Never got any ice cream.

10. Café Equis. Didn't do this either.

Instead, we stopped for some fruit (but I didn't have any) and checked out a tortilla factory (didn't try any).

11. Roldán 37. A restaurant in a restored mansion. We ate quesadillitas filled with cheese, avocado, and crickets.  Quite good. (pics below)

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For dinner on Sunday we Ubered to Polanco.  We had no plans in advance but we found an interesting restaurant, Comedor Jacinta.  It has a facinating menu, which was what drew us.  Alas, they did not fully deliver on the execution.  Reservation on Opentable.

The first pic included crab quesadilla and bone marrow sopes.  The quesadilla was a bit fishy but the bone marrow sopes was excellent (basically the marrow melts and seeps into the sopes, making it delicious).  Next pic is the oxtail gordita - unfortunately the shredded oxtail was dry.  I believe I asked for beef tongue for taco but I might have received the tongue in sauce - it's the bowl of red stuff.  Then we got some *tiny* shrimp tacos.  The waiter said fried shrimp but I think he meant *dried* shrimp.  The flavor was intense but not necessarily my favorite.  Lastly, the charcoal sweetbread mocajete - that dish was perfect.  The sweetbread was tender and made very good taco filling.  I would love to see this food in DC.

 

 

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Almost every museum in the city is closed on Mondays.  So we Ubered to Xochimilco, a Unesco world heritage site.  According to Google Map, it would've taken almost 2 hrs to get there by public transportation.  We called an Uber slightly after 9, it was only 250 pesos and took 50 minutes.  

We first stopped in the central market.  I had seen panchita (aka menudo, tripe soup) at La Merced but didn't get to try any.  So I ordered some at the Mercado Xochimilco.  There were lots of tripe in her vat, which she pulled out and cut with a scissor to order.  I enjoyed the texture and the flavor of the tripe itself, but the soup lacked depth of flavor.  There were many vendors - I just happen to randomly choose a bad one (the market wasn't busy on a Monday morning).

We went to Embarcadero Saliter, which is the closest pier.   There are "guides" on the street who would direct you to some places farther away.

The price is 500 pesos per hour regardless of how many passengers.  Steve and I had a boat for 10 to ourselves.  We initially asked for 2 hrs but the "man" told us we get to see more if we took a 3 hr cruise.  He then asked if we wanted anything, and we asked for beer.  He brought us a 6-pack in some icy-water (there wasn't much ice in the water).  We brought our Yeti tumblers so the beer stayed moderately cold.  So we basically went down this one canal and then came back (other boats poled faster, so probably would've seen the same things in 2 hrs).  While on the water, we encountered musicians, souvenir peddlers, snack peddlers, and maybe a floating comedor.  There are also restaurants where you can stop and go eat, and places where you can pay to go pee.

Monday night we went back to Polanco for the taco bar omakase at Pujol.  Some preliminary bitching.  The price is fixed (3,300 pesos, roughly 19/1 exchange rate), whether you drink booze or not.  And there's no substitution of booze either.  And you only get 1 little glass of sake and 2 glasses of white wine.  You sit at a bar, with bartenders in front of you.  What's the point of watching people make drinks for other people all night?  And the wines are very marked-up.  

The food is not what I expected.  I was hoping for some of the best meats and seafood cooked with creative Mexican recipe.  Instead we got kind of fusion food.  

1.  Street snacks - corn "tofu" more like tamale, is sweet and pretty good.  Puffy tortilla with crab, finally baby corn.  A decent start.

2.  Scallop tostado - lots of sesame seed oil and spices which taste good but drown out the scallop. 

3.  Tempura soft shell crab, whole shishito pepper (not mentioned in the menu) and other stuff.  The crab itself had no flavor so all I tasted was the pepper.  Not very good.

4.  Kampachi - proudly *overcured* for 5 days.  Also cold fish doesn't really go with warm tortilla.

5.  Octopus tetela - a triangle with nice tender octopus and black beans (which I don't like).

6.  Black cod taco - I liked it.  Nicely cooked.

7.  Pork belly gordita - dry hockey puck.

8.  King crab soup.  Not a taco and not a good soup.

9.  Two moles on tortilla - heavy licorice flavor which I don't like.  This is Pujol's signature dish....so it has its fans.

There were many dishes that we didn't finish but no one seemed to care.  And if you pay by credit card, you have to tell them how much you're going to tip them to their face.  I gave the meal 60% pass rate and Steve thought it was more like 50%.  This is the "taco bar omakase," read on for the regular tasting menu.

 

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Tuesday morning we planned to hit the Anthropology Museum.  So first we stopped by El Bajio in Polanco, a swanky restaurant specializing in carnitas and barbacoa (lamb).  Even at 9:30 in the morning, we were able to get a 1/4 kg of carnitas, 1/4 kg of barbacoa, chicharrones (pork rind) and some guacamole.  The carnitas was fantastic.  The barbacoa was slightly less good (a little gamy).  The chicharrones was light and airy.  It would've been nice if every meal was as good.  Don't miss out on this restaurant that cranks out top notch classics.

The Anthropology Museum in Chapultepec park is excellent.  It described the various civilizations (with artifacts, sculptures, and architecture) that occupied the various parts of Mexico until the Spaniards came.  We also checked out the botanical garden and the castle.  

That evening we were back in Polanco to eat at Quintonil.  Quinitonil is a relative small restaurant, and like Pujol, does not have air conditioning.  That day the high was in the upper 80s, and without a fan in the dining room, the place felt stuffy.  

Nevertheless, the crab tostada was refreshing and delicious.  Next was the fish - properly cooked but nothing exciting.  The pork was super tender (likely sous vided) and very good.  The last dish was a wad of oxtail.  With the heat in the dining room, it just wasn't very appetizing.  Since we ordered a la carte, our dinner was less than 1/2 the cost at Pujol.  Better food and much less expensive.  

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On our last full day, we wondered around the city.  From Monument to the Revolution, to Mercado San Juan (no where near as big as La Merced or as interesting), to the House of Tiles (the restaurant inside makes great skirt steak tacos (arrachera) but not much else), to Garibaldi Plaza (nothing to see during the day), to Parque Mexico.

I would've canceled our reservation to Pujol if we weren't already on the hook for the full price.  So back to Polanco we go.  Two tasting menus were offered, vegetarian or seafood.  7 dishes for each tasting menu, but we already had 2 - 2 days ago (the street food and super old mole).  So we really only got to try 8 new savory dishes.  All the vegetarian dishes were pretty good (but I didn't go to Mexico to eat vegetarian, I only ordered the vegetarian menu because the seafood menu looked even worse).   The seafood dishes generally weren't as good.  The last dish, seabass, was so fishy, Steve had to get up and go spit the it out in the bathroom.

As a tourist, I really wanted to taste Mexico but these dishes don't in any way represent the great ingredients and tradition of Mexico.

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