Mexico City’s culinary renaissance pays homage to heritage and homegrown ingredients
In the past few years, Mexico’s capital has reinvented itself as a stylish metropolis. A new generation of tastemakers leading the charge are both cosmopolitan and confident in their country’s heritage. And nowhere is Mexico City’s transformation more visible than on the tables of innovative restaurants serving creative dishes based on traditional ingredients.
But it hasn’t always been this way. “When I started my apprenticeship in France in 1998, there was no such thing as Mexican haute cuisine,” says Edgar Núñez, executive chef and co-owner of Sud 777, which recently landed a spot on “Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants” list for 2016. The culinary talent was present, as was a host of traditional cookeries in the capital city. High-end gastronomy, however, meant anything but Mexican. Aspiring chefs like Núñez would study abroad and, when they returned home, dutifully emulate European food.
“But then I slowly began to remember how well we ate while growing up,” Núñez says. “My mother always grew her own vegetables, and I started thinking more about the importance of fresh, local produce.” It turns out that Núñez wasn’t the only one challenging the status quo. All across Mexico City, chefs young and old were getting reacquainted with their roots.
Here, five of the city’s hottest restaurants – along with the homegrown ingredients they champion – that demonstrate the depth and diversity of today’s Mexican cuisine.
At his fashionable Sud 777 in the stately southern suburb of Jardines del Pedregal, Edgar Núñez serves dishes based on simple ingredients, such as carrots that are simmered for 12 hours in duck fat, charred for seven minutes, and then topped with fresh cream.
Traditional it’s not – but this sophisticated comfort food is firmly rooted in the local soil. In fact, Núñez now grows many of his vegetables in a greenhouse behind 777.
Carrots also add life to the chef’s signature tostada, which features local tuna (“the world’s best tunas are caught off the coast of Mexico,” he boasts) tossed in lime, yuzu, soy sauce, and ginger, paired with avocados and green tomatoes. Crowning the dish: a fried corn tortilla, dotted with carrots, this time in the form of a buttery puree.