Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Sum Dims at Jing Teng

My dear, departed Mother-in-Law was noted for her sometimes quaint exclamations. Once, when expressing frustration at her granddaughter's indecisiveness in choosing a JELL-O flavor, was "Ding bust it, Julie! Make up your mind."

"Ding Bust It, Jing Teng!" Frustration and disappointment were only part of the letdown that we felt on a Saturday morning visit in mid-April to what had been the best dim sum Chinese restaurant in Mexico City. We'd already been there on two occasions in consecutive years, and it had been a delight. No more. This time, it was a sad shadow of its previous glory.

We arrived at about 10:00 a.m. and were puzzled to see almost no other customers. The delightful Ximena was no longer present to serve as go-between, interpreting Chinese named dishes into Spanish.

My palate was disappointed, but my heart is broken. The dim sum that we sampled lacked flavor. Some lacked filling. The Won Ton Soup was an insipid broth. The only saving grace was the weird, gnarly noodle dish with egg and shrimp.

Previously "canelon", now what?
We finished our lackluster meal, and walked two blocks west on Avenida Santa Anita to Ka Won Seng. It is a longer established, full menu Chinese restaurant. You can read about it here.

You can read and weep over my previous posts on Jing Teng, here and here.


Food: 4
Service: 5

Price: cheap.
Rest rooms. Nasty.

Friday, May 06, 2016

This Little Piggy is Rosso

Our friend and former neighbor, Larry, the retired Texas High School Band Director, had been enthusiastically telling us about Porco Rosso BBQ in Colonia Roma. He enjoyed it so much that in one extended weekend, he'd eaten there three times.

Why would anyone want to eat American style barbecue while in Mexico City? There's such a wealth of other interesting cuisines from which to choose, both Mexican and International. (To the best of my knowledge, the first American BBQ restaurant in Mexico City is the somewhat rudely named Pinche Gringo BBQ in Colonia Navarte.

Here's why:
Because it's fun, and above all, delicious!

We finally decided to overcome our own resistance and go there. "We" consisted of our traveling friend Shirley, Sra. Cuevas and me.

Porco Rosso defines informal dining in Colonia Roma. The dining room is like something out of a Texas ranch, with wooden picnic tables and benches on a gravelled floor. The inner buildings are used freight cargo containers. Tables are shared with fellow diners. There will probably be a wait for a table. Our wait was about 35 minutes, but it was a pleasant one, chatting with fellow waitees.

I see by its web site that Porco Rosso calls its food "K.C. BBQ" The kitchen has a massive smoker oven.

Once inside, you place your order and pay at the order "desk" then pick up your drinks at the adjacent bar.
The rest rooms are inside massive steel cargo containers. The hand washing sinks are like horse troughs.

Your order is delivered to your table by a waitress, but not without some glitches. We had at least three incorrect orders brought to our table before the correct orders arrived, incrementally and at different times. But being in a good mood and recognizing the informality of Porco Rosso, we shrugged off the service quirks.

The food is almost a "Giant" version of Texas bbq; everything is over the top and bigger than life.

Take the bbq beans, for example. Isn't it enough to cook up tasty beans in bbq sauce? But at Porco Rosso, the beans are topped with sliced green olives, jalapeños, chopped onion, sour cream and shredded yellow cheese.

The meats are pretty good. Shirley had a very fine looking Pulled Pork Sandwich.

I ordered the "Par de Ases" combo, which gave us a choice of two meats; I chose bacon and brisket, and two sides for $410 pesos, plus a small order of Baby Back Ribs at $135. Our sides were the aforementioned K.C. BBQ Beans and slaw.

The brisket was the best of the meats, although not in the same class as Rudy's BBQ brisket at their Laredo, TX store. The bacon was salty, thick cut but limp. It might have achieved greatness had it been broiled or grilled to some golden crispness. The Baby Back Ribs were o.k.

The slaw, oddly enough, was kind of lean, but that was welcomed as a foil to all the rich, smoky, spicy and fatty fare facing us.

What we were missing was some plain, sliced white bread and some chiles jalapeños. I hailed a passing waitress and ordered pickles (it's an extra) and some bread. The latter was slow in arriving, and when it did finally, it was a miserable, low quality hamburger bun that had been toasted (once again!) and thoroughly dried to inedibility.

On the other hand, the pickles were a Platonic dish. They were home cured, with great, fresh crisp textures and appropriate spicing. In my opinion, it was the best dish that we'd had.

Great pickles!
Porco Rosso excels in the beverage department. The iced tea is exemplary. There are at times unique aguas frescas. The cerveza selection is pretty good, too. I had a Cervecería Colima, Cerveza "Páramo", which I enjoyed. It reminded me of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.


Food: 6-7

Service: 5 The problem lies not with the servers but with the awkward and poorly designed service system.

Ambiance: informal and relaxed. Seating is not very comfortable. Tables are shared.

Cost: $$$ Our bill, apart from Shirley's, was $660 pesos, drinks extra.

La Cuenta
Our friend Larry advises arriving before 2:00 pm. for the least waiting time and the best service. Seems like good advice.

Recommended dishes:
Pulled Pork Sandwich, Brisket, Ribs, pickles!

Summary: I enjoyed the experience although it was somewhat flawed. I might return only occasionally, but at an earlier hour.

Zacatecas 102, esq. con Orizaba, Col. Roma Norte. México D.F.

Also branches in Condesa and in Coyoacán.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

La Docena Colonia Roma CDMX: A sea voyage in three acts

Not long ago we read of a new seafood restaurant that had originated in Guadalajara and now had come to conquer La Roma.

From reading various descriptive reviews, I felt confident that this new enterprise was not just another hipster clone on the Trend Circuit, developed to sell overpriced cocktails and pseudo American sandwiches, but one that merited at least a tryout. Our good fortune was that it's only a block west of our Hotel Stanza, on Avenida Obregón at the corner of Calle Frontera. (When you see it, there's no danger of confusing it with the one star, old school Taquitos Frontera across the street.)

First, an advance warning: If loud noisy dining rooms bother you, do not go there. Instead, go to a Sanborn's or somewhere else more sedate. Or wear The Cone of Silence. If you arrive at the opening time of 1:30 p.m. on a weekday, it will be más tranquilo. After about 2:30, even on a Monday, the decibels began to ramp up.

Dual Cones of Silence
La Docena, (official and complete name, "La Docena Ostionería y Grill") is already very popular. There may be waiting times on Friday, Saturday and Sunday of up to an hour or more to get a table. You can sit at the Oyster Bar, which looks, Janus-like, both fore and aft, but the selection of food is somewhat restricted, and payment must be made separately at the bar from any food or drink consumed later inside.

All these minor annoyances can be forgiven, for the service is smart and attentive, and the food, for the most, is sublime.

During our 6 day stay in La Roma, we ate at La Docena three times. So, don't ask me, "Did you like it? Would you go back?"

This review will be in three acts. The curtain rises for Act One, April 13, 2016.

I had finally come to terms with my fear and loathing of eating raw Mexican oysters. This well founded phobia had held me in thrall since our first trip to Mexico, in 1980. I'd suffered an illness I can never forget.
But from what I'd read, and then seeing the mollusks in the flesh, or rather, in the shell, it was apparent that La Docena took strict measures to protect the health of its customers. So I was ready to liberate myself from my phobias and give rein to unbridled, raw oyster slurping, sea-liquor sipping indulgence.

We had a long wait, so Shirley and I found seats at the street side of the oyster bar proper. She ordered six San Blas and I six Mexican Bluepoints. We swapped an oyster each. I thought the San Blas were nice, but too delicate and small.The Bluepoints looked just like those I've had in Connecticut and elsewhere in the U.S. but plumper, fresher and more flavorful. The presentation was nice, with two little metal cups, one of Sauce Mignonette and the other, pinkish but unidentified. I preferred a few drops of fresh lemon juice, and nothing else. The bottled salsa picante was killer to the oysters' sea savor, especially to the San Blas'.

Eventually we were called and led to a table in the bustling dining room.

The menu is extensive, and we were hard pressed to choose. Besides the printed menu, there are tempting, and mostly expensive specials written on blackboards.

Blackboard specials
A sampling of entradas
I had a Salmoncito, a  version of a gin and tonic, which wasn't bad, but the additional flavors didn't add that much enjoyment.

The drinks are creative, a must in the highly competitive Colonia Roma bar and restaurant scene.

 The drinks menu
We ordered several starters to share amongst the three of us. The Tostadas de Pulpos were good, although I thought the pulpos themselves lacked flavor. My wife disagreed.

Calamares Romano were just o.k. But Ostiones a las Brasa were sublime.

Calamares Romanos "así así".
Ostiones a las Brasa; ajo, perejil, aceite de olivas

I had a blackboard special of ostiones a las brasas, "toro" (raw fatty tuna belly) and bottarga.
Very good also, although the bottarga was elusive.

For a main course, I had an Oyster Po' Boy. Now, this is a dish in which less may be more desirable than more. The sandwich was made on an artisanal baguette. Good bread, but in my opinion, not the best choice of vehicle for the nice fried oysters. The crusty, chewy bread dominated the delicate oysters. They tended to be smushed. But it wasn't bad, you know, just would have been better if the oysters had a chance to shine. On a later visit, I had an unpleasant encounter with the same bread, in another form.

Looks nice, but the killer bread dominates all.
The hand cut French Fries were good.

The bill, for what was essentially a meal consisting of appetizers and a sandwich, plus drinks, was high. But overall, I thought it worth it. After all, La Docena is not Bisquets, Bisquets Obregón, a couple of blocks, and a world away, and there is no INAPAM (senior discount).

La Cuenta
Act One closes.

Act Two opens.
We returned on Friday for yet another go. We'd barely gotten our sea legs on Wednesday previous.

This time, the wait wasn't as long. The blackboard specials had changed, as one would expect.

While we waited, a mango wagon came by.

A few oysters on the half shell were obligatory.

We then moved on to serious platos fuertes.

Shirley got a Shrimp Po' Boy, which she liked. Sra. Cuevas got a huge pescado huauchinango entero.  I ordered a special of Lonja de Pargo Ibérico. Our waiter suggested it be prepared estilo sarandeado.  I agreed, having wanted to try pescado sarandeado for a long time.

We also ordered vegetales al grill to share, a very good choice indeed.

Vegetales al grill, unmissable.
My Lonja de Pargo was small but attractive, yet after about three mouthfuls, I couldn't stand it. There were too many intense adobos, salsas and seasoning. It was a cacophonous conflict of condiments. To make things worse, I requested bread, and after some time, our waiter brought us some of the baguette, toasted, but so hard as to be nearly inedible. The Mexico City riot police would have liked to have it to shoot at and disperse rioters. These were the exceptions, the two worst dishes we'd had in our three visits.

Lonja de Pargo Sarandeado
Baguette Bullets
Sra. Cuevas's Pescado Entero was awesome. It was simply and deliciously prepared. Grilled with oil, possibly a little garlic, salt and lime juice. There was also a lot of it, and I helped her eat it. The lime and, I think, habanero marinated purple onions and parsley were great touches.

It had seemed daunting at first, but we finished it with aplomb. Highly recommended dish.

I didn't get a photo of the check that time.

Act Two Closes.

Act Three Opens. Monday, April 18, 2016
It was just us, the Cuevas couple; Shirley having left on Sunday. We arrived at opening time, 1:30, and were seated almost immediately.

The food was good, although the oyster options were limited to San Blahs, but I had a dozen anyway.
We ordered Vegetales al Grill, which although good, lacked the sublimity of the first time. No asparagus, no tomato and a thick slab of zucchini was barely cooked.

(I had to think for a moment to recall what we ate. I got some memories back now.)
I had a ribeye steak after the dozen San Blas oysters. Fair steak, not in the class of those at Parrilla y Canilla in Morelia. I think Sra. Cuevas had a coctel de camarones y pulpos.
No, she reminded me that she had a Hamburguesa Clásica, which despite its towering Burguer Bar like construction, was very good.

The envelope, please.


Food: 7-8

Service: 7-8

Cost: $$$+

Ambiance: Hip, noisy, trendy, vibrant.

Recommended dishes: Oysters mixed, Pescado Entero, Ostiones a las Brasas, Vegetales al Grill (on better days.)

Would we return? Definitely, yes!


 Av. Álvaro Obregón 31, Cuauhtémoc, Roma Nte., 06700 Ciudad de México, D.F., Mexico

Hours: Open today · 1:30PM–1:30AM

An offer I had to refuse

This isn't her, but a substitute that gives you the idea
Colonia Roma Norte has developed into the hottest, trendiest area in CDMX in the eight or so years that we have been visiting there. So many restaurants, coffee houses, bars and cocktail lounges have opened up, especially along the Avenida Obregón corridor that the scene has been totally transformed. Along Calle Colima and environs, it's a bit more sedate, with more upscale restaurants and fine bakeries. There are more pleasures of the flesh that await the visitor, as you shall read below ...

One Saturday night, on our return from a light meal at Macelleria, and after a walk around Plaza Cabrera, I'd just crossed Av. Obregon at Calle Frontera, and paused. Sra. Cuevas and our friend Shirley were still across the street. This was just past Taquitos Frontera, less than a block from the Hotel Stanza.

A very attractive, very young, dark complected woman, with long curly hair, and nicely dressed, walked up to me and asked, "¿Quieres acompañarme? ¡SEX SEX SEX!"

I will say, she was truly hot. I told her, "No puedo, gracias, porque mi esposa me sigue."
She: "ok."

I told her, "Gracias por la oferta."

My mind reeled and my legs wobbled, but I was able to walk steadily back to the hotel.

It was my first ever offer for commercial sex, and I turned it down. I waited until Sra. Cuevas and I were back in our room to tell her. She took it in her stride.

Although I have no personal knowledge of how such brief contracts are realized, it is obvious that there are several hotels nearby that reputedly cater to the trade. The Bonampak, on Frontera**, the Monarca, on Obregón, across the street from where our brief encounter took place, and the Hotel Colonia Roma , Obregón at Jalapa. Circumstantial evidence suggests also that the Hotel Milán has liberal, turn-the-head admittance policies for temporary guests.


**Google Maps shows the Bonampak as permanently closed. This closing may be due to the increasing sophistication of the Colonia.

The scene of the brief encounter, although the hour was much later.