REAL MEXICAN CUISINE
Being of Mexican descent, when I heard the news that A Mexico City Bistro would be opening up in the space that formerly housed a food mart I frequented often back in the day, I didn’t know what to expect.
To imagine how they could turn that space into something remotely resembling anything that you would see in Mexico had me baffled. Plus the rumor that the food would be “authentic” had me wondering what would be on their menu in such a case. To take authentic Mexican cuisine, narrow down the plethora of dishes you could make that would appeal to an audience that has queso running through their veins would be a challenge.
I was raised on these dishes, so to me it was exciting. That said, many of our seasonings and ingredients could be considered acquired tastes. I was intrigued.
Being the prepared customer, I viewed their menu online, read reviews, asked colleagues about their experience. The resounding review was positive.
The particularly charming, quirky space features stunning murals by artist Cecilia Beaven. On a main dining room wall, the kitchen, little nooks, the bar, even the ceiling, Cecilia’s mesmerizing work will find you seeing new aspects throughout your meal. This, combined with a modern aesthetic and warm touches, is reminiscent of a hip area called La Condesa in Mexico City. It’s where cool meets tradición. Cool ambience but traditional fare.
Apprehensive of the hype, we dropped in right at 5pm for an early dinner. We were seated promptly at a table by the window; had the weather been nice we would’ve sat on their inviting patio that faces Fairview. From their cocktails we had a traditional Paloma and the creative Bandido. The Bandidio, a mix of Sotol (a type of tequila), lemon, chia seeds and Pimm’s #1 makes for an interesting textural and flavor profile. It’s not sweet, not bitter and somehow has a tamarind touch. Their Paloma is perfection. Tequila blanco, lime and grapefruit soda create a refreshing Mexican classic. We typically don’t see them pink in color but it makes for a beautiful presentation. And with the authentic taste, the color is really of no consequence.
We started with their quesadillas de huitlacoche and the tacos crujientes de Jamaica y queso. Before these came out we were treated to mini Picaditas. Where I’m from, they are like sopes. Thick corn cakes are topped with black refried beans topped with Mexican cream and fresh cotija cheese crumbles. The flavor was spot on with what my grandmother use to make in Guadalajara.
You can taste the homemade flavor. As we say, it’s casero. Right down to the red salsa served with it that is spicy and you can see the black specs from pan-searing the peppers and tomatoes. I had to peek into the kitchen and nothing is more exciting than seeing muchachas (women) preparing tortillas and more.
Don’t expect to see your typical Tex-Mex quesadilla with cheese oozing out between a flour tortilla. Here it’s corn dough, filled with a cheese and huitlachoche (a black mushroom) mixture, and then it’s fried. It’s a crispy, cheesy, savory pocket. The huitlachoche, although black, is very similar to a regular mushroom flavor in earthiness.
The tacos cruijientes are similar to a flauta but they too come in the same corn dough, stuffed with a hibiscus flower and mild cheese mixture that is then fried to perfect golden crunchiness. Both are drizzled with authentic Mexican cream. It’s a little more off-white than bright white like the norm.
Impressed with all we had started with, we went with the Mula de Nopal and Pollo Adriana.
The Pollo Adriana’s presentation, in various colorful little cast iron pots and skillets, is a common theme. You’ll find sides and salsas presented in the same manner. The chicken is cut very thin and stuffed (layered) with calabacita squash and cheese, then covered in a poblano pepper sauce. The homemade mild sauce is ideal, and I even scooped up my rice with it to enjoy it. It’s a deceivingly light dish. I found myself more full from the botanas.
The Mula de Nopal is for the adventurous. It’s an acquired taste when it comes to textures and spice. Being Mexican, I’m used to both. Grilled cactus filet is stuffed (more like layered) with panela cheese and mounted on a house salsa. The salsa is a dark rustic red on the adobo or chili de arbol side – it has a definite kick. Panela is a thicker, denser cheese that combined with the nopal provides a balance to its soft texture.
Should you order a side, you can’t go wrong with equites. This classic Mexican treat is corn kernels mixed with cream, lime, cotija cheese and chili powder. You can’t leave without completing your Mexican culinary experience with a cup of café de olla and buñelos. Café de olla is sweet Mexican coffee served black. It needs nothing more and will be sure to wake “even the devil.” The buñelos are fritters stuffed with a spicy chocolate served with Papantla vanilla ice cream. It’s sweet and savory. With a mild combo like this, it’s easy to finish off.
In between the authentic cocktails, casera salsa, tortillas, dishes, the ambience to even the music, this is a real Mexican gem. Go for a cocktail, stay for dinner. There is nothing like this Mexico City bistro. Viva Mexico!
botanas | appetizers
• Quesadillas de huitlacoche- Corn with black mushroom quesadillas $8
• Charalitos- Deep fried small lake fish with salsa on the side $8
• Chilatole- Creamy corn masa soup with serrano pepper $8
platos fuertes | entrées
• Huachinango Veracruzana- Veracruz style red snapper mounted on a plantain and amaranth crispy base. Rice on the side $19
• Mole verde- Green mole with pork tenderloin. Refried beans, rice and white corn puree on the side $16
• Mixiotes de camarón – Spiced shrimp steamed in maguey packet. Avocado mousse and refried beans on the side $20
• Ensalada de pétalos de rosa- Mixed greens with rose petals, pear, peach, pistachios and cran berries with fresh orange and guajillo pepper vinaigrette $8
postres | desserts
• Buñuelos de chocolate picante con helado de vainila de Papantla- Spicy chocolate stuffed fritters with Papantla vanilla ice cream$8
• Turrón de Gena- Gena’s prune mousse Creamy lime dessert $8
214 FAIRVIEW | HOUSTON, TX 77006
713.942.0000 | www.cuchararestaurant.com
Tuesday – Thursday: 5pm –10pm
Firday – Saturday: 5pm –11pm
Sunday: 11am – 4pm & 4pm – 10pm
By Beatrice Allen