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The 5 Best Restaurants In Mexico City

An appetizer of marinated raw scallops in "ash vinegar" with cucumber and cilantro. Credit: Copyright 2015 Sud 777

An appetizer of marinated raw scallops in "ash vinegar" with cucumber and cilantro. Credit: Copyright 2015 Sud 777

Mexican cuisine has no high or low. Unlike in French, Chinese or Japanese cooking, it is from the humble tradition of everyday kitchens that most Mexican recipes are culled. The difference is more a matter of degree of luxury in presentation than of basic cooking concepts.

In recent years, a culinary trend has emerged from the kitchens of a new generation of chefs called Nueva Cocina Mexicana or Modern Mexican. Utilizing international culinary techniques, but working with traditional Mexican recipes and ingredients, these cooks have created a body of dishes as well as a contemporary context for serving and eating them.

Sometimes it’s simply a matter of presentation: Martha Ortiz’s duck in black mole varies little from that eaten in an old Oaxacan home. But it is elegantly served on contemporary designer china in a streamlined, posh venue in Mexico City’s Polanco area, surrounded by less standard accompaniments, and chased with a nice Baja Chardonnay. Or take Patricia Quintana’s salmon appetizer with its vanilla-infused dressing: nothing time-honored here but for the separate ingredients. And Mónica Patiño’s chicken soup perfumed with té de limón — that’s Thai lemongrass sold in every market across the country, but never before served at a Mexican dinner table.

An earlier generation of chefs have paved the way for an extraordinary renaissance of fresh, creative cooking, led by star chef Enrique Olvera of Pujol, now head chef at New York’s Cosme. Young culinary-institute-trained chefs are returning to their roots while exploring contemporary concepts developed in Europe. Mexico City has become an amazing place to discover not only the wide range of classic and regional cooking but also new traditions being forged every day.

Main photo: An appetizer of marinated raw scallops in “ash vinegar” with cucumber and cilantro. Credit: Copyright 2015 Sud 777

Zester Daily contributor Nicholas Gilman is a founding member of a Mexican chapter of Slow Food International, the author of "Good Food in Mexico City: Food Stalls, Fondas and Fine Dining" and served as editor and photographer for the book "Mexico City: An Opinionated Guide for the Curious Traveler." He has a website,, and has appeared extensively on radio and TV in the U.S. and Mexico. He lives in Mexico City.

  • Babs 7·27·15

    In the mid 80’s I was asked by CANIRAC, the national restaurant association of Mexico, to assist in the design of a restaurant that would be built for training purposes and a culinary school was designed with some similarities to the UofHouston Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management program as well as the Culinary Institute in the USA.

    I did the design pro-bono. The government under the Presidency of Salinas donated the land. I have no idea if it was ever built, but it would seem logical that there is a distinct possibility that some of the current and recent chefs benefitted from the culinary programs instituted at that time.

    I hope so.

  • Fran Cedillo 7·28·15

    Nice piece! I’m a bit surprised of your selection, and there’s a couple of places I haven’t tried, so, homework!