One of the ironies of Mexican cuisine is that the most humble eateries often provide the inspiration for the most highbrow food. Nowhere is it done better than at Aguila y Sol, says Mexico City-based correspondent Lourdes Garcia-Navarro.
One of the ironies of Mexican cuisine is that the most humble eateries often provide the inspiration for the most highbrow Mexican food.
And nowhere is it done better than at chef Marta Ortiz Chapa's Aguila y Sol (The Eagle and the Sun), in Mexico City. There, some of the best Mexican street food is served up in luxurious surroundings.
Mexicans eat five times a day, starting with something small followed by progressively larger meals. They take their food seriously at every level.
Tourists who come to Mexico are constantly warned not to eat from roadside stalls. They are missing out. Tacos al pastor (made with slow-roasted pork and pineapple) or blue corn quesadillas with zucchini flowers are readily available everywhere and made fresh in front of your eyes.
At Aguila y Sol, these Mexican regional staples are reinvented — chicken, pork and duck are combined with achiote, mango and traditional black mole to make signature dishes that are part of la nueva cocina mexicana, or new Mexican cooking, which uses international influences to turn local recipes on their heads.
The restaurant recently moved to new, posh digs in the upscale Polanco neighborhood. The space is slightly cavernous — and the decor a tad sterile — but all is forgiven when the food comes out.
The perfect meal starts with fruit margaritas made of mango, guava, lime or tamarind. Or to really eat like a Mexican, start with a bandera mexicana, which is so named because it features the colors in the Mexican flag (green, white and red). It consists of three shot glasses filled with tequila reposada (which is aged at least two months and less than a year in oak barrels), sangrita — a tomato, citrus and tequila drink — and lime juice.
Appetizers such as tamales or a trio of ceviches (raw fish marinated in citrus juice) tease the palate with the flavors of Mexico.
But it's the main courses where the talents of Ortiz — the chef and owner — really shine. My favorite is the perfectly tender pork loin in yellow mole with gingered mango.
For dessert, the creme brulee made of mamey, a tropical melon, provides a nice, light finish to a meal.
Even though Aguila y Sol is expensive — a meal for two with wine can easily run to $100 — it has remained at the top of the best-restaurant lists here with good reason. It's the perfect place to experience Mexico's dynamic culinary scene.
Aguila y Sol — 127 Emilio Castelar, Mexico City, Mexico. Telephone: 52 55 52 81 83 54.