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How to Eat in Mexico City Like Anthony Bourdain

by Ilona Kauremszky

Anthony Bourdain, eat your heart out. A week before the big gonzo was traipsing the countryside of Mexico’s Oaxaca state and before he wrestled with some of the finest restos on the streets of the capital, it was my turn to saddle up to the table.

As luck would have it I was in Mexico a week before the Layover/No Reservations/Parts Unknown culinary bad boy TV star was hitting the haciendas high in the sierras.

So, what’s it like to do an Anthony Bourdain dry-run?

Out of this world.

Here’s how to eat Mexico City like Tony.

Pujol

Enrique Olvera, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in New York—Anthony’s alma mater—took this boite concept, a racy apartment in a ‘burb big with the stroller and cycling set, and has turned it into the city’s “it” dining place.(I hope Anthony dined in the private dining room, Dom Perignon. That’s where Bono brought in one of his birthdays, I’m told.) The vibe is a cozy, homey feel, with art from local artists on the walls and centerpieces that could be a dead ringer for a prop in an Aliens movie.

Olvera is big on slow food so be sure to try the 261-day old mole madre (the mother of mole). Another classic is baby corn steamed delicately in a dainty hollow gourd that’s been lightly coated in a blanket of powders ranging from chilli to coffee to crushed ants.

Nicos Restaurant

A family-run dining establishment located in Colonia Clavería, a working class burb, this diner has been turning out traditional Mexican dishes for 50+ years. What’s great about Nicos is the no-nonsense-doesn’t-take-itself-too-seriously ambiance—but don’t let that fool you. Under a ceiling of fluorescent lights and minus the mariachi bands we’ve all become familiar with at those other not-to-be-named restaurants flanking the all-inclusives along the Mayan Riviera, this one is totally authentic.

I watched a fabulous guacamole stand-off between slow food maestro Chef Gerardo Vazquez Lugo and Canada’s Iron Chef America Rob Feenie. (Both guacs were amazing.) And the night I dined, another Mexican culinary star, Margarita Carrillo, was having dinner. The place is full of surprises, and the dry cream soup Sopa seca de natas, a 19th-century recipe, is yum!

Sud777

The purist chef at Sud777 has worked under the tutelage of Paul Bocuse in Lyon at Le Sud, so undoubtedly Chef Edgar Nunez named his resto as a sweet nod to the grandfather of French gastronomy. (The address is 777.) With out-of-this-world gastronomy in a setting that jumps from the pages of a chi-chi interior design magazine, the whole package is surreal. Start with a gut-purifying beet and rose juice—swirl it around to clean the palette then munch on sea trout with grilled chinampa leaves. Fight over the chilli ash vinaigrette sea scallops with paper-thin twirls of avocado and cucumber.

La Chinampa

Tony loves scouring for fresh ingredients—well, it doesn’t get any fresher than this. Last time Bourdain was in this part of the city of Xochimilco, he sailed in a trajineras down the Aztec-old canals to the Island of Dolls (Isla de Las Munecas). This time I sure hope he hopped aboard Anthony Murad’s boat to suss out his floating gardens of Yolcan, a cool organic farming initiative made to help local farmers grow and sell vegetables to the city’s burgeoning population. The city’s biggest chefs from Sud777 and Pujol hail as customers.