Restaurante Merotoro, Av. Amsterdam 204, Col. Hipódromo Condesa, Mexico City. Photo courtesy El Modo.
Sometimes we human beings wander far from home, looking for what we later discover to have been just around the corner all the time. In our case, we found superb food and generous, attentive service in an attractive room at Restaurante Merotoro, open since 2010 and literally just around the corner from the place we've called home since 2011. Sometimes it seems that Mexico Cooks! is the last to really *get* a completely open secret. It's only taken us these four years to stroll up the street and plunk ourselves down at a Merotoro table.
Chef Jaír Téllez, above, partnered with Gabriela Cámara and her team (of Contramar fame) to bring Merotoro to Mexico City. The restaurant's name refers to mero (the fish known in English as grouper) and, of course, toro--bull. Together the words make a sort of surf 'n' turf, although the only beef dishes on the menu on the day we learned to love Merotoro were oxtail and beef tongue. Photo courtesy Flickr.
The restaurant's charming surf 'n' turf logo.
The menu at Merotoro changes daily. It's divided into four courses, appetizers through desserts, with numerous choices in each. We were five at table, and we five proceeded to order several dishes from each of the first, third, and fourth courses--often one per person and an extra--and we managed to devour every bit without a single regret. Now that I think of it, perhaps we did have one regret: we did not order from the second course choices.
First came the salads:
Ceviche de pez sierra (swordfish) with avocado, chile poblano, and caramelized onions. One of our group ordered this to overlap as both a salad and a main course.
Ensalada de betabel con hinojo, nueces, y vinagreta de uva pasa (beet salad with dill, nuts, and a raisin vinaigrette.
Ensalada tibia de pulpo a la parrilla con salicornia y morcilla hecha en casa (warm grilled octopus salad with salicornia (a succulent also known as grasswort) and house-made blood sausage). Two of us ordered this salad.
Tostadas de callo y pulpo con vinagreta de pata de res (scallop and octopus tostadas with cow's foot vinaigrette).
Ensalada de naranja sanguínea, colinabo, y aceituna negra (salad of blood oranges, turnip, and black olives). This salad, made with an unusual mix of flavors, was placed in the center of our table to share. It was my favorite.
The light, bright, unpretentious offerings at Merotoro are simple, but with a depth of complex flavors that make you sit up straighter at table, make your palate crave another taste (and then another). If it weren't for your upbringing, you'd almost want to lick the juices from your dish, just before a waiter asks if he can take it away.
The main courses followed:
Lengua de res en su jugo con frijoles, aguacate tatemado, y salsa martajada (beef tongue in its own juices with beans, grilled avocado, and coarsely chopped salsa).
Dorado a la parilla con puré de chícharo y condimento de aceituna negra (grilled dorado with puréed peas and a black olive condiment). Two of us also ordered this main course.
My good friend John Sconzo, serious food lover, writer, and photographer, first ate at Merotoro in 2012 and had this to say about it:
"The culinary ideals of Merotoro reflect chef Jaír Téllez’s own varied background. He grew up on the border and spent much time living and cooking in the United States. The cuisine that he applies to Merotoro is one that, like Contramar, relies extensively on good product, served to highlight the attributes of that product. While his dishes were well designed, original and structured, they showed strong influences from Mexican tradition, from the Mediterranean, from California and even from Japan."
Huachinango rostizado con puré de colinabo, nabos, y acelgas (roasted red snapper with a purée of two kinds of turnips and Swiss chard). Although I tasted just a bite of each of the main courses, this is the one I ordered and this is the one I liked best. The crisp, crystal-crunchy skin of the fish was the perfect complement to its extraordinarily flavorful, sweet flesh.
We finished with desserts, of which there were five choices. We ordered one of each item on the sweets menu, asked for five spoons, and lined the desserts up down the center of the table to share. We did, we truly did, and we ate every morsel.
Brownie de chocolate de la Casa Tropical, crema de almendra y helado de hoja santa (Casa Tropical chocolate brownie, almond cream, and hoja santa ice cream).
Plato de queso artesanal mexicano, compotas, y pan de nuez (plate of Mexican artisan-made cheeses, compotes, and nut bread).
Pastelito de almendra con tapioca, helado, y dulce de plátano (a little almond cake with tapioca, ice cream, and candied banana).
Pannacotta de coco y litchi con granizado de Campari y tomate de árbol (coconut and litchi pannacotta with Campari ice and tree tomato, also known as tamarillo). The flavor combination was superb: creamy, tropical sweetness combined with that knife-edge of bitter Campari to make all of our taste buds sit up and take notice.
Granizado de jamaica con sorbete de naranja, mezcal, y sal de gusano (jamaica crushed ice with orange sherbet, mezcal, and maguey worm salt). Let me just say: I coulda had two. Usually I prefer chocolate or creamy desserts, but this glass of sweet, tart, salty, and spicy crushed ice won my prize for best in show.
Word to the wise: make reservations. Merotoro's staff went overboard to accommodate our group even without a reservation, but we certainly should have called ahead. Would I go back? I would--in fact, I already have a reservation!
Between Iztaccíhautl and Chilpancingo
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