When Mexico Cooks! is looking for a traditional old-style Morelia comida corrida (soup-to-nuts main meal of the day, usually inexpensive), we often head to Restaurante Los Comensales, on Calle Zaragoza in the Centro Histórico. A Morelia tradition since 1980, Los Comensales (the name means 'the diners') satisfies its clients' hunger very well, and in a genteel, old-fashioned way.
A small plate of verduras en escabeche (pickled vegetables) is the first dish to arrive at our table. This little plate holds carrots, cauliflower, green beans, chayote, and onions--along with a bay leaf or two and a sprig of oregano.
The lovely terraza and dining rooms at Los Comensales are filled with memories of days gone by. Photographs of the founders--Señora Aguirre has survived her husband by many years--are scattered on the walls. He was a bullfight aficionado; she was a great home cook, specializing in the broad gamut of Michoacán comida casera (home cooking). In 19th and 20th Century Mexico, French and Spanish cuisine were the sought-after flavors when Mexicans dined out in style. Mexican cooking was considered second-class at best. Nevertheless, Sra. Aguirre and her husband decided to feature typical Michoacán cuisine when they opened Los Comensales in their own home in early 1980.
You'll have a choice between at least two soups-of-the-day. The last time Mexico Cooks! enjoyed comida at Los Comensales, the choices were between caldo tlalpeño made with a touch of chile chipotle (pictured above) and crema de zanahoria (cream of carrot). We've also loved the delicious leek, mushroom, and potato soup and the simple consomé de pollo (chicken consomme).
Los Comensales was the first private home in Morelia to be converted into a restaurant. It immediately became a great success. In 1989, the pair opened a second downtown Morelia restaurant. Las Viandas de San José (The Foods of Saint Joseph), located directly in front of Morelia's Templo San José, was in the same style as Los Comensales: the rich and varied cuisine of the couple's beloved home state, Michoacán.
This tortita de calabacita was a tremendous hit, fresh and delicious in its pool of caldillo (thin tomato sauce). We chose it from the sopas section of the comida corrida menu. Other choices were spaghetti in cream sauce or standard Mexican red rice with diced vegetables.
Mexican sopas are divided into two classes: sopa aguada (wet soup) and sopa seca (dry soup).
Sopa aguada is divided into two further categories: caldos and cremas. Caldos are clear broths, usually with other ingredients like vegetables and meat. Cremas are cream soups; the different possibilities are endless.
Sopa seca includes dishes such as pastas, rice, and vegetable tortitas--like the tortitas de calabacita shown above. These are easy to prepare and absolutely delicious.
Tortitas de Calabacita (Little Zucchini Fritters)
6 small calabacitas (or zucchini), no more than 3" long
6 1/4" thick slices mild white cheese (queso fresco, if possible)
2 eggs, separated
Vegetable oil for frying
Slice the calabacitas in half, lengthwise. Place one slice of cheese between the slices of each calabacita. Hold the slices of calabacita and cheese together with toothpicks. Dredge each calabacita with salted flour.
Beat the egg whites until stiff. Beat the egg yolks until thick and pale lemon in color. Gently fold the yolks into the whites.
Heat oil in a frying pan until hot but not smoking.
Coat the floured calabacitas in the egg batter and fry until golden brown. Serve bathed with caldillo.
Caldillo (thin tomato sauce)
4 or 5 red-ripe Roma tomatoes
1/2 small white onion
Sea salt to taste
Bring a small pot of water to a full rolling boil. Add the tomatoes and boil till the skins split--just a couple of minutes. Remove tomato peels.
Place the peeled tomatoes and the onion in a blender. Add a very small amount of chicken broth and blend until smooth.
In a frying pan, fry the sauce for about five minutes. Add chicken broth until you have a very thin sauce. Add a sprig of fresh oregano and salt to taste. Cook for another five minutes and remove the oregano. Serves 6 as a side dish.
Los Comensales also has an a la carte menu, but it hasn't really tempted us. The daily comida corrida offers such a big variety of dishes that we've always chosen our meal from that menu.
The last time Mexico Cooks! dined at Los Comensales, our comida corrida was exactly what's pictured here. The total cost for the three of us was $300 pesos; each comida corrida was $60 pesos, plus the addition of our order of a large jarra (pitcher) of naranjada (orangeade, made with freshly squeezed orange juice and sparkling water)--and the tip is included in the cost.
Los Comensales is open for desayuno (breakfast) and comida every day except Wednesday. If you're visiting Morelia, be sure to stop in for a lovely treat. You'll feel as if you're part of Morelia's culinary history.
Restaurante Los Comensales
Calle Ignacio Zaragoza #148
Morelia, Michoacán, México
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