Several months ago, a close friend, a chef from Morelia, invited me to dine at Restaurante Dulce Patria. She wanted to introduce me to her friend, the restaurant's chef/owner Martha Ortiz. The restaurant, in the upscale heart of Mexico City's Colonia Polanco, had been open for a bit over a year and frankly, I had avoided going. I had heard so much hype about the space itself, about the chef, and about the wonders of the food and presentations--how true could it all be? Those of you who are faithful Mexico Cooks! readers know that I have occasionally been guilty of what I call contempt prior to investigation; my long avoidance of Dulce Patria wasn't quite that, but it was related to that thought: I just didn't want to be disappointed after hearing and reading so much deferential bowing and scraping about the restaurant's excellence.
Diners seated in a front window of the upstairs dining room at Dulce Patria. Photos by Mexico Cooks! unless otherwise noted.
That first visit to Dulce Patria left me wanting more: more of the ambiance, which is stellar; a better chance to read the menu, which is celestial; and more opportunities to taste various heavenly and completely Mexican platillos (dishes) as prepared and presented by the Dulce Patria kitchen.
My beloved wife would rather have a tequila than a mixed drink before comida (Mexico's midday main meal). Her tequila reposado is on the far right of the photo; the chasers are, right to left, (red) house-made traditional sangrita with finely diced pineapple and a jícama swizzle; (pale green) tomate verde (tomatillo) with minced jícama; and (wine-color) beet with finely diced cucumber. She liked the traditional sangrita best; she let me taste them all and I preferred the beet.
Mexico Cooks! was seduced by a powerful craving for this raspado sentimental de grosela y limón con mezcal (a frozen concoction of red current, lemon, and mezcal). The drink was delicious, although sweet enough for dessert instead of a pre-comida cocktail. The large red menu is Dulce Patria's standard, while the small black menu contains the special offerings of the month. Both menus are written in Spanish and English.
In 2002, Chef Martha Ortiz opened Restaurante Áquila y Sol in Mexico City. Águila y Sol (the name means "Eagle and Sun" and refers to the two faces of a Mexican coin) became the favorite destination for diners crazy for alta cocina mexicana (Mexican haute cuisine). The restaurant was one of the first of that genre, was wildly praised, and was always packed with food-savvy foreign tourists and power-lunching Mexicans. For reasons beyond Chef Martha's control, the restaurant closed after several enormously successful years. Mexico City's high-flying foodistas were bereft and were left to console themselves with what they considered to be dimmer stars in the food firmaments.
Salad of crisp baby arugula with cabuches (cactus flower buds) and a shard of crunchy, seedy violet brittle. The salad's vinaigrette is made with peanuts and a whisper of chile morita. The small morita is a cousin of the chile chipotle and gives just a hint of that chile's same smoky flavor to the salad dressing.
A goodly part of the enormous success of Dulce Patria rests in the essence of the feminine, in the tremendous sensuality of not only the restaurant's ambiance but also the highly stylized presentations of what's in your glass and on your plate. Those, plus the intense attention to every detail of every diner's individual Dulce Patria experience, create the unique sensation of having left the world behind and entered into a magic realm of a heightened reality designed just for you by the chef. Did we like it? No. We loved it, and so will you.
Tacos de chilorio, served over shredded lettuce with papaloquelite, a traditional herbal accompaniment for Mexico City-style tacos. Chilorio is shredded, seasoned pork, in this instance used to fill tacos.
The four assorted salsas for the tacos de chilorio. The salsas ranged from the mild green (far right) to the hotter-than-the-hinges-of-hell dusky black (far left). Each salsa was delicious; my particular favorite was that hellishly hot one.
This entrée plate is composed of (left to right in the photo) refried black beans in a little deep-fried totopo (tortilla chip) bowl, a puddle of mole manchamanteles, four enchiladas de manchamanteles topped with a swirl of crema de mesa (table cream), pickled red onion, flowers of queso fresco (fresh cheese) and a small bowl of green salad. The added garnish--on the thin stick--is a little green squash star, a carrot flower, and a cube of beet. Not only is the presentation exquisite, but look at the detail (just click the photo to enlarge it): a heaping spoonful of beans on the rectangular plate keeps the totopo bowl from tipping or sliding, and under the salad bowl is a tiny round of banana leaf for traction to keep the bowl in place.
What can I say? This deep-red plate holds a tamal de frijol (bean tamal, foreground), a dish of marvelous salsa, two impeccable wedges of limón con chile (Mexican lime dusted with powdered chile), and a huge flower that hides a perfectly prepared portion of pescado zarandeado (marinated, grilled fish). Look again at that flower: it's a chile ancho, split into four petals and fried. I threatened to wear it behind my ear.
A whimsical post-dessert offering of house-made typical Mexican sweets: sweetened tamarind pulp with chile, glorias (burned milk candy with nuts), and more. Some tables received their candies in small toy trucks, some were arrayed on miniature painted wood trasteros (dish shelves). Ours were presented on a tray at the base of a spinning wooden airplane toy.
Among her many accomplishments, Chef Martha Ortiz has co-authored eight award-winning books and has participated in numerous international culinary events as well as similar events here in Mexico. She has dedicated her professional life to bringing Mexican cuisine to the forefront of the finest culinary traditions in the world. As a passionate and creative chef, she maintains the highest respect for Mexico's historic traditions. Her goal is to transmit "amor a lo propio"--love for what is our own--through a complete sensorial experience of the flavours, colours, textures and aromas of Mexican gastronomy.
Mexico Cooks! has eaten literally thousands of meals in Mexico's far-flung restaurants, ranging from Tijuana in the far north to Chiapas, the southern border state, and everywhere from the humblest choza (hut) to the most elegant of dining rooms. I was never privileged to enjoy the delights of Águila y Sol, but I cannot imagine that the experience would have surpassed that of our meal at Dulce Patria. If you live in Mexico City, if you travel here from within the country or from a foreign land, put a meal at Dulce Patria at the top of your list of must-experience culinary pleasures. From the time you walk through the front door until the time you leave with a little box of gift sweets in your hand, you will be in enchanted territory that will make you want to leave a trail of violet-scented breadcrumbs to facilitate your return.
Restaurante Dulce Patria
Calle Anatole France #100 (near the corner of Pres. Masaryk)
Tel. 3300-3999 (Cellular)
Reservations strongly recommended
Hours: Sunday 1:30PM to 5:30PM
Monday through Saturday 1:30PM to 11:30PM
Average cost per person: $600 pesos and up plus beverages
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