Mexico DF: Dinner at Rosetta

September 24, 2015

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You know, just walking in the door at Rosetta, that you're in for a wonderful evening. There's something casually elegant about the graceful rooms in this old mansion in the Roma district.  Vines twine up the wall and a sprig of mint graces every jug of water; there's an interesting – and rather feminine – sensibility at work here.

With her delicate but modest beauty, chef Elena Reygadas looks like a Botticelli. The food that emerges from her kitchen has the same qualities. Consider, for example, the understated dish above.  

It looked like a classic risotto. The mussels were plump little pillows, the octopus cooked into remarkable tenderness. The stock was subtle, but filled with flavor. But what stopped me cold was the texture; I took a bite and it was the most perfectly al dente…. what?  Not rice, surely, too crisp for that. Some new grain, perhaps, I've never before encountered? I took one bite, then another, fascinated by every bite and absolutely unable to identify the grain.  And little wonder: This crisp, delicious and delicate substance turned out to be celery root. 

The chef worked with Giorgio Locatelli in London, which explains the Italian influence; she makes gorgeous ravioli, her pasta as delicate as flower petals.  But in her heart she never forgets where she is from; Mexico is never very far away. The first course?  Beetles, perched on nasturtiums and kale.

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It's typical, I think, that the chef made them look so pretty.  Typical too, that they had an appealingly meaty taste – slightly smokey, a bit crisp, with an appealing snap.  Close your eyes and you'll swear you're eating delicious little bits of fried beef.

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The beetles were paired with grasshoppers, cooked into crunchy little crackers.

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Next came oysters; my photograph is fuzzy, but even in focus they looked like orchids painted by Georgia O'Keefe. 

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Carpaccio of sapote: slightly tanic, refreshing, surprising.

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Corn, airily disguised as quenelles.IMG_6521

Lechon – so crisp, so sweet, so seductive.

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Hiding behind this soft, sweet cloud is a scoop of ice cream. 

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 I've been so impressed by the food I've eaten in Mexico City.  There's great ambition here, and from the classic (the fabulous, fifty year old Nico's) to the new classic (Pujol) and the Japanese-inflected (Quintonil), I haven't had a single dish I wouldn't happily eat again. But Rosetta stands apart for the sheer pleasure of the place; this is a restaurant you come to when you want to relax and simply put yourself into the hands of a talented chef.

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