Supper at Martha Ortiz’s Dulce Patria restaurant turned out to be not only a landmark event in my Mexico City trip but also a spiritual experience. By the time I arrived at this culinary palace, I was already getting used to being late for everything. In this city, people talk lots about traffic circulation but most of the time, the cars seem to be stationary and pointing all over the place. The traffic though, when it moves, is like everything in this country – quite an experience.
The outside of Dulce Patria, resembles trendy restaurants in London’s West End. It’s part of the beautiful Las Alcobas boutique hotel. Inside, it is reminiscent of a hacienda – it feels like another world. Glamorous-looking people lean towards one another across the tables. Attention to detail is the order of the day here, like starfruit slices in the water, edible flowers everywhere and tables adorned with beautiful local handicrafts.
The food was both eye-catching and mouth-watering but the jewel in the crown in this restaurant is the chef herself, Martha Ortiz. Intelligent and beautiful, this purveyor of modern Mexican food is without doubt a star. Mexican food, she says, is “feminine, as seduction and passion are at the heart of a good meal.” We talked of the movie based on the book Like Water For Chocolate, written by her friend, Mexican writer Laura Esquivel. In the story, the central character, Tita, can only express herself when she is cooking. Martha and Laura have just written a book together featuring Mexican women and their recipes for life.
Martha has a theory about Mexican cuisine. She believes yin and yang energy work together. Mexicans, she believes, are introverted and thoughtful yet their food is sensual and feminine. At this point, my mezcal cocktail arrived. Certainly it seemed to have feminine qualities – sweet and adorned with jewel-like pomegranate seeds.
The food here was certainly a stunning mixture of tastes, almost exploding in the mouth. I have tasted great guacamole in Mexico but here the nationalistic guacamole included ricotta cheese and pomegranate – a great combination.
Quesadillas came next – a mixture of nutty and spicy tastes and a great collections of colours. The cheese and epazote version was fantastic. The herb is widely used in Latin America and tastes a bit like a combination of mint and tarragon. Another quesadilla filling was squash blossom and pine nut. I really fell in love with courgette blooms in Mexico. Great too was the combination of goats cheese and huitlacoche – a kind of fungus that grows on corn.
I asked Martha what is her favourite food in Mexico, and indeed in the world. Her answer to both questions was “mole negro.” This is a sauce from Oaxhaca and is basically a mixture of black chillies, spices and chocolate. She loves it because it has the “sensuality of a velvet dark night.” I had mole negro with duck, served with corn-flavoured wild rice and topped with a plume of banana. It was amazing – and the presentation was stunning. The sweets too were wonderful, especially the cornbread in a mystical chamomile flower sauce.
Dining at Dulce Patria is a luxurious experience – not only is it a gastronomic celebration of Mexico but it’s also a spiritual experience, creating pleasant, lasting memories. Maybe Britain is going through a love affair with Mexican food but how many have tasted top-end Mexican gastronomy? Marta Ortiz – please open in London too!
My Dinner At Dulce Patria
Nationalistic guacamole with requesón and pomegranate
Multicoloured quesadillas with sultana salsa (cheese and epazote, squash blossoms and pine nuts, beef machaca and melted cheese, and huitlacoche with goat cheese)
Game of pork crackling marbles with raw green salsa
Shrimp and scallops aguachile with cucumber, green mango and well salt
Ajochile seabass with tender hoja santa tamal and fresh purslane
Duck in mole negro with banana plume, served with corn-flavored rice
Cornbread in a mystical chamomile flower sauce with caramel aureole
Finally, the rain that douses fire: charred maize and offering cacao ice-cream