Merotoro: The Mexican Pacific Reinterpreted in La Condesa
By Carlos Dragonné y Elsie Méndez
In this search for Mexican flavors in the city -which is, in itself, a risk- there are days when the adventure can surprise you with a totally satisfying experience in lands that you thought were impossible to explore. That’s what happened to me in Merotoro, a restaurant where Chef Jair Téllez invited us to discover a vision of contemporary Mexican cuisine that defines him. Even though when asked about how he would define his kitchen, he still does not have a clear answer.
Before we begin the tasting that the chef had prepared for us, our conversation with Jair helped us understand what we were about to experience. He was born in Sonora, but having lived in Tijuana since he was 2 years old, the border town has claim over his heart. Before anything, Jair is an anthropologist, allowing his dishes to have respect for tradition. There is an apparent historical knowledge about the ingredients and recipes that originate from Mexican culture. He is a little shy, relaxed, and has missed the vices of prominence that is often present among the chefs in the city. Jair talks about how he originally sought to offer real Mexican cuisine in Tijuana, which led him to create his first restaurant, Laja. This first project ended up being his inspiration to bring the flavors he had developed to Mexico City.
We began with a martini tasting, and the Lychee Martini turned out to be the best of all and undoubtedly a new protagonist on my list of favorite drinks. It was prepared with crushed lychee, cucumber and a few drops of lime. The house mixologist’s special touch gave justice to the delicate flavor of the lychee and achieved the perfect balance so that the alcohol did not overpower the flavor.
I must mention that I have never been a fan of presentations that transform Mexican cuisine into novel Cuisine or fusion cuisine. I believe that the abundance of leaves and foliage in traditional dishes is a fundamental element that defines the Mexican cuisine. However, here at Merotoro, I would experience the first moment when my impressions would be modified– I was immediately conquered by the way the dishes were presented.
The first dish we explored on the Merotoro menu was the Callo de Hacha con Pepino, Manzana, Limón, Pistache y Chamoy Crujiente (“Tripe with Cucumber, Apple, Lime, Pistachio and Crunchy Chamoy”). The marinade with which El Callo (“the tripe”) is prepared gives it a balanced flavor that dazzles in the mouth. From that moment on, it seemed like Chef Jair took on the personal challenge of showing me dishes that I would normally not think even give a second thought.
Of all the opportunities I have had to try Gazpacho, the reality is that I have never been convinced that it is a dish for my taste. On this occasion, as soon as it arrived at the table, something in the dish caught my attention and almost without realizing it, I decided to taste a spoonful and discover the flavor that has presented itself to me. Needless to say, it was a good decision. While it originates from the Spanish recipe, this Gazpacho de Jitomate y Sandia con Camarón a la Parrilla y Aguacate (“Tomato and Watermelon Gazpacho with Shrimp and Grilled Avocado”) redefined my conception of the classic Iberian dish. This reinterpreted and Mexicanized Gazpacho from the Merotoro kitchen made me consider asking for a second portion of gazpacho for the first time in my life.
With a cuisine based the ingredients from the Gulf of Baja California, a Pulpo Asado con Vegetales en Escabeche, Salicornia y Rajas (“Roasted Octopus with Pickled Vegetables, Salicornia, and Cactus”) arrived at our table. The star of the dish was the consistency of the octopus, as few chefs dominate the delicate and complicated cooking point of this mollusk.
Then came the next big surprise to my palate. A Lomo de Extraviado a la Parrilla con Jitomates, Pimientos y Ajo Tierno (“White Fish Fillet with Tomatoes, Peppers, and Tender Garlic”) was place at the center of the table and it was a surprise for several reasons– first, my body has always rejected peppers, and I knew that it had peppers in it after I asked what they used as a base for this white fish that was cooked to perfection. I must confess, I am usually criticized for never trying, even by mistake, the skin of a fish. But my companion was so insistent that I ended up giving in to the pressure and, of course, I thanked him for it. It intensity of the flavor and the crunchy texture, defined by how well it was cooked, made my guest nearly regret his decision because I practically ate all of the pieces left with skin on them until the plate was empty.
A spectacular meal accompanied by a semi-dry white wine from Casa de Piedra could not end with a flourish without the dessert that will be the delight of anyone who enters the door of Merotoro. A Pastelito de Almendra con Salsa de Chocolate y Avellana (“Almond Cake with Chocolate and Hazelnut Sauce”) was beautifully presented to us, accompanied by Plátano Caramelizado y Helado de Crème brûlée (“Caramelized Banana with Creme Brulee Ice Cream”). The later is my absolute favorite dessert and seeing as it was converted into an ice cream that accompanies the main dessert was the perfect ending to an afternoon full of surprises.
Jair Téllez has managed to create an amazing concept of Mexican Cuisine based on the seafood from the Mexican Pacific. He simultaneously honors the significance of the ingredients and the cosmopolitan spirit of Mexico City that is hungry for unique and authentic flavors. This metropolis will undoubtedly have to reciprocate the gesture and honor the Merotoro right back.
Yo me llamaría una “comedora profesional”, hedonista y seguidora fiel de Los Sabores de México no solo en nuestro país, también en otros rincones del mundo donde nuestra cocina tiene un espacio. Viajera y trotamundos siempre en busca de sabores, aromas y colores de otras culturas y países, como representante del educado paladar de los mexicanos, y compartirlo en el sitio web y redes sociales, con el afán de conocer mas del mundo de la gastronomía.