As I entered into the shotgun dining room of Limoneros in the center of Mexico City, my eyes floated up to the 20 foot ceiling and then back down the rustic exposed rock walls. At the back of the room, the space terminated in a warmly lit bar where the servers convened. I felt immediately at home.
The Limosneros dining room.
A little poking around on the web had uncovered the unique history of the space. Those roughly mortared rocks have stood aligned for 400 years, a gift from the townspeople to the Catholic Church. Though they once absorbed untold horrors as a psychiatric hospital, no signs of malfeasance remain. Instead, owner Juan Pablo Ballesteros, great-grandson of the creator of the Mexico City’s iconic Café Tacuba, offers a space that lulls you in, piques your interest and then places you safely into the skilled hands of Argentinian Chef Marcos Fulcheri and Mexican Chef Carlo Meléndez.
When asked, I opted for the Spanish menu. This is a pivotal moment in my dining. To forego English often ensures a more authentic experience, more elegant descriptions, and the best possible service. I ordered a mezcal Tobalá while I perused the multi-variate tasting menu—like a culinary choose your own adventure.
My adventure played out like this:
To start, escamoles (ant eggs) encased in a sealed glass jar on a bed of ayocote beans tinged with epazote. Upon opening, a waft of wood smoke escaped foreshadowing the perfectly-accented, but still delicate taste of the ant eggs.
Escamoles (ant eggs)
Next, a lechon (suckling pig) taco arrived as a juicy mound still toasting on a hot stone pedestal. There was no chile heat in this succulent yet mild treat but, the roasted chapulines (grasshoppers) offered a satisfying crunch.
Taco de lechon (suckling pig).
Next up was a quelites (wild greens) soup that offered a glimpse into the Mexican love affair with fragrant greens. In this case, quintonil, verdolagas, and chipilin created a thick soup with intense flavor. But, the treat for me was seeing chochoyotes in action. Little blue corn dumplings, with their requisite dimple, bathed in the herbacous broth offering a change in texture and taste.
A soup of quelites (wild greens) with blue corn dumplings.
I replenished my gourd with a mezcal espadin just as the grilled octopus reached the table. Such an artful presentation of favorite ingredients, surely there would be love. But alas, it was not entirely meant to be. The tentacle was a challenge for my table knife so I focused on the tasty tinto made with cebolla negra (black onion) and peas. Unfortunately, the bright green pearls were denied the chance to sweeten and shine by the heavily salted sauce. An unexpected hero, the trio of cherry tomatoes—more flavorful than should be possible—were my favorite part of this dish.
Lastly, a more than ample serving of pork ribs cooked in a spicy sauce of mezcal and chile morita arrived. I delighted in the crispy branch of huauzontle—yet another native wild green. Nestled in a bed of creamy alubias (white beans) was a tangy mix of pickled vegetables or encurtidos, including xoconostle or prickly pear. This relish perfectly unified the smokey spice of the ribs with the simple flavor of the bean. Balance accomplished!
Slow cooked port ribs.
As usual, I caused a stir when I asked to forego dessert. But, without missing a beat my server offered a cocktail instead. Gratefully, I chose a carajillo, a shaken mix of espresso and Licor 43. While I sipped, I watched the swarm of well-trained servers. They performed as single being who shape-shifted into a new face with each trip to a table. No less than 20 eyes maintained surveillance on each table’s progress and relayed the details back to the kitchen. The result was an efficiently-timed meal with very little downtime and yet no semblance of being rushed.
Just as I thought I was done, the head of house approached with a snifter of crystal clear liquor and a small plate of apple slices and chile salts. The Sotol, the boozy Northern cousin of tequila and mezcal, was a delicious and unexpected gift from the kitchen. Moments later, the very gracious Chef Carlo Meléndez emerged from the kitchen for a chat. A perfect end to a very memorable dining experience.
Gifted Sotol from the kitchen.
(Irrelevant but surely interesting to my American readers, this meal cost slightly more than $50 USD.)
POST SCRIPT: Since this review was written there has been a shift in the kitchen. Limosneros is now in the capable hands of Chef Atzin Eduardo Santos. I look forward to a return visit.