La Rauxa, a much-missed Condesa mini-institution, has re-opened with flying colors.
This outdoors-only upscale comida corrida place, located on a quiet block between Parques México and España, has been through the mill. While chef/artist owner Quim Jardí was trying to make his oh-too-arty pizza joint l’Atelier work, family members tried to keep it going but quality plummeted and it lost its faithful clientele. Well, the chef is back but the only problem is the lack of a name. “Le Fil de la Folie” reads a sign; (“rauxa” means “caprice” in Catalán or folie in French), hence the temporary moniker. But the menu says “Barrio Latino” and the chef thinks the Catalán “compañs” would work. A rose by any other name is still La Rauxa.
Jardí, of Catalan descent, is shy (according to his personable wife and business partner Laura) – that is, until he gets going on the topic of food. His passion about all things culinary started at an early age. His grandmother owned a Catalan restaurant here in Mexico, and he would hang out there as a child soaking up the ambiance of the kitchen. Later, after living in Barcelona learning every aspect of its culinary traditions, he returned to Mexico. Plans to write about gastronomy did not fully satisfy his creative urge, so when a restaurant space in the Condesa became available, it was Laura (who also does the books – “I’m the practical one”) who told him to “stop talking and just do it”, as she explained to me with a giggle. The lease for La Rauxa, was signed on a Wednesday and the restaurant was open for business on Monday. That was three years ago. The small operation quickly became a successful venue for the chef’s creative but accessible single option lunch menus. Some things are the same: the ‘formule’ is still fixed at $69 pesos ($99 with a glass of more than decent wine). But the program has changed. Dishes are, for the most part, eclectic Mexican based on regional traditions but with a creative touch. A set menu with a handful of offerings remains in place while “capricious” daily specials are supplemented from time to time. On a recent visit we sampled a staple soup of Jardí’s invention: black bean with yellow mole is creamy, lightly spiced – tantalizing, tangy, tart and tasteful. A “filete de pescado al pastor” turns out to be a deconstruction of the Day Effay classic taco: a solid white fish filet is broiled under a shmeer of ‘pastor’ spices and blanketed in a creamy pineapple sauce – a simple, well executed idea that works. Or choose a beef filet sliced Asian –style and bathed in a dark, rich sugar-less mole negro which neither cloys nor smokes. Another house special is the vegetarian tarta de platano, a rich and savory deep-dish pie of plantain served with a little dish of the mole cited above.
Tarta de Platano, a good vegetarian option
Salads, included in the menu, are simple but more than just a few lettuce leaves on a plate: ours included thin shards of herby fennel and mixed leafy greens. Dessert will vary: recently we were served a piece of warm bread pudding like someone (else’s) grandma used to make – sweet, heartwarming and nostalgic. A seldom seen version of horchata made with melon seeds is revived as are other curious 'aguas preparadas'.
With the demise of Margarita Salinas’ promising Casa México and only a handful of more moneyed but less artistically successful “creative Mexican” places around town, the restaurant formerly known as La Rauxa may be on the cutting edge of experimental Mexican cooking. Jardí ruminates, “I would like to invent a dish that becomes a classic, like French onion soup, (or Peach Melba?) something that becomes part of the lexicon after I’m gone.” But he better think of a name first…
El Nuevo Hijo de la Rauxa/Barrio Latino/Compañs
Calle Parras 15 (between Av. Amsterdam and Nuevo Leon) Condesa
Open Monday-Saturday for lunch at 2, open later for tapas and drinks.
Tel. 4754 3908