Over New Years my wife and I traveled around in Mexico for two weeks. We knew we wanted to celebrate our anniversary in Tulum and finish in Mexico DF and in between we wanted to visit a new city that we had never visited. After a short discussion we settled on Guadalajara because the city looked interesting and not because I wanted to go to a restaurant Quickly quickly uikly following that I booked Alcalde even though I had actually heard very little about it and except that it had made it to the top 20 on the Latin America list, it was only recommended by one chef that I knew which is unusual for a restaurant at that level.
From the outside the restaurant is modest to look at and doesn’t by any way stand out it actually just look like any other bistro or neighborhood restaurant and the same image flows through out the interior of the restaurant which is nice but not in a way that would suggest that it is in fact a restaurant of the highest level. That was only the food that would show.
We off course choose the tasting menu and as we lived in Peru the chef played a dangerous game serving first a leche de tigre and after that a ceviche which are too dishes that Peruvians holds dearly and take pride in.
As the first plate arrived our jaws dropped. On a big white plate was a small leche de tigre with very small pieces of coconut and what I think was daikons on top. It was just just a beautiful presentation that instantly transcended me away from what I thought was a neighborhood restaurant and strait into the top of fine dining. The soup (leche de tigre) had lots of flavors from the fish and great acidity but without the heat that a Peruvian version often has and the daikons provide great balance. What a way to start.
The ceviche was added from the a la crate and was based on raw scallops, green apples, small bitter flowers and a soup of cucumber, more green apples and just a bit of acidity but by no means overwhelming allowing each ingredient. Yet again a dish that I absolutely loved as everything balanced out without going to extremes of the flavor profile which is sometimes seen in ceviches.
The next dish was probably one of the most beautiful dishes I have ever seen. Tiny tiny tomatoes, peas, flowers was served with fresh cheese and a cured egg yoke all with a acidic and fermented juice. Wow did I love this. I loved looking at it and I loved eating it. Insane flavors and balance. Just impressive. I even spent minutes wondering the skills and a sharp sharp knife it would take to cut tomatoes that small without them breaking or looking crushed.
Following this a classic Mexican dish. Ttlayauda but this time with lots of fresh herbs, fresh tuna and chilli. Again another very refreshing dish and a great interpretation of a classic street food dish where it was obvious that the dish has its place in both fine dining and the street food.
At this point, well actually from the very first bite, it was obvious that Francisco is not afraid to and want to modernize the concept of modern Mexican fine dining which he certainly did with next dish. Burrito but instead of being filled with beans it was filled with various vegetables and seaweed and served with fried and powdered kale. Brand new flavors for me and again just high on the deliciousness rating yet again.
The next dish was probably the best dish I have ever had with mole, including the mole madre at Pujol. A mole served with a tamal, chips made from mushroom stock and roasted almonds. When I finished with the dish you needed a microscope to find any evidence that the plate had ever had any food on it. Moles are always complex and difficult to describe as they hold so many flavors so I wont even try, their power and attraction is in exactly that, that its complexity together creates something magic that simply cannot be explained nor does it needs to be explained it just needs to be enjoyed.
If you looked at the description of ingredient for this next dish it could be something served on the street, fried pork on a tortilla with refried beans and crispy pork, but this dish was anything but that. yes it also had a bi. Again it got its flavor not from hot salsas or fatty meat but simply by good ingredients and a chef knowing how to use them right and not afraid to add new ingredients to classic dishes like with the jue here that replaced the regular salsa.
Now I am pretty sure the regular tasting menu would have moved on to the desserts a few dishes ago but everything was so good that we simply pleaded and begged for more food, not that it was needed but just because we didn’t want the meal to end. So to finish the savory dishes was another taco. This time a fish taco with fried capers providing great acidity to the fish. Another great dish showcasing the huge spectrum of flavors used in otherwise classic dishes.
As a small predessert was a local fruit to which name I still cannot pronounce or spell so let’s just call it a Mexican kumquat which was hiding deliciously acidic pickled lemons served with a milipona fermented juice. Refreshing and very delicious.
Our first real dessert was a dedicated to the fruit hibiscus which was served in various textures, fermented, pickled, as an icrecram and as crackers. This was actually the first time I have ever tried the hibiscus flower actually served as a flower and not just as an extract in the form of a tea or similar with an amazing and interesting chewey texture. yet again delicious.
Of course we were to finish at another in style as had been the case throughout the meal. Two different ice creams from cacao and the smalles tamal I have ever had but its size was perfect. Again one of the best cacao dishes I have ever had but at this point that is not really a surprise. Of course to pair the cacao was a Mezcal which again shouldn’t reall be a surprise as I love Mezcal and that the two are an amazing combination.
With this dinner Alcalde was catapulted strait into my personal top 10 of best restaurants I have ever tried. I loved everything about it from start to finish. Francisco is truly redefining modern Mexican cuisine while treating its history with proper respect and at the same time incorporating new flavors and ingredients to classic dishes so it is by no means just a technical modernization. He does all of dish while executing his dishes to perfection when it comes to both flavor and visual presentation. In a tasting menu that tries to push boundaries there are usually one or two dishes that are not to my liking but at Alcalde he Is aimed high and he always hits his target which may actually be the biggest accomplishment. It also doesn’t hurt the experience that Francisco is generally a nice humble chef that works hard with a clear objective and path for everything he does.
The only reason I can find as to why Alcalde has not made its way into the W50B must be its location in Guadalajara and not Mexico DF that is known to attract its fair share of foodies. So on that a practical note. Guadalajara is just a short 1.5 hour and $50 flight away so if you are in Mexico DF grab a morning flight, have lunch at Alcalde and you an be back in Mexico DF at night if that is what you want. It is easily worth the flight also if you are further away then Mexico DF.
Head chef: Francisco Ruano
Menu: tasting menu and a la carte
Prices: Tasting menu less than $200