Thursday, June 21, 2007

Review: Contramar, Condesa neighborhood of Mexico City

During our recent trip to Mexico City, we had the pleasure of dining with our lovely friend Kasia at Contramar, which has been widely touted as one of the best in D.F. Since the restaurant serves only the freshest food, their operating hours are from 1:00- 6:00 PM. We took a taxi to the restaurant and arrived a bit early to find the staff having their daily, pre-opening meeting. After a short wait, we were allowed into the wide open and well-lit space. I was excited!!!

Contramar specializes in seafood, and has a large menu featuring everything from octopus to ahi. Kasia recommended that we start with the ahi tostadas (a favorite of her husband's who unfortunately was here in Los Angeles and couldn't join us). We then asked the waiter to recommend the other dishes and in the end we ordered the tostadas, ceviche, the pescado al pastor tacos, grilled marlin and some octopus in a chile sauce (hey- we wanted to try a lot!). An array of accoutrement were set on the table- some pickled onions, sliced chiles and a bread basket- and we were on our way to a Contramar meal!

First up- the ahi tostadas. They were everything Kasia had described- fresh ahi marinated in what seemed to be a light soy dressing and layered on a crispy tortilla topped with avocado and aioli. Similar in flavor to an ahi poki that you'd find at most sushi bars in Los Angeles, it was the perfect way to get our appetites going. The ceviche was also very fresh and light, which thin slices of yellow and red bell pepper perched atop tender, just-cooked (in lime juice) white fish. I noticed that it wasn't too tart, like a lot of ceviches tend to be.

When the marlin was brought out, I was dismayed to find it topped with my arch nemesis- the BLACK OLIVE! Eek! The fish looked so lovely, however, that I couldn't resist taking a bite as it was, and resisted the urge to scrape every single offending black sliver. It was actually pretty good and the olives didn't overpower the flavor of the marlin. I didn't dig into with the fever that Kasia and J did, but I did enjoy it quite a bit. My eyes were drawn away, however, when the tacos appeared. They looked like the cochinita pibil or al pastor tacos I'd seen here in Los Angeles- a mass of shredded meat reddened by sauce, topped with marinated red onions. However, the "meat" here was made of fish, and in the following days in Mexico I'd discover that this dish existed in many restaurants throughout Mexico City and Zihuatanejo. We all loved it, and J and I vowed that we'd search high and low for this dish upon our return to Los Angeles.

The true show stopper came in the form of the octopus. It was a simple-looking plate of octopus chunks covered in a red sauce, but once we took a bite, we were wowed by the complexity of its flavor and the extreme tenderness of the meat. WOW. It had the texture of pillows (not that I eat pillows) and was just spectacular.

We probably should have ended the meal with that dish but we couldn't resist ordering some raw oysters. They appeared in all their glistening, brined glory but the minute I slid one down the hatch, I was overwhelmed with the fishiness factor. They were also room temperature, which isn't really how I like my oysters. J, like a trooper, ate four of them, and we both think they were the cause of some unpleasantness later on......a bit for me, a lot for poor J. I think we'll skip the little suckers next time.

The dessert tray that the waiter brought out had a beautiful mound of fresh lychees, various cheesecakes (including a Nutella one!) and a couple types of flan, but we were too stuffed to indulge. Kasia ordered an espresso and I got a coffee, and we finally ended our seafood fest.

After lunch, we took a walk around her neighborhood, where we couldn't resist getting some freshly made sorbet from the local stand (did I say we were stuffed? naw....!). Most of the ices were made without dairy and there were so many flavors I couldn't decide what to get! I finally settled on a scoop of elote (corn) and one of passion fruit while J got strawberry and lime. The corn one was slightly sweet and creamy but the passion fruit blew my socks off- so tart and delicious with the crunchy seeds still in it. YUM. J loved his lime ice as well.

Our Mexico adventures will continue with another post coming soon!!!!!!!!!!

Avenida Durango 200Mexico City, TX 06700 Mexico
+52 55 5514 9217 / +52 55 5514 3169


Anonymous said...

Awesome review. I wish I could be there. Any guess what was the seasoning in the octopus dish ?

foodette said...

Amazing pictures - I love reading your blog. I wanted to let you know that I tagged you on a fun meme - hope you play along!

Anonymous said...

If you are still in Mexico City, I highly recommend visiting CASA MERLOS. It's not a hip place (beautiful old Mexican house though), it's not in the msot central location (calle Emiliano Zepeda, near Observatorio), but the food is to die for. (I am a Mexican foodie, originally from Mexico, but no longer living in Mexico). It's typical cuisine from central Mexico, mostly Puebla. Totally unassuming, but very high quality. Think about how Mexicans cooked in the early 20th century. Moles to die for. Portions are smallish (by American standards), which I find great, since then one can sample many different dishes.