The world is full of prejudice. One of them is, especially in Europe, that ‘Mexican food is all the same.’ It’s a sentence that gets 114,000 Google hits…
Mexican cuisine has always been a diverse experience, due to its different regions and cultures in this big country. And, for several years, chefs in Oaxaca or Mexico City or Los Angeles have been pushing the borders—adding a gourmet flourish to traditional recipes. Paco Mendes from the Distrito Federal (Mexico City) is one of these creative chefs. After working in the legendary El Bulli he fortunately stayed in Europe. He teamed up with Albert Adriá to open a duo of restaurants in Barcelona in 2014. Both locations share the same entrance, Niño Viejo is the more traditional brother while Hoja Santa stands a for a sophisticated approach towards Mexican cuisine. It took us weeks to get a reservation for Hoja Santa.
First impression: the guest room has light colours, barely any ethnic decoration, the materials are natural and the tables are covered with black tiles—without white linen. Similarly easy and relaxed is the service—we immediately liked that the place is missing the old school heaviness of a Michelin star restaurant (1 star since 2016).
The house margarita points the way towards the food—fine ingredients meet a subtle use of herbs, all constructed carefully by the experienced team.
We loved the tapas approach: most of the menu points came in small tasting portions. All of our little starters were excellent, but most surprising was a deconstructed version of the well known Cesar salad, which featured a clear fluid full of umami on crunchy layers of chicken skin.
It’s this use of uncommon ingredients made dinner so delightful. Where else in Europe could you get a perfect guacamole with sea urchin?
Another one for the connoisseurs was the pistachio infused sea cucumber. And the green peas with tongue and white recede—pure perfection.
Our menue was accomplished by a very drinkable Ferdi Torres Classic from Priorat—which was sold for 27 Euros. Fair, like the whole menu, this high-end food experience did not cost more than 150 Euros including all our drinks. Breaking prejudice was never more fun!
photos: Uwe Hasenfuss, Courtesy