Organic Black Tea from India
Flammekeuche with Onion and Botarga
Octopus in Peanut Sauce ‘Tostaditas’
Smoked Wagyu Beef Tartare from Durango and Seeds Tabule
Bread and Butter
Macaroni, Organic Bacon and Oaxaca Chilis
Creamy Polenta, Huitlacoche, Baby Corn and Mushrooms
Soft Shelled Crab Rice, Crab ‘Brains,’ Shrimp and Vegetables
Sheep Cheese, Strawberry Jam and Caramelized Almonds
Lime Sorbet, Coconut Dulce de Leche, Mandarin
Recently reinvented as a boutique hotel intended to woo tourists, it’s design clearly the work of a consulting firm as an impractically narrow acrylic pool is flanked by interior design details invoking an urban-chic feel encompassing everything from ornate reading nooks to high-contrast artistic flourishes, Cuauhtemoc’s Hotel Carlota went one step further in its rebranding by hiring Pujol-alumni Joaquin Cardoso and Sofia Cortina to head up its restaurant, the kitchen plainly visible from the street below with an upstairs dining space freely flowing from indoors to al fresco overlooking the pool and patio.
Selected for one last meal in Mexico City as a result of location and expectations based on the Chef’s pedigree, an impressive resume including not only the time with Enrique Olevra but also stints alongside names like Jean Francois Piege and Inaki Aizpitarte in France, it was just past 7:00pm that two diners approached the dimly-lit restaurant with limited signage, a hostess checking the reservation book before leading guests past a kitchen that still seemed to be cleaning up from prior service, an odd thing to see given the time…as too was the seating area that stood completely empty.
Acknowledging that the restaurant is indeed a little new, though certainly not so much that one would anticipate a Saturday night during prime-time to be silent in a place with at least one-hundred seats, it was with light music playing above plus a family splashing in the pool below that bottled water as well as Iced Tea was poured as a lengthy menu was perused, both it and the service available in Spanish or in English, the plates ranging from those seen throughout Mexico’s Fine-Dining environs to ideas seemingly meant to entice hotel guests with palates that are more difficult to please.
Unfortunately un-wowed by the description of any single plate, everything assuredly made from good ingredients but undersold by the menu and a service staff that seemed appropriately bored and unwilling to get fired up for just one table, it was with a request for items to be rolled out slowly that a total of six savories plus two desserts were requested, an opening volley of Flammekeuche replacing the traditional Bacon with shaved Botarga and Onions atop Crème Fraiche and Micro-greens, the flavor not far off from the Alsatian classic and without a doubt the evening’s best plate.
Eventually seeing four more diners arrive just past 7:30pm, the two couples apparently part of a larger group that had decided to go elsewhere clearly frustrated with the Restaurant’s refusal to serve them a pre-designated menu despite the fact that the kitchen was clearly not busy, it was after a lengthy delay that Chef Cardoso’s take on Octopus Tostadas arrived with Peanut Sauce and big globs of Avocado Mousse, the idea seemingly borrowed from a Thai cookbook while both the Wagyu Tartare overwhelmed with Grains and the flavorless Bread served next to it made one wonder just what sort of client the restaurant is hoping to entertain.
At this point feeling a bit of regret for not going elsewhere, still just two tables filled as the clock ticked past 8:30pm, the poor showing continued by way of a large bowl of Macaroni topped in briny Bacon that unfortunately found itself lost in a combination of cooked Chilis and raw Red Onions, the smooth Polenta made fragrant by Huitlacoche offering a brief glimpse of what the kitchen can do when they are at their best, the crunchy ears of Corn adding a nice contrast though the plate probably could have done without the Mushrooms.
Finishing strong with a sharable bowl of Fried Rice, the fried bits of meat juxtaposing tender Grains prepared by cooking them down with Shell-stock and the Crustacean’s entrails beneath snappy Beans and two grilled Prawns, desserts at Hotel Carlota seem fairly simple for a place touting the talents of a Chef trained by Olevra and Pierre Herme, two Fruit Tarts and a Passion Fruit Vacherin passed over in favor of the funky Cheese Plate topped in candied Nuts and Strawberry Jam plus a sweet Pudding that was later revealed to be Vegan topped in Lime Sorbet.