Flew in on Air Canada, Seattle to Vancouver — six hour layover — to Mexico City. I chose this roundabout route not because it’s cheaper — it’s $30 more, one-way — but because Air Canada is my airline of choice and I wanted to try a Japanese-Italian restaurant in Richmond, BC, Wasatu Pasta, a 10 minute taxi ride from the airport.
I consider Japanese cuisine the best because it uses the widest range of ingredients and cooking methods, and it’s the least wasteful. Shrimp shells and heads, for instance, are appetizers instead of discarded.
Japanese cuisine has always been quick to adopt foreign influences. Katzu, for example, is the Japanese version of Portuguese pork cutlet. Ramen is a Chinese dish that the Japanese improved on and popularized throughout the world.
I ordered the Fettuccini Scallop Uni Cream Sauce Pasta and the Wagyu Beef Carpaccio.
I enjoyed what I had well enough, but I prefer to get Chinese food in downtown Richmond or Japanese food on the West End of Vancouver. Both are accessible by rapid transit from the airport, 18 minutes to downtown Richmond, 30 to downtown Vancouver.
The Uni Fettuccini is good but I’d rather have it (and pasta in general) as an appetizer instead of a main. It was too rich and creamy for me after four bites, it was a burden to finish. Flavor-wise, it’s milder and a hint sweeter than typical alfredo fettuccini. The portion is large enough to be shareable as an appetizer among four people. Same with the carpaccio appetizer. Except for the fish eggs and miso seasoning, the carpaccio wasn’t noticeably different from standard carpaccio I’ve had. Ultimately, I prefer meals served tapas style (small plates) typical at Japanese izakayas — you can create more balanced and interesting meals that way. And I prefer no more than three or four bites of something.
Second visit — read about first one here — this time as a launching pad to visit other cities I might want to move to. Main difference I noticed since my last visit a year ago is that there are more Americans living in the city, more construction (gentrification), and everything is more expensive. Locals blame Americans for driving up the prices. And I’m not surprised many Americans in their 20s who work remotely are moving to Mexico City. You can live an upper-middle class lifestyle here on $50,000/year, which would make you poor in NYC.
Stayed at the highly rated and touted Red Tree House,which is $100 less per day I paid to stay at the Sofitel (French hotel chain) next to the US embassy. Here, you get free breakfast (fruit, yogurt, bread, and daily hot special) and happy hour, this is great for those who want to socialize with other American travelers. (I didn’t). No pool or fitness room, which is fine because I wanted to force myself to learn Spanish by going to a local gym. I didn’t like my room — so small that there’s no room for yoga and the low (7 ft) ceilings made it feel smaller; shower was unpredictable; and the bed felt old and cheap. But people love staying at this place for its charm and service.
Red Tree House is located in Condesa neighborhood, which reminds me Park Slope, Brooklyn. It’s as bougie — yoga, pilates, pole dancing, Belgian restaurants that serve 15 USD waffles, vegan churrios, coffee shops everywhere, lots of dogs getting walked to the dog park — and 20% of its residents seem to be Americans. It’s a pleasant neighborhood, just not interesting to someone trying to take a vacation FROM America and Americans. I was in a restaurant and for awhile, all patrons were Americans. So much English spoken in Condesa makes it difficult to learn Spanish. Also, there isn’t a subway line in the neighborhood.
I spent three nights and days in Mexico City and I had a pinched nerve, so I didn’t venture far. Below are a few videos of Condesa:
Doesn’t that look like Park Slope, Brooklyn? Here’s a shot of Park Slope:
There’s a nice park in the neighborhood with a spacious dog park.
It’s full of restaurants that serve food that look like this:
I don’t recall what that was, I only remember thinking that I was in Park Slope, Brooklyn while eating it because the scene looked and sounded just like it. Below is what I imagine old Condesa looked like, photo I took on this trip:
Patches of Condesa look like this. The building on the right is being renovated and I’m assuming the one on the left will soon be demolished or renovated.
I spent the second day at the Soumaya Museum in Polanco neighborhood, considered the poshest and most prestigious in Mexico. Like homes start at a million so I don’t think many Americans live there. Whereas in Condesa, $250,000 will get you a nice two bedroom. And Polanco looks sterile, though I didn’t explore it thoroughly.
Anyway, Soumaya Museum is iconicfor its architecture and interior design.
Lots of construction in Polanco too. Costco (shown in video) is an upper class brand in Mexico. (Middle to upper-middle in the US). There’s a shopping mall next to the museum I wanted to explore but my leg was hurting so much that I headed back to the hotel. Anyway, the interior of the museum below.
It’s cool looking, but that’s an extravagant use of space. I wonder what the architects and interior designers were thinking. Notice that Rodin’s The Thinker is here? I had no idea, that was a fun surprise!
Back in Condesa, I looked for a traditional taqueria — tacos and beer. Not many of them left in the neighborhood and oddly, there’s not a lot of street food. I finally found one, and it was 2-1 taco pastors.
Six tacos and a liter of tasty Mexican dark beer for 6 USD! So it’s still possible to eat well in Mexico City for under $10/per person.
I also tried a ramen place — Diego Ramen — that had a line out the door every time I passed it when I was in Mexico City a year ago. This time it was nearly empty. Here’s what I had:
Regular tonkatsu ramen. Not bad, decent balance of protein and veggies. This bowl costs 12 USD, while in Seattle, I pay $15 for ramen at Muto Izakaya. I wonder if the price is why there’s no longer a line, or if I went at a typically slow time. I seem to remember paying around 6 USD for a bowl of ramen the previous time I was in MC. I also had gyozas, which they make well (in house) but then fuck up by frying the entire thing.
The skin isn’t too thick, it’s made well, but don’t fry the entire piece. Either don’t fry it all, or only fry the bottom. The contrast between the slightly crispy bottom and the billowy top all in one bite is partially what makes pot stickers enjoyable.
That’s all the time I had, the third day was spent at the gym and then to the airport to pick up a rental car. Next stop would be Santiago de Queretaro, two and a half hour drive away.