City Secrets | Mexico City
At the age of 10, Shlomi Rabi fell for the oldest trick in the book when his parents told him that they’d be leaving Israel and going “on a little trip” to Mexico. Eight years later, he decided it was time to call their bluff and start a new life in the United States, starting first in New Orleans, then Chicago, and finally, New York. That said, the eight years he spent in Mexico were enlightening and enriching beyond words, providing him with exposure to the most delectable experiences, the happiest songs, the most visually arresting art, friendliest people, strongest drinks and yes, the most tear-jerking telenovelas, including “The Gardner’s Daughter”, “Savage Heart”, “To Hell with the Handsome Men”, and the paragon of all, “Cursed Inheritance." He currently works at Phillips de Pury & Company in New York City as a photography specialist and, when possible, visits his parents in Mexico on their never-ending “little trip.”
The following is Shlomi's must do list for Mexcio City:
Go to see the folkloric dance at the Museo de Bellas Artes in city center. Not only is the building a Postcolonial marble wonder, but the performances representing the different regional dances across the country are spectacular. A particular standout is the Yaqui Deer Dance representing the state of Sonora. Amazing.
I would normally recommend the Museo Rufino Tamayo, which, despite the name, does not actually house Tamayo’s amazing artwork but rather his collection of pre-Columbian pottery. It’s currently under renovation, so for a good museum you may want to go to the Museo de Art Moderno, which is where you’ll see Tamayo’s enormous Watermelons painting—a masterpiece, as well as many others by Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Leonor Fini, Leonora Carrington, Jose Clemente Orozco, David Siqueiros.
The Sanborns Casa de los Azulejos is also nearby. Sanborns is the original space of one of Mexico’s most famed restaurant chains. It’s located in an old part Nouveau-style, part Baroque-revival mansion downtown whose façade is covered in the most beautiful blue & white tiles (hence the name.) Inside it bears a most extraordinary 1925 mural by the Mexican muralist Jose Clemente Orozco. It’s a prime example of Mexican Social Realist art. Once you’re there, you definitely want to order the pan dulce, a hot Mexican chocolate, a papaya juice, and lounge in one of the banquets.
Walking around downtown is such a whirlwind experience. You see stores that you wouldn’t see anywhere else (including a Seeds Store, believe it or not), incredible used book stores that are so cluttered and so charming, you could spend hours there perusing old Mexican architecture catalogues. You should also walk over to the Metropolitan Cathedral—it’s the largest and oldest cathedral in South America (possibly even North). It’s unbelievable! It rivals St. Peter’s in terms of grandeur and awe, I promise.
For a drink you have to go to the La Nueva Opera, also in downtown Mexico City. It’s been around since mid-late 19th century and at some point hosted just about everyone and anyone in Mexico who’s-who. It is absolutely gorgeous inside—high ceilings, tiled floors, great lighting fixtures, the whole works. Most famously, the Mexican Revolution figure, Pancho Villa shot his gun and blew a hole in the ceiling—which is still in tact! Definitely a must-see and definitely THE place to order a shot of 1800 Tequila, made from blue agave.
For more contemporary goodtimes try the following:
La Tecla, located in the heart of Polanco, among Mexico City’s hottest upscale neighborhoods. The restaurant has a wonderful, warm and welcoming vibe. We went there a few years ago and I remember the food being very Mexican but with a fresh contemporary twist. Forget the cliché choices you find in most Mexican restaurants in the U.S., because here is what you should be ordering: for appetizers: dried chili pepper stuffed with plantains in bean sauce and baked brie cheese topped by raspberry sauce and burnt chipotle sauce. Entrees: sea bass filet stuffed with zucchini flowers (you read right, zucchini flowers) and cuitlacoche mushroom sauce; and (for the meat lovers in the house), beef filet stuffed with sliced apples and figs and topped with goat cheese with raisins and raspberries. Wash it all down with a papaya cocktail and indulge in a light coffee flan for dessert, and you’re good!
La Botica, apparently THE place to go for drinks, but not just any drinks, but Mezcal, which is what Tequila is made of. Mezcal is made of the plant agave, and can be made into a variety of wicked beverages, anywhere from light-bodied (it’s all relative) clear drinks, to well-aged, thicker liquors, depending on the type of agave used and the process by which it is made and aged. Basically, it’s everything you could love about Mother Nature in a bottle. The thing to ask for is a for a round of cocktails like the Diablito (which means “little devil”, and made of cinnamon liquor with red Lulu), or the Puerto Escondido (cream of coconut with mineral Mezcal and crushed ice) and as soon as the munchies strike, order for a plate of tamales and another of grasshoppers.