Food & Drink
Mixtli’s Pricey Dinners Offer Quality, Not Quantity
Published: November 13, 2013
The notion of selling tickets to a restaurant dinner as though it were a night at the theater is not entirely new (avant-garde Chicago chef Grant Achatz has found it a viable business model), but it’s new in notably trend-averse San Antonio. All the more surprising is that the idea has been taken up by a duo of young chefs embarking on their first venture. In a railroad car. For a maximum of 12 people at a time. At $80 a pop including service and selected beverages.
Mixtli, which means ‘cloud’ in Nahuatl, is the name chosen for the enterprise by Rico Torres and Diego Galicia, the former from a catering background, the latter with experience at restaurants in this country and Mexico. (In a burst of confidence, Galicia recently left his job as corporate chef for Taco Cabana.) The cloud, for them, serves as a kind of muse, floating from one regional cuisine to another in the vast and varied country that is Mexico. Mixtli’s themes will change every 45 days; the inaugural one, which ends on November 15, centered on Oaxaca. Since by the time you read this the errant cloud will likely be parked over a different region of Mexico, the following can only be an approximate weather forecast.
Our meal began with an agua fresca of green cactus fruit accented with ginger and lime in which floated a lime blossom from the tree outside the handsomely fitted-out boxcar. Delicate and perfumed, it was a perfect introduction to what was to come—in our case, a single, platonic chochoyote.
Chochoyotes are masa dumplings, usually served in broth. Mixtli’s rendition was of blue corn, but, there being no broth in sight, the dumpling’s typical indentation served to cradle a tiny cube of panela cheese. Trace elements of squash blossom and huitlacoche completed the carefully composed plate.
With Torres generally serving and Galicia plating, the first main to appear was a single, impressive shrimp on a brushstroke of chileajo, a paste made from guajillo chiles and garlic that is typically served over vegetables. Mixtli’s take extracted the garlic and made a delicate foam of it to be served alongside.
Ethereal, yes, but also effective.
Torres appears to be Mixtli’s Mole Man; his mole negro adorning duck on a blue corn tortilla was composed of several chiles, some of them seriously charred, and included pecans. Though a little more thermal heat might have been appreciated, the pairing was impeccable. Oaxaca being almost as known for its moles as Puebla, it was appropriate than a mole amarillo should appear next. It was also appropriate that mezcal, another Oaxacan specialty, should be served in the form of shots with a traditional salt of toasted chiles y gusanos (worms, yum).
The amarillo, yellow in name only, served here as a framework for a sous-vide Texas quail plated with black bean puree. For all the of-the-moment technique displayed, sous-vide quail doesn’t yield a very appealing texture, and the black beans needed seasoning—maybe some of the asiento (lardy pork drippings) that gave life to a toasty tlayuda (another masa shape made from corn the pair process themselves) served with a smoky tomatillo salsa.