Biko is a Mexican-Basque fusion restaurant in Mexico City's posh Polanco district. Its co-chefs, Bruno Oteiza and Mikel Alonso, have the honor of bringing Biko to the Pellegrino Top 50 Best Restaurants list. Its swanky yet minimalist decor of suede chairs squeeking atop tile flooring is a bit cold and clinical -- much like eating in a hallway; but the warm and very professional service compensates to make diners feel at ease and comfortable. The dishes were purportedly a mixture of Basque and Mexican influence, but it was hard to spot the Basque component. The food seemed more like a random collection of European and pan-Asian concepts with occasional Mexican ingredients. Most of the dishes were presented quite beautifully with clever plating, but at times I got the sense that the dishes were more about style than substance. They were everything expected of a fine dining restaurant, minus the background story, passion, and at times, flavor.
Dining room - Biko's sparse and minimalist dining room sets the stage for its modern cuisine. Its diners were mostly young -- and very well dressed -- Mexico City locals.
Amuses bouche - lamb meatball, pork-wrapped black olive, cauliflower cream soup. (Note: this dish identification is based on memory; I barely remember eating it.)
Assortiment of bread - Italian "ciabatta," olive, walnut, "French," and whole grain. The bread was served cool and a bit dry, nothing a generous slab of butter couldn't help.
Cremoso de foie con yoghurt cítrico y miel trufada - Whipped foie gras sandwiched between a truffled honey tuile drizzled with orange yoghurt. The way the acidity of the yoghurt cut through the creaminess of the liver made the fatty dish feel light and fluffy with no greasy mouthfeel. Hints of coarse sea salt accentuated the crispiness of the bread layers while accentuating the meaty flavor. It was difficult to taste the truffle -- but the drips of truffle oil glistening through the honey made it clear it was there. I think this dish would have been better without the truffle oil -- its inclusion seemed superfluous, but it was very good.
Foie 100% Algodón - Biko's signature appetizer, 100% Cotton Foie Gras, was the highlight of my previous meal here last year. Remembering how much I enjoyed it I asked if it could be supplemented into the tasting. The waiter was graciously determined to make it happen. We were brought three dollops of whipped foie gras and cheese wrapped in iceberg lettuce and crowned with cotton candy. This dish was too sweet for me. Unlike the last time where the vegetal bitterness of the raw lettuce tempered the sweetness, this was just too much.
La pesca refresca - Chunks of raw seabass a sheet of gelatinized soy sauce, tomato ices, asparagus, and herbs. This dish tasted like sea bass sashimi dipped in soy sauce. This dish seemed more Japanese than Mexican. Regardless of its inspiration, the concentrated soy sauce was too overpowering. When pushed aside I was left with a deconstructed salad. This was the most disappointing dish of the night.
Cremita de colinabo con aceitunas - Cream soup of kohlrabi (German turnips) with black olives. The soup was rich and creamy, but the inclusion of sour olives just seemed out of place here. I really didn't like this dish.
Pescado del día con rajas y expresión marinera - This dish was quite good. A generous filet of grouper with a poblano chile cream and bread fried and shaped like a shrimp head. The rajas had a hint of spice from the chile but nothing overpowering. The fish was incredibly moist and succulent; the inside was bordering on translucent. I never really liked the sliminess of rajas, a texture much like the inside of okra; but here, the smoothness of the creamy chile sauce made it coat every exposed surface of the fish adding to its tenderness.
Carrillera almendrada con nube de horchata - Almond-infused pork cheeks with an horchata foam. This was, without a doubt, the highlight dish of the night. Ultra tender shreds of pork covered with horchata, a cinnamon and vanilla-infused traditional Mexican rice milk. The foaming of the horchata prevented its inherent heaviness from weighing down the pork. Instead, the foam complemented it, adding a rather subtle nutty component to the meat. This dish was a perfect balance of great flavor with Mexican influence.
Agua de mandarina con bombones de zapote - A chilled mandarin orange broth with two sapodilla marshmallows floating in the center. This dish was just too sweet with the acidity from the citrus really pushing the flavor over the edge into cloying.
Buñuelos - Deep-fried bread balls dipped in sugar and cinnamon with a hint of anise. These were served hot and were absolutely delicious.
Mexican candies - A small tray by the elevator has an assortiment of traditional Mexican sweets, most of which contain tamarind and chile.
At the end of the meal there were some courses that I really enjoyed: the grouper with poblano chile sauce and pork cheeks with horchata foam were exceptional. But the rest of the meal was a blur; it lacked consistency. I understand if the restaurant is not trying to reinvent traditional Mexican dishes (which ironically were its most successful) like Pujol does, but it wasn't really clear what the restaurant was trying to do.
It seemed like Biko was trying too hard to please the Polanco crowd -- some foie gras here, truffle oil there -- at the expense of consistency and flavor. Most of the "luxury additions" didn't add anything to the dishes.
I think with a more clear focus on its story, Biko will naturally become more consistent and its potential will shine through.