El Lago de los Cisnes
After a long day on a fluorescent boat at Xochimilco, the vestigial canal system just south of Mexico City, we stopped by the famous "El Lago de los Cisnes" in Chapultepec for tacos. Tired and sunburned, we wanted something quick and satisfying. Mexico City, as it turns out, has the perfect solution: tacos al pastor. The restaurant seemed to combine the flavor of street food without the street; it was a comfortable sit-down place. Despite the pork rotisserie and roaring fire pit by the door, the ambience inside was quiet and tranquil full of tables able to accomodate large groups of people. Our waiter served as the mediator between the chaos and the calm.
While we were looking at the menu our waiter brought us a variety of colorful salsas and grilled onions. We ordered a chicharron de queso to start -- a giant crispy chip of yellow grilled cheese -- that we picked at while glancing through the menu. The cheese tasted almost like a gouda, but was much saltier and had a hint of caramel. It was too salty for me, almost like picking at grilled pecorino.
Cebolla al grill - Charred onions dripped in salsa maggi, salt, and pepper. The cooking (burning) process lends them a smoky and sweet flavor. Despite the apparent blackening on the bottom they did not taste burnt, though they probably weren't too good for your health either. These were fun to eat until the main food came -- sweet without any burn.
Guacamole con Totopos y Queso Fresco - This was the first time I witnessed a Mexican family ordering guacamole at the table. Maybe they did it because of me, but I had to rub my eyes and double check. As much as I love thick guacamole and always want to order it, my girlfriend insists that the chunky guacamole served in the states is simply not Mexican.
I usually see a thinner more watery guacamole dripped onto tacos, but rarely eaten solely with totopos. Being that this restauranrt can get quite touristy, they might offer it for foreigners. Regardless, it was delicious. It was pure avocado with specks of cilantro -- no integrated onion or tomato. The texture was smooth and saltless flavor much like scooping out a raw avocado.
Taco al Pastor - Tomato-red pork shreds garnished with pineapple, scallions, and cilantro atop a corn tortilla. Coarse chunks of golden yellow cornmeal were visible in the thick taco. These were less greasy than the tacos I had at El Charo de las Ranas: I don't think the tortilla sat in the fat dripping from the pork spit. These were great.
Caldo de Pollo - A variation of caldo de pollo that was pretty heavy. This was the first time I ordered chicken soup in Mexico where an oil slick layer of fat was clearly visible on the surface. I wanted to lay a piece of bread over the surface to soak it up. The hand-pulled chicken was deliciously tender and moist, but I couldn't get past the copious fat.
Making a "gringa" - A taco "sandwich" encasing pork and cheese. Seemed like a combination of a quesadilla and taco al pastor.
I'd definitely recommend a visit to El Lago de los Cisnes when in Chapultapec; the tacos were quite good. The only problem is that there are so many places in this city with great tacos al pastor. I guess I'll just have to try them all a few more.