Nicholas Gilman is a renowned journalist and food writer based in Mexico City.

Nicholas Gilman es un renombrado periodista gastronómico radicado en la Ciudad de México.

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Close to Home: Máximo Bistrot Local

Close to Home: Máximo Bistrot Local

Note: The fine folks at Maximo have been recently caught in the vortex of a socioeconomic media fest, shedding light on ugly aspects of Mexican society: corruption and classism. See the article here

Here, I pay homage to this fine venue by republishing my review of last year.

I love to criticize. I was raised in New York after all, where criticism is an art form. But Máximo Bistrot Local, a fine new venue for creative cuisine in the constantly up-and-coming Colonia Roma, defies even me to find fault.

Cool and chic Máximo replaces a dowdy medical supply store; where wheelchairs and artificial limbs were once sold you can find the best brandade de morue this side of the Seine. The space, airy and sunny during the day, warm and cozy at night, has been smartly and discreetly given new life. Windows and rooms, once blocked up, were opened, those lovely old tile floors, until not so long ago routinely torn out by tasteless renovators, have been replaced. Simple but comfortable wooden bistro chairs and tables are given room to breathe, both inside and out on the street. Adornment is minimal. Ambient music is mercifully turned low. It’s a space you’re happy to spend some time in. The kitchen is open to view—and the food coming out of that kitchen is worthy of hyperbole. Chef Eduardo 'Lalo' García, formerly of the esteemed Pujol, also worked at Manhattan’s star-strewn Le Bernardín, that high-falutin´temple of good fish. He has brought all of his gastronomic skills to his own place, along with his wife, the affable Gabriela. The only thing they left behind is pretension. The restaurant’s publicity claims that ‘materia prima’ is local and organic, if possible. The chef visits our spectacular markets daily, choosing what looks best, then adroitly improvising a new menu each day.

The dishes are French and Italian in theory, Spanish in their simple elaboration, all with soulful respect for Mexican tradition. Food looks like food, not art.

The menu wisely sticks to five or six appetizers and the same number of ‘platos fuertes’

A recent starter was so simply labeled it almost escaped my notice. ‘Sopa de raiz de apio y chicharro’ makes use of that divine root so common in France and so elusive here: celerie rave (celeriac in English). A simple, light cream of fresh pea, green as a Provençal field in spring, is perfumed with a refined essence of celery. The color and fragrance would have pleased Mme. Chanel. Esparragos y holandesa are not toyed with, just done correctly. They looked like the end result of an episode of The French Chef.

Another example: perfectly grilled octopus, tender as a baby’s thigh (must be) is complimented by a drizzle of ‘guajillo emulsion’. A couple of days later this combination had morphed into a brick-red creamy reduced chili sauce and a generous puddle of sautéed huitlacoche – essentially Mexican.

The tuna arrived seared on the top and sushi-pink in the middle, cloaked in a robe of red Mediterranean peperonata. Likewise, ‘filete de cerdo’ is left blushing and juicy in the center, as pork should be unless you’re doing carnitas. Smart.

Desserts are safely relegated to such Parisian bistro classics as a crackly crème bruleé or a rich pot de crème de chocolate. Richer still was a cheesecake of goat cheese, the likes of which I’ve seen neither in Paris, New York nor el DF.

The wine list is carefully chosen, featuring some unusual Mexican vintages—and there’s a good range of prices. Dinner with a glass of wine hovers around $300 pesos per person. A prix fixe comida is offered on weekdays for $150 pesos (ask if you don't see it on the menu).

After an excellent repast on a recent sun-drenched Sunday, my astute dining companion, The French Lady, recalled her favorite bistro in Paris, L’Ebauchoir. Wrinkling her nose in typical Parisian fashion, she agreed to be quoted. “This place reminds me of it.” she said. “It is very, very good!”

She needn’t say more. Nor will I.

Read my interview with Lalo: You're the Top: Q&A With Máximo's Chef Eduardo 'Lalo' García

Máximo Bistrot Local
Tonalá 133, corner of Zacatecas, (3 blocks south of Av. Alvaro Obregón) Colonia Roma Tel. 5264 4291
Open Tuesday – Saturday : 1 -11:00 pm, Sunday, 11:00 a.m .-7:00 p.m.; closed Monday

Gabi and Lalo

Gabi and Lalo

And the Winner is: Barbacoa Santiago Named “Best Taco in the World” at London Gala

And the Winner is: Barbacoa Santiago Named “Best Taco in the World” at London Gala

You're the Top: Q&A With Máximo's Chef Eduardo 'Lalo' García

You're the Top: Q&A With Máximo's Chef Eduardo 'Lalo' García