luxury travel

#MorenitaGenius: food & drink

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I love my key words, slogans and tag lines, as you’ve probably noticed. “The-Out-of-Towner-Turned-Insider”. “Elevate Your Travel Game.” “We showcase cultural excellence”. “The genius of Mexican culture.” It’s this last one in particular that I vibe with on a deep level. Mexicans are known for being many great things, yet “genius” doesn’t seem to be an adjective thrown around often when it comes to describing our national talent. That is until now.

At its core, Morenita is a colorful socio-anthropological experiment where I recognize ourselves and our cultural value. I know it’s a company, but it was born out of my heart and soul, so in my mind it’s a movement, an awakening, a cultural homecoming. Over the last two years I’ve built this perfect little universe of food, art & culture for myself where I am always inspired and stimulated by our Mexico, and in this personal process of focusing on the positives I help our client also zero-in on la verdadera genialidad de nuestra cultura.

#MorenitaGenius is a new piece of content where we show off aquellos genios who are at the top of their game, even though they’re all still so young and many, just like me, with 15-20 years of experience, are just getting started. This first story will focus on the restaurant world: we all know Enrique Olvera, Elena Reygadas and Jorge Vallejo, but wait til you meet the new school of chefs, sommeliers, maitre d’s and purveyors who are bringing the game to a completely new level. These talented youths and their spectacular work alone are worth you booking your next Morenita Experience in Mexico City

Photo by Viridiana Ramírez of Morenita Experience

Photo by Viridiana Ramírez of Morenita Experience

Cristina Lugo, Founder & CEO of Morenita Experience, has developed a reputation as a Mexico City culinary and cultural ambassador thanks to her extensive experience in the world of hotels and restaurants. In this story, co-written with Viridiana Ramirez, Morenita’s Communications Director, she shares who she considers to be the most distinguished food & drink personalities currently changing the CDMX industry.

Photo by Viridiana Ramírez of Morenita Experience

Photo by Viridiana Ramírez of Morenita Experience

Sofía Hernández - De Garo Jamat

Sofia was born and raised in Ensenada, a 90-minute drive south of San Diego. Her dad is from Oaxaca and her mom from Sinaloa, two major food areas in Mexico, making her childhood a food-centered cult of fish and shellfish. Sofia is the Sales Manager at her family-owned De Garo Jamat, a company that commercializes the highest-quality seafood products from Baja & the Mexican Gulf and sells to distinguished national restaurants like Pujol, Quintonil, Rokai, Rosetta and Maximo Bistrot. Basically, any oyster, crab, fish, shrimp, lobster or uni you’ve ever had at any of these award-winning restaurants was most likely hand-picked by Sofia. Not only that, but the family is also partners at Campobaja, our favorite seafood restaurant in Colonia Roma.

One of Sofia’s many responsibilities is communicating with the chefs and kitchen staff the properties of every fish and piece of seafood sold, so they understand how to best clean, cook and store it, and accurately pass this information on to the waiters, who are then able to correctly answer your questions when you’re ordering from the menu.

Asian food culture has always had a large influence on this family. When Sofia was a child, in addition to egg and black bean burritos (along with fish tacos, burritos are Baja staples), her school lunch didn’t consist of PB&J sandwiches, but of bento boxes and makis. Few people have I had more passionate & eloquent discourses about food with: Sofia is an old food expert soul living in the body of a young beautiful woman.

Photo by @emiliarest IG

Photo by @emiliarest IG

Lucho Martínez - Emilia

His quirky glasses, slim frame and wrist tattoo referencing his baby daughter’s name are the first thing that catches your eye, not to mention his youth and his taciturn character. Lucho has a cool-punk-rock-Harry-Potter-esque thing about him, and we’re here for it.

Don’t call him a chef, “soy cocinero”, Lucho - a nickname for Luis - tells us. Born in Veracruz but raised in the US, Lucho moved back to Mexico at age 14, when he was taught how to cook by his grandmother. At 17, he relocated to Cancun to work and since then, has left his stamp in the kitchens of renowned restaurants, such as Quintonil & Máximo.

Lucho is currently a partner at Emilia - another tribute to his daughter - one of the new culinary spaces of the Edo Kobayashi group, and in our opinion a most exciting fine dining destination with its chef’s table and ultra sleek aesthetics. The menu changes daily and is inspired by Japanese, French and Mexican ingredients and techniques. What I like most about this place is how much I have to step out of my comfort zone whenever I visit, my ego is wonderfully bruised as I have to ask (or even worse: google! ME! a seasoned foodie!) what most of the 10-course menu is as I’ve never even heard of half the items on it. I dine there to delight my senses but also to learn, and I so appreciate Lucho and his vision for it.

The dishware, glassware, open kitchen, marble tops, furniture: everything at Emilia is exquisite, fine, seductive. The team of young chefs, both men and women in their mid 20s, all have a distinctive yet super-cool kid look about them (when did everyone in the restaurant industry become this attractive and fashionable?! Sheesh!) and do what seems to be a dance around the kitchen as they make their way over to explain each course, always smiling, enjoying themselves. As a cook, team leader and restaurateur: Lucho has what it takes to go far, and he’ll get there quick.

Photo courtesy of Pujol

Photo courtesy of Pujol

Eréndira Díaz- Pujol

In 2006, Eren was hired as a line cook at the already-world famous Pujol, where she worked for seven years. If you last 7 days in Pujol, let alone 7 years, you are already at the top of the proverbial food chain. Wanting to mix it up a bit, Eren asked chef Enrique Olvera for an opportunity to join the select service team that waits the tables of the 12th best restaurant in the entire planet, and he said yes.

As a waitress, she learned the basics: how align glasses and tables with perfect accuracy; how to take the order of a table of 6 from memory without a pen and paper; how to use hand signals to communicate with her peers so as to never raise her voice in front of a diner; and, amongst many other neat practices, how to leave the dining room perfectly impeccable for the next day. But she also learned and excelled at the intangibles, what truly sets leaders apart: how to make friends with everyone; how to be in a good mood and smiling (always), regardless of how exhausted she was; how to make everyone laugh: from the dish wash to the security guard at the door to each and every diner, Eren’s presence is appreciated and welcome.

Eren didn’t last long as a waitress. Her global superstar boss understood he had a true gem in his hands, and in 2017 Eren’s tenacity and dedication led him to promote her to be the General Manager of what today is the best restaurant not only in Mexico, but in all of North America.

In my late 20s, I served as GM at several important restaurants in CDMX, and at each one I was always the first woman to do so. The fact that Pujol has its first female GM, and that its Erendira, is such a monumental win: for women and for the industry alike, not just in Mexico but in the entire world. It’s the dawn of a new era, and Eren is a shining bright star in it.

Photo by Viridiana Ramírez of Morenita Experience

Photo by Viridiana Ramírez of Morenita Experience

Norman Pérez - Le Tachinomi Desu

Le Tachinomi Desu is one of the most peculiar bars in Mexico City, as it is inspired by traditional Japanese tachinomis, an after-office casual bar where you have a quick bite and drink standing on your way home from work. One of the key components of our very own CDMX tachinomi - where only 20 people can be served at a time - is our friend Norman Pérez, beverage Director for Grupo Edo Kobayashi. Norman is quite possibly the most prominent beverage curator in Mexico, thanks to his extensive experience with Japanese whiskey, Mexican sake and natural, biodynamic and orange international wines, of which he is completely self-taught.

Norman is painfully charming and attentive. When I first met him I instantly wanted to be his friend. Le Tachi is the only bar in Mexico City that I’ve truly made my own, meaning, this is where I take everyone I want to show a good time, I’m always in the mood for a glass of funky natural wine, a lil’ jazz, hamachi crudo, coriander salad and of course the decadent AF omu rice (ok. get this. japanese rice, egg omelette, foie gras, truffle oil, fresh truffle and parmesan cheese. LAWD gimme strength! If that’s not true love in a tapa dish meant for sharing then I don’t know what is.)

In large part, making Le Tachi my own was thanks to Norman, and his brilliant talent and demeanor. He’s a most gracious, knowledgeable, professional and accessible host. Norman is the real deal, the quality service staff that secures permanent success for any establishment.

Photo by @miwiwimi IG

Photo by @miwiwimi IG

Miwi - Pizza Félix

This platinum blonde-haired chef is from Monterrey and one of the master minds of three distinguished CDMX locales:, Felix Bar, Pizza Felix and Belmondo, all in the bohemian neighborhood of La Roma.

At 20, Miwi never imagined that cooking would become her life’s passion. She was an interior design student who relocated to Barcelona to specialize in sideboard design. It was in Spain where she discovered a love for cooking (hard not to fall in love with the entire concept of food in a country like Spain) and with her parents’ support and blessing, changed her career. For four years, she worked in small restaurants in Barcelona under immigrant status, a situation that forced her to experience labor abuse, such as overtime without pay and, obviously, no vacations.

Upon returning to Mexico, Adriana Lerma (Miwi’s birth name) met with her friends and now business partners, Alejandro Romero and Gabriela Romero. The three opened Felix, a spot that a few months after opening became the hot-spot go-to La Roma dive bar in where everyone and their mother met for drinks and tapas. The next opening was Belmondo, a sandwich sanctuary - but not just any ole’ sandwich: “they have love and creativity”, says Miwi. Options to choose from include roasted vegetables, chicken curry with cranberry sauce, bacon, homemade corned beef, short ribs slowly braised with muenster cheese ... sandwich heaven on earth for the palate.

Miwi's most recent venture is Pizzas Félix, located behind Felix Bar in a charmingly cozy courtyard. To really offer the quality of a Neapolitan pizza (thin but with high edges and slightly burnt), Miwi did a six-month field study in Italy to learn everything she could about dough.

I moved to Mexico City 7 years ago. The very first bar I went to, the first place anyone would even mention when it came to socializing or nightlife, was Félix. When I first tried their mini sliders and the truffle fries, I straight up almost fainted. It was beyond delicious. It was around those first few months of moving here (I was renting a tiny studio in Condesa I could barely afford) that I somehow ended up flipping through the pages of a magazine (perhaps Time Out?) that featured a story on Miwi. She was sitting on top of a bar, wearing a cool-girl suit with flat vinyl shoes, her cool-girl blonde bob parted to the side, and I think the headline was “the new school of restaurateurs”, or something like that. I had an instant girlcrush on her, the concept of her, her career and her success: “when I grow up, I aspire to be this level of industry cool girl”, I thought to myself. This petite norteña owned & operated the best bar in Mexico City: no one could possibly understand how difficult it is to attain this. Unless of course you are a woman, trying to succeed in this mega cut-throat, dog-eat-dog, ultra competitive universe that is professional life in Mexico City, a space where 25 million people are racing against each other, where they make it a billion times harder on women (of course) and on foraneos, those of us who weren’t born here/into wealthy CDMX families. Miwi made me feel like I could one day stand out, I could one day be mentioned alongside the greats, I could one day make it.

This whole time, Miwi probably had no idea her story paved the way for mine and for, I’ve no doubt, many others after her. Gracias chef, y salud!

Photo by Viridiana Ramírez of Morenita Experience

Photo by Viridiana Ramírez of Morenita Experience

Filipe Neves- Aiko

Filipe will be the one exception in this list as he, believe it or not, is not Mexican, regardless of how well he curses in Spanish! He was born in Portugal, where his mother taught him how to cook for himself at a young age so he didn’t have to depend on a woman to properly feed him. She was raising a young boy to grow into a feminist adult man and we couldn’t be more grateful for his wise mother and other women like her.

Filipe studied computer science, but he is a rebel at heart and knew he wouldn’t be able to live glued to a desk. In his early twenties, his alternatives were join the army or become a chef. The answer was clear and Filipe traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, where he spent a year taking a cooking course. He carried on his culinary journey at Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe for a few years, until one day he felt it was time to move on. And he did… to the other side of the planet.

In 2017, he moved to Mexico City to open Can Can gastropub, one of the coolest bars in La Roma with the most heart-warming Euro-style soul food. He also put in some time at Masala y Maíz, the Mexican-Indian-East African fusion spot in San Miguel Chapultepec. Today Filipe heads the new Edo Kobayashi Polanco pizzeria Aiko, where he’s developed a sourdough crust that’s revolutionizing the CDMX pizza ecosystem.

This Chef of 30, learned how to make pizza through books, YouTube videos, and a short visit to Brooklyn where a friend of his showed him the secrets behind caring for and working with sourdough. 

His favorite pizza was always the Hawaiian, which he is currently working on to add to the AIKO menu as a way of playing with the idea of tradition in the world of pizza.

I first met Filipe at Bar Oriente, a Japanese restaurant belonging to the same group as Can Can. He spoke perfect English so I asked where he was from. “I’m Portuguese”, he replied. I had a couple of glasses of natural wine in me so I got very excited & began speaking Portuguese, explaining I lived in Rio de Janeiro for 2 years. Filipe was completely uninterested and continued speaking English (lol). Somehow despite our very sarcastic natures, we very quickly became great friends & mutual cheerleaders. I have no idea how long he’ll stay in Mexico but so long as he’s here, he is one of our most prominent talents.

Photo courtesy of Nancy Zavala

Photo courtesy of Nancy Zavala

Nancy Zavala - Máximo Bistrot

She’s easy to spot at 5’10”, clear-skinned baby face, nose ring, dreadlocks down to her waist, nose permanently locked into a glass of wine. Nancy grew up as a talented basketball player in the sleepy beach town of La Paz, Baja California, until, as frequently happens, an injury took her off the court for good. However, this was not an impediment to her professional development, as she moved on to study gastronomy and even won a scholarship at Fundación Turquois, a nationally-acclaimed training & development center for customer service in the world of hospitality, specifically restaurants.

Nancy’s extensive and impressive knowledge goes beyond wine and includes coffee, teas, beers and endless cocktails. “In the end, my heart belongs to sherry”, she says. Having worked at Pujol, today Nancy is the sommelier of Máximo Bistrot, one of the most outstanding gastronomic spaces in Mexico City, under the command of chef Eduardo García.

Studying will never cease in the life of Nancy Zavala, as she is currently becoming certified as a cicerone (beer sommelier) and is also in the process for certification in the Court of Sommeliers of the Americas. Soon after, Nancy plans on also dominating the world of mezcal.

Photo by Viridiana Ramírez of Morenita Experience

Photo by Viridiana Ramírez of Morenita Experience

Alex Zárate - Campobaja

Gastronomy has always been part of his life, growing up in a family devoted to it, mainly women. His dream was to be a historian, but when it was time to decide his profession he was swept away by the kitchen. Alex was born and raised in Ensenada, Baja California, and his inevitable gravitation towards seafood led him to join Chef Ezequiel Hernández in opening Campobaja in 2016.

Alejandro Zárate (Chef de Cuisine at Campobaja) and I had similar childhoods: he was a sort of "gringo" Mexican kid growing up in Mexico, but still being, well... sorta gringo. (Did any of that make sense? It does to us.) Kids like us celebrated Thanksgiving and were familiar with soul food and didn't discover the beautiful complexities of Mexican moles and cumbias until we were adults. We were both raised in tourist beach towns, Puerto Vallarta is my hometown, Ensenada is his.

For Zarate, being in the kitchen is a delight, enjoy creating new dishes and, above all, see the reactions of diners when trying one of their creations. The look on their face, the gestures they make after they taste is what inspires him to keep learning about the products of the sea. Alex was classically trained in French techniques, which is always noticeable in the finishing touches of his Campobaja menu: its a casual seafood spot with a friendly, relaxed atmosphere, but somehow feels like a fine dining destination. Every detail is just that excellent.

Photo courtesy of Fernanda Torres

Photo courtesy of Fernanda Torres

Fernanda Torres - Emilia

Another norteña, Fer was born in Mexicali, Baja California and studied in the colonial city of Puebla in central Mexico. Kitchens have always tempted her heart, starting with a love affair she had with the smells coming from a bakery next door during her childhood. When she graduated, Fer, moved to Mexico City and one day applied for an opening at Rokai restaurant, where Edo Kobayashi gave her a job.

Fernanda worked as a waitress and with the customer service team until 2017 and today is the operations manager for all of Grupo Edo Kobayashi, which consists of no less than 16 of the country’s most successful & popular establishments. Fer quickly became Edo’s right hand and is responsible for coordinating all managers, as well as overseeing all reservations, and even the design and aesthetics of restaurants!

I first met Fernanda about 6 yeas ago when having dinner at Yakitori-Ha, Kobayashi’s Japanese skewer spot in Colonia Cuauhtémoc. I was with my then-boyfriend having dinner and when it came time to pay the bill we realized he had dropped his wallet on our way there and I left mine at home! We were unable to pay for our dinner & were very embarrassed, to say the least. Fernanda was the most gracious, and I never forgot her kind demeanor. Years later as I keep coming back to the Kobayashi restaurants I’m like this proud coach on the sideline, internally cheering Fernanda on as I see her climbing the ranks and expanding her authority within the fastest-growing culinary group in CDMX. This young woman seamlessly handles Japanese chefs, Mexican wait staff, international diners, investors, managers, and single-handedly oversees the personal agenda of the group’s Founder & CEO, all while being a new wife and mother.

If the future ain’t female then I don’t know anything about anything, seriously.

Photo by: @joseracastiillo IG

Photo by: @joseracastiillo IG

José Ramon Castillo - Que bó!

José is the most recognized chocolate maker in Mexico and founder of Qué Bó!, an upscale gourmet chocolaterie that we love so much, one of the farewell amenities our VIP guests receive is a box of his gorgeous chocolates. His centro historico chocolate shop is a space where you’ll find some of the most unique, beautiful and delicious chocolates and truffles, all made with Mexican ingredients.

His experience has earned him countless awards, such as being the first chocolate maker in Latin America to belong to the respected international chocolate guide, Club de Creuquers du Chocolat. He worked for eight years in Spain and was the first Mexican to win the Cocina Joven de Catalunya contest.

He is the author of the book Kakaw, where he makes a deep investigation of cocoa and rescues 40 traditional chocolate recipes. The dedication & rich knowledge behind his writings earned the publication to be recognized by UNESCO as a "World Heritage Book".

José Ramón is currently a judge on the TV show Masterchef Mexico.

The Morenita Give-Back Experience

Photo El Universal

Photo El Universal

“Transformational travel is intentionally traveling to stretch, learn and grow into new ways of being and engaging with the world. When we leave home and set out on our own, there are often 3 critical parts of a truly life-altering adventure:

  1. Traveling with intention, openness, and mindfulness

  2. Engaging in challenging/eye-opening physical and/or cultural experiences 

  3. Taking time for personal reflection & meaning-making

The goal is to help bring these 3 elements together to radically increase the likelihood of you having a life-changing travel experience.” The following positive-impact Experiences allow guests to donate either time or money to benefit organizations that promote social and environmental development in/around Mexico City. 

Photo by: Fondo Semillas

Photo by: Fondo Semillas

Fondo Semillas
An organization that supports gender equality in an environment where the women themselves propose solutions to the problems they face. Some examples of the relief provided are midwives who prevent maternal mortality and obstetric violence, maquila workers fighting sexual harassment and unequal wages, indigenous women living in rural places who defend their right to own land, domestic employees who seek to have their work recognized, and indigenous women's sustainable enterprises.
Web: semillas.org.mx
Social: https://youtu.be/GwJ_hl5kTYE

Photo Fundación Origen

Photo Fundación Origen

Fundación Origen
A non-profit organization centered around resolving violence against women, supporting their emotional health and self-empowerment. Origen hosts events that involve sports (such as 5K races), art auctions in collaboration with Jumex Foundation and auctioning tequila bottles intervened by renowned Mexican artists.
Web: www.origenac.org
IG: @fundacionorigen

Photo Pro México Indígena

Photo Pro México Indígena

Pro México Indígena
A spectacular foundation that aids the development of the Mazahuas, Otomí, Tseltales, Mayas, Mazatecas, Chinantecas, Purépechas and Me’phaas communities. Guests can participate in handcraft workshops to rescue traditional costumes or donate money so the women can purchase farm animals, develop their own bee apiaries and even solar panel technologies.
Web: promexicoindigena.org.mx
IG: @promexicoindigena

Photo Naturalia

Photo Naturalia

Naturalia
Specialized in reforestation and rescuing endemic plant and animal species in Mexico. We can arrange a half-day volunteer Experience with Cinturón Verde, their in-house program that organizes brigades to plant trees around Mexico City. 
Web: naturalia.org.mx
IG: @naturalia_ac


If you’d like to donate your time or money or learn more about these fantastic non profit organizations, please email us at info@morenitaexperience.com

Jewish History of Mexico

Photo by: Sinagoga Justo Sierra.

Photo by: Sinagoga Justo Sierra.

I’ve been wanting to showcase the history of the Jewish people in Mexico and am so pleased to officially launch this new Morenita Tour. Here are some details:

Your guide is none other than Monica Unikel-Fasja, the director of the first synagogue in Mexico. She is the granddaughter of Polish-Jewish immigrants, and for more than 24 years, has dedicated herself to trace the legacy of Jewish migration in the early 20th century in the streets of the downtown of our Mexican capital.

Photo by: Morenita Experience.

Photo by: Morenita Experience.

Her experience led her to participate in the restoration of the Justo Sierra Synagogue, a space that for the last decade has operated as a cultural center. Monica is also the author of the book "Synagogues of Mexico" and producer of the television documentary "The synagogue of Jesus Mary and other stories".

Photo by: Sefarad Asturias.

Photo by: Sefarad Asturias.

In this guided morning walk, guests encounter the living history of neighborhoods where Armenian, Lebanese, Spaniards and Eastern European Jews cohabited. Monica will take you into what once-were Kosher butcher shops and grocery stores that sold "der alter heim" (household goods), Yiddish bakeries and houses of prayer and study.

In Jesus Maria Street, you’ll visit the old shops where Jewish tailors made socks and underwear. There too are the patios of the "vecindades" (ghettos) where the Jews nurtured their social life and learned Mexican traditions. Monica will explain how during the process of cultural adaptation, polish immigrants replaced their names with Mexican versions - for example Masha became Maria.

Photo by: Morenita Experience.

Photo by: Morenita Experience.

The grand finale of the route takes place in the same synagogue our hostess presides over. The enclosure is a faithful copy of a temple in Shavel, Lithuania. Once inside, you’ll see how it is divided into two floors: the upper gallery benches are occupied by women, while the lower ones are assigned to men and children, and in this part there are the sacred scrolls of the Torah.

Behind the bimá, the pulpit from which the prayers are directed, is an arc called "arón hakodesh", which protects the sacred texts under a blue velvet curtain.

For availability and rates on this fascinating Morenita Tour please email: info@morenitaexperience.com

CDMX Hot Spots: Interior Design

I’m not gonna lie to you: the shopping here is insane and each year it gets better and better. We could (and prolly should) have an entire travel agency that’s all about shopping in Mexico, but for now these are three pretty cool design stores you should visit next time you’re in La Capital.

Marisol Centeno

Photo: Bi-Yuu

Photo: Bi-Yuu

Textiles are one of the things we do best here in Mexico. To celebrate the legacy of female weavers, Marisol Centeno showroom has created the Bi Yuu brand, dedicated exclusively to designing rugs and other textile decoration designs, via the most delicate hands of indigenous communities. Her extraordinary work is certified by GoodWeave, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating social programs in Afghanistan, India and Nepal.

Photo: Bi-Yuu

Photo: Bi-Yuu

Its founder, Marisol Centeno has presented collections at Dubai Design Week, Rufino Tamayo Museum, Franz Mayer Museum, Museum of the Americas in Denver, National Center for the Arts, Mexico Space in Montreal, Design Week Mexico, among many others. She has collaborated with both national and international brands and architecture firms. In 2013 she was recognized as The Best Handmade Designer by CasaViva magazine and received the Possible Winner Award, an organization that recognizes entrepreneurs who solve social problems through a business model. Visits to the showroom are RSVP only.

IG: @biyuumx
www.biyuu.mx

Nouvel

Photo: Nouvel Studio

Photo: Nouvel Studio

Nouvel Studio is an artistic workshop dedicated to experimentation and development of glass. After several years of perfecting techniques, its artisans have become an elite network that is able to respond to any need and project, taking them to unimaginable dimensions!

Photo: Nouvel Studio

Photo: Nouvel Studio

The artist's catalog includes the names of Emiliano Godoy, member of the Advisory Board of Unesco; Ezequiel Farca, Quorum Award to the best designer in Mexico (2003) and creator of more than 50 interior design projects alongside renowned Mexican architects Enrique Norten and Teodoro González de León; and, Ricardo Legorreta, the famous architect who designed the Papalote Museo del Niño (Mexico City’s award-winning children’s museum) and Grupo Habita’s La Purificadora boutique hotel & Polanco’s Camino Real. He is the only Mexican who has received the prestigious Praemium Imperiale awarded by the Art Association of Japan (2011).

IG: @nouvelstudio
www.nouvelstudio.com

Onora

Photo: Onora Studio

Photo: Onora Studio

This artisan design studio has been creating textiles and home accessories for over 15 years. Onora’s collections reinterpret traditional designs giving them an aesthetic and contemporary use that reflect a refined, casual and cosmopolitan lifestyle.

Photo: Onora Studio

Photo: Onora Studio

They have the backing of architects and interior design specialists to develop customized concepts, which give a most unique personality to the simplest of spaces. Its service ranges from the production of exclusive pieces by request to curating an environment that integrates the essence of the brand: collaboration, tradition and relaxed luxury.

IG: @onoracasa
www.onoracasa.com

The perfect first night in CDMX

Morenita spoke with insider Norman Perez about Le Tachinomi’s elegance and service philosophy

Imagine you arrive a little jet-lagged to México City. You’re not necessarily tired just a little cramped from the plane ride. It’s too late for a formal dinner, which you wouldn’t want to sit down again anyway. Instead, since you’re obviously rolling with Morenita Experience, we made your reservation at Le Tachinomi, México City’s only Japanese standing bar. Norman, the Director of Sake and Wine has been told you’re on your way. When you walk through the speakeasy style door, you hear “Round Midnight” by Thelonious Monk because Jazz is always playing at Le Tachinomi. Norman, aka the Startender greets you at the bar. He hands you a warm fragrant towel to cleanse your hands. He sets a glass in front of you and pours Sans Soufre, a natural sparkling white wine imported from Yamagata, Japan. It’s fresh and easy. You notice the menu on the chalk board wall and zero in on the ‘Omu rice,’ a decadent, hedonistic tapa of Japanese rice, with egg omelet, foie gras, black truffles and parmesan cheese, topped with a sweet soy and oyster sauce. Perfectly divine. You spend the rest of the night chatting with Norman about the over 70 sakes he personally curated along with obscure bottles of Japanese Whisky.  Eventually you try the entire menu of tapas because they look too good to pass up. And just like that, your first night in México is a success.

We just illustrated why the gastronomic love child between México and Japan works so well: passion, discipline, and service philosophy, all executed with style. Le Tachinomi Desu is a Japanese standing bar for 20 people that serves international natural wines, Japanese whisky, Mexican and Japanese sake and craft beer all paired with delicious tapas. 

Cristina Lugo and I spent some time standing and chatting with our favorite sommelier Norman Perez. I finally got to see Cristina geek out in person over why she praises Le Tachinomi and the Edo Kobayashi group.  Our story takes a dive into their service philosophy that informs everything they do, not just restaurant service.

But first the scene…

Le Tachinomi has this beautiful dichotomy that make it both casual and luxurious at the same time. It has an elegant vibe that makes me want to get all dressed up in my Sunday best to go and stand pretty by the bar. The Jazz selection helps to open up the space making room for conversation. The tapas menu includes Japanese and internacional food fusion created by Chef Shigetoshi “Toshi” Narita, offering a twist on the more traditional classic and distinctive establishments within the Edo Kobayashi group. Le Tachinomi is Japan in México. But as Norman pointed out, México is not as patient a culture as the Japanese. When Le Tachinomi first opened, there was some push back on the concept of a bar with no seats and limited space. But after a brief learning curve, and dedication to its vision, Le Tachinomi succeeded in stealing our hearts. 

Norman Perez and Cristina Lugo philosophize over internal service culture, identity, and why Morenita clients are the best

First as any good interviewer, Cristina gets the basics on record. Norma Perez has been working for the Edo Kobayashi group for two and half years. He was drawn to work with the group because his background included working extensively with Mexican and French cuisine, but never Asian cuisine. He talks with pride about how everyone, no matter your position, starts in the kitchen and works their way up learning all the key parts of the business. The group instills what’s called Omotenashi, love for what you do. It begins from the moment you wake up, it’s the manner in which you treat your mother, your father, your family, your significant other, it then vibrates outward into this commitment you have with yourself and with the people around you. From there you deploy that same respect in developing each part of the business and the service. This discipline comes from a very intimate personal place, Norman describes it as

planting the little seed of Japanese service that grows from zero and becomes everything”.

This notion sparked an interesting aside about leadership style. Cristina, comes from Pujol where the school of thought is ‘we don’t make mistakes’. This is how Morenita operates today. Every single person is held to the highest standard and if you can handle the pressure, you stay, if you break down, you go. This style of service culture is what most industry veterans in the world of serious food and hospitality are used to. From what we could see, the Edo Kobayashi group operates the same way. But Norman set us straight. The group did begin with strict approach but a lot of people couldn’t handle it and left. So they had to adapt to the labor force which is made up of millennials and we all know that style simply doesn’t work with them (speaking from the fringe). Instead, Norman explains that they focused on incentivizing to create healthy competition and motivation to advance within the prestigious brand.

Le Tachinomi is a place with strong identity. It’s clear by how Norman responded to some of Cristina’s questions. Concrete and zero ambiguity. She asked, “are there plans to open another Le Tachinomi?” Response: No. “If there was one word to describe Le Tachinomi, what would it be?” Response: Tachinomi. Norman smiles after, there is not a pretentious bone in his body. He’s just stating the facts.

While I was half voyeur half participant in this conversation it was easy to see Cristina’s excitement about Le Tachinomi. A place where food, service and selection are taken seriously to form a truly unforgettable experience. A place where we know our Morenita Experience guests are well taken care of and are exposed to authentic experiences. Cristina wants our travelers to see this side of México City. 

Norman turned on the charm to tell us that Morenita guests are the best guests. Our people appreciate slow travel, they arrive and don’t demand control, they don’t dictate or follow an instagram checklist, they appreciate the details, they let go and trust that we will guide them to one of a kind moments. This trust lets them really immerse into the experience at hand. In this vein, it’s clear that what Morenita offers, was definitely needed to fill a gap and connect clients to elevated experiences like Le Tachinomi.

Clientele & best timing for your itinerary 

After this warm and fuzzy moment, Norman gave us some chisme or insider info. From behind the bar he also plays the role of voyeur on occasion and spots out trends in Le Tachinomi’s clientele. Some people arrive at 7pm and post up until 2am. This happens a lot in groups. They try all the sakes, they try everything on the menu, they go all in. Couples will usually spend a couple of hours, for drinks and one or two tapas. Morenita clients stop in for glass of natural wine or whisky before a dinner reservation and love it so much they even come back that same night or somewhere along their trip. 

The late night crowd tended to be industry and party peeps, but now Norman says the crowds are changing. Word has spread on social media about the Monday Curry night and Tuesday Taco night, so they get a lot of travelers. Most hail from San Francisco (in the house!) or NYC and it’s almost guaranteed their first or last night of the trip. Thursday to Saturday are a local sophisticated crowd who appreciate what the Edo Kobayashi group has introduced into the Mexican market.

This slow moment with Norman ended on a really optimistic note. We talked about Morenita’s notion and relentless search for hospitality perfection that aligns with our mission to expose outsiders to Mexico’s cultural excellence. The idea that México has all the resources to take advantage of the foundation and pioneering work from visionaries like Edo Kobayashi, Enrique Olvera (Pujol), Ezequiel Hernandez (Campobaja).  If there is one sector that can take us further as a country it is responsible and cultivated internal and external tourism.

Photos c/o @letachinomidesu

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P.s. we kept chatting off the record with Norman and he had a mind blowing idea for our next #Mexplaining by Morenita. Check it out