This review of a Mexico City restaurant is a break from The Picky Glutton’s usual London-based coverage
Wandering around Mexico City’s Roma neighbourhood is a pleasant way to while away a couple of hours. Previous residents had a curious European fixation with some of the streets humorously named after continental cities. Many of the late 19th century European-esque mansions and houses are not only picturesque in their own right, but have been turned into various hipster-run businesses. Come dinner time, my first instinct was to head for one of the scattered street vendors or taco bars. Instead, I ended up at Nudo Negro. Although its name sounds rude to English ears, it actually translates as ‘black knot’. In any case, the weird continent-straddling menu at this celebrity chef-backed restaurant made for a baffling and frankly miserable experience.
That’s no fault of the staff who were friendly and helpful despite their non-existent English and my predictably piss-poor Spanish. The sweltering indoor temperature led me to park my considerable backside outdoors at one of the al fresco tables on the pavement, but a mix of traffic noise, street buskers and the restaurant’s own Queen soundtrack made this aurally challenging (and I usually love Queen).
The menu doesn’t appear to have any sort of focus, trawling in dishes and influences from all over. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, in theory, but when excessively soft pork crackling was made even less palatable by a smearing of weak wasabi and tame sriracha sauce, then warning sirens should start blaring.
More successful was the fleshy and mildly smoky aubergine mashed at my table. The eggplant was neatly complimented by thin yet creamy and nutty tahini, as well as an odd but tasty cross between za’atar and vinegar.
A salad of barbecue duck and cactus marked the debut of the overwrought and the unwanted. Small strips of duck in a mildly sweet and smoky sauce weren’t particularly good, but they weren’t terrible either. A refreshing and sweet tomato and cactus salad helped cut through the relative richness of the duck. But then there was hummus! And a fried egg! And bread rolls that were fluffy and soft like gnocchi! It was as if the waiter had stopped by an ‘international’ buffet and scooped random crap onto a plate. It was nothing if not memorable, but it was memorable for all the wrong reasons.
The oysters marked a momentary and relative return to some sense of sanity. Thin yet fleshy and somewhat briney oysters were served in a mildly spicy sauce, but the kitchen couldn’t help itself and threw in some crunchy and chewy croutons of meat dressed in a limp wasabi sauce. Not completely devoid of merit, but there seemed to be little rhyme or reason to the kitchen’s random scattering of ingredients.
Everything up until this point was positively artful and delightful compared to the omnishambles of a dessert. I love coffee, but the reduction of coffee here was a parody of that beautiful drink – far too bitter and astringent. It certainly didn’t make the very soft and gummy, yet weirdly large grained cous cous cake any more palatable. Caramel jello combined even more gumminess with cheap sugary sweetness. The only edible thing on this plate, relatively speaking, was a still deeply flawed ice cream. A boozy banana-like blast was joined by coarse unidentifiable crumbs and one too many crunchy ice crystals. Grotesque and vile.
The only thing saving Nudo Negro from a One Star rating is the quality of its service. You’d really have to drag me kicking and screaming back to this mutant aberration of a restaurant.
Name: Nudo Negro
Address: Zacatecas 139, Roma, México D.F.
Phone: 0052 5564 52 81
Web: http://www.nudonegro.com/ (Spanish only)
Opening Hours: Tuesday-Friday 13.00-midnight; Saturday 09.00-midnight and Sunday 09.00-18.00
Reservations: yeah, if you want
Total cost for one person including soft drinks but excluding tip: MXN762 (£29 approx.)