This week’s dream: Mexico City’s cultural bloom
Mexico’s capital is having a moment, said Mary Kaye Schilling in Town & Country. In this city of 9 million, a “creative ferment” has taken hold, with new museums complementing a burgeoning gallery scene and young chefs launching restaurants as startlingly good as the best in Paris, London, or New York. Zona Maco, a massive semiannual arts festival, has helped drive this renaissance. But the resurgence also owes something to billionaire Carlos Slim, who has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into modernizing his hometown and restoring its historic center. Slim City, his namesake neighborhood, has been transformed from a decaying industrial zone into a “glistening” modern district, with luxury boutiques, the city’s first aquarium, and the “irresistibly odd” Museo Soumaya, a five-year-old museum Slim named after his late wife.
Yet even with all the changes the city has gone through, “one thing remains, enticingly, the same: a deeply textured cultural life heavily indebted to history.” At Kurimanzutto, the city’s most influential gallery, I wandered among contemporary works riffing on Mayan and Aztec art. Many top chefs, meanwhile, are reviving culinary techniques that date to Mesoamerica. I was lucky enough to get a table at Quintonil, where chef Jorge Vallejo served me avocado tartare with escamoles, or ant larvae, an Aztec delicacy. That delicious dish did it: “I am now down with eating bugs.” Citywide, the food is a revelation.
Though Museo Soumaya is the undisputed emblem of today’s Mexico City, “the most charming neighborhoods fall somewhere between old and new.” Roma and La Condesa “have a faded charm,” and the neighboring districts have together become a locus for art and food lovers. I spent my last night at Licorería Limantour, the city’s foremost cocktail bar, learning that I’d underestimated mescal during previous stays in the city. The tattooed bartender taught me that a mescal can be made from 30 varieties of Mexican agave and that the smoky spirit should be savored like fine scotch. But mescal also elevates mundane mixers, and “it occurred to me, as I sipped, that this is an appropriate national spirit for a country that can spin the ordinary into something transcendent.”
At the St. Regis Hotel (stregismexicocity.com), doubles start at $280.