What began with Azul y Oro—chef Ricardo Muñoz Zurita’s high-end university “refectory”—is now a multi-restaurant group famed for an almost museum-like reverence for traditional Mexican cooking in all its infinite variety. The downtown iteration, called Azul Histórico, is a gorgeous space in the courtyard of a 17th-century colonial palace (once inhabited by descendants of the Emperor Montezuma) and is now one of the Centro’s most sought-after tables, terribly romantic beneath its tree-and-candlelight canopy. Menus are seasonal and themed—often focusing on cuisine from Mexico’s regions and states—and are sure to present some delicacies even most Mexicans never knew before. Ask questions and swing just beyond your comfort zone. Out-of-towners and locals alike love the flair with which dishes emerge from the kitchen, in extravagant, eye-catching Mexican pottery.
Classic Mexican in a Historic Setting
Ricardo Muñoz Zurita is one of Mexico City‘s most acclaimed chefs, and his fame doesn’t come from molecular gastronomic tricks or fusion feats. Instead he is a proponent of traditional Mexican cooking at its best. His mole sauces are one of his specialties, with their complex layerings of different spices. Azul y Oro is the restaurant that made Muñoz famous, but its location at UNAM, the university to the south of the city, means eating there requires a long trek for many. (Blue and gold are the school colors of UNAM, hence the name of his first restaurant.) Azul Condesa brought his classic Mexican dishes a little closer to the heart of the city. Then when the Downtown Mexico hotel opened in 2012, the historic center got its own Azul. Visitors to the capital’s colonial heart can now take a break from hitting the palaces and churches for some of Muñoz’s buñuelos with roast duck or, if you are feeling adventurous, guacamole with chapulines (grasshoppers).
Traditional Mexican Flavors at Azul
Unlike some fellow chefs who strive to elevate traditional Mexican cuisine through contemporary techniques or clever presentation, Ricardo Muñoz Zurita relies on a tried and true formula: take the classics, prepare them exceptionally well, and serve them in a bright, clean space. He does just that at his three Mexico City restaurants, including Azul Condesa in the Condesa neighborhood. Favorites at Azul Condesa and his Centro Histórico restaurant, Azul Histórico, include sopa de tortilla and cochinita pibil, the latter a sumptuous pulled pork dish served with tortillas and black beans. Azul Condesa has a lovely open patio area enclosed by a green wall of live plants, while Azul Histórico is on the interior patio of the historic Downtown Hotel.