Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Review: Primos

Primos in the Condesa is a bustling Mediterranean-style bistro with above average food and a pleasant buzz.  The jamon serrano with their outstanding crusty bread is always a pleasant ‘tapa’.  They also have a retail bakery on Alfonso Reyes in the Condesa, a block or two away from Quilmes, where you can buy the bread to take home. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

You won’t find many tourists at Primos, or much of the stereotypical Condesa crowd either, although its location would suggest otherwise.  Right on the corner of Mazatlan and Michoacan, not far from the Turibus stop, Primos is a small (maybe 30 table) Mediterranean-style bistro with a white and black tile floor and white cloth covered tables that attracts well dressed professionals at both lunch and dinner with a varied, Spanish-influenced menu that goes from tapas and “revueltitos” to hot dogs and hamburgers.  I have been going regularly since it opened, over two years ago, and find it one of the most pleasant and consistently good places to eat in the neighborhood.  Last night was a typical experience.

Calling to reserve for 4 at 9pm, I was offered 8:45 with 15 minutes of “tolerance”, a testament to Primos’ ongoing popularity.  My friends arrived before I did, and were seated at a table just inside the restaurant, overlooking diners seated on the outdoor terrace, which is extremely pleasant when the weather is good, with a view towards the tree-shaded pathway that divides Mazatlan.  The restaurant was busy with almost all tables occupied by an older (35+) group of well heeled chilangos.  We ordered drinks and a bottle of wine, a Spanish tempranillo/cabernet blend at a reasonable $MXP250.  It was nothing special, but we weren’t there to drink anything special.  For $MXP390, an Altos Las Hormigas 2006 Malbec would have been the better choice, despite the almost 300% markup from U.S. prices.

To begin, we decided on some appetizers for the “centro”.  Patatas bravas, jamon Serrano and some Manchego cheese were quickly served, as was another bottle of the same wine, which we found improved with a bit of air.  The four large, thick spears of crusty, fried potatoes were topped with a chipotle mayonnaise that one of my companions thought a bit too much in the heat department, although I found relatively tame.  About fifteen wafer thin slices of aged Manchego went well (and quickly) with the wine, and the ham arrived glistening and moist.  I didn’t try the ham, but the general agreement was that the appetizers were quite good.

My “tacos de dorado”, three flour tortillas, each with a piece of battered and deep fried mahi-mahi topped with chipotle mayonnaise, shredded lettuce and cilantro, were not what I was expecting or hoping for, although I must not have paid attention to the menu description.  To my way of thinking, there is absolutely nothing like simply grilled fish in a corn tortilla, topped with salsa Mexicana, lime and perhaps a bit of guacamole, so I wasn’t prepared for anything other than that, but that’s just me.  Fried fish is the norm in many places serving fish tacos, and once I got over the idea of eating “fish fingers”, I found them to be fine, if a bit heavy, and two were more than enough; the third went uneaten.  I noticed my friend, who had also ordered the tacos, scraping off the chipotle mayonnaise, but she was the same one who had found the potatoes to be too spicy.   

Another friend’s steak frites made her very happy, the meat also topped by chipotle mayonnaise, and we all had a taste of the frites, which were thin, crisp and delicious.  The gnocchi with meat ragu was pronounced as “good”, although not with an excess of enthusiasm.  We finished the meal with a third bottle of wine and no dessert.

On another occasion, I ordered the “frankfurter”, which was a large hot dog, grilled and served in a toasted bun with frites.  Not only was it excellent, it was the envy of the table; everyone else having ordered something more “high end”, but lusting after my simple sausage.  During my last visit, it was everyone at my table, including me, staring at someone else’s frankfurter, wishing we had ordered it for ourselves.  It is quite seductive.  

Mention also has to be made of the “revueltitos” and “montaditos”, two typical Basque appetizers, the first being scrambled eggs with a chosen ingredient (mushrooms, chorizo, cheese, to name a few available) served atop roasted potato.  “Montaditos” are the same  toppings, served on baguette slices.  When last ordered, two slices of thick, doughy bread, topped with crushed fresh tomato sauce and lots of anchovy filets made an enjoyable “tapa” to begin the meal.  

Nightly specials and monthly wine specials are listed on blackboards around the room.  One of my favorites, the Dorado With 3 Chiles, almost always arrives perfectly fresh and just barely cooked through.  It is prepared in a very spicy olive oil based sauce laced with both dry and fresh chiles and served with grilled asparagus and tomato on the side.  For the  most part, desserts are forgettable, so on those nights when I am not yet satisfied, I order a plate of cheese to finish the wine.

Primos has a lot going for it in addition to the above average (and frequently, way above average) food.  Most people are there to have a good time and enjoy the pleasant buzz the restaurant always seems to generate, especially when the weather is good, the terrace is active and the guests are well into their second or third drink of the evening.  

I find the service at Primos to be professional and very pleasant, although the waiters may get slightly harried at peak times and you will need to flag them down.  When you do, their response is courteous and prompt.  Prices are very reasonable…last night’s dinner for four, with a couple of drinks and 3 bottles of wine was in the $MXP2000 range, including tip.  You can of course spend more…or less.  A hot dog and a beer would set you back about $MXP100, and that is exactly what I will be ordering on my next visit.

Primos, Mazatlan 168, Colonia Condesa


M-T: 1:00pm-11pm

W-Sa: 1:00pm-12am

Su: 1pm-6pm

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