Zefiro, Restaurant in Training

When I originally reached out via email to Oscar, a brother of a friend of a friend, I had heard that he used to run a culinary school in Mexico City and I asked if he would mind giving us a tour sometime during our trip. Instead, he insisted on meeting us for coffee on our first day in Mexico City. Somewhere between our email correspondence and actually hearing about our blog in person, Oscar made up in his own mind to adopt us as his gringa nieces. A former diplomat now working with the board of tourism to develop a culinary tourism program for Mexico City, I figured Oscar wanted to use us as his guinea pigs for his new project. But Oscar just liked us and liked our interest in Mexican food. “Sometimes you meet people, and you don’t know how it happened that you met them, but you know you were supposed to, ” he told me one day at lunch. Oscar became our tour guide of Mexico City and for the rest of the trip we referred to him as our tio (uncle)- he took us to markets, pointed out historic restaurants, lent us his cell phone, introduced us to his family, lectued us on the origins of Mexican ingredients, and drove us around town. Finally, on our last day he took us to have lunch at Zefiro, the student restaurant of Univerisidad del Claustro de Sor Juan, where he used to work.

Students run the entire show here from the service to the line and that may be what makes Zefiro so charming. It’s housed in a neo-colonial building: stone walls and gold framed mirrors surround the dining hall, but something about this place is fresh. Our waitress is overly attentive and polite, the kitchen full of students in their chefs’ hats stand elbow to elbow and look out eagerly at the dining hall in between rushes, and the hostess is running up and down the stairs with an umbrella to greet customers as they pull up. It’s all endearing, and what’s more, it’s a pleasant addition to a good meal.

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(Photos taken with ipod, excuse the quality!)

The daily pre fix menu here is about $190 pesos, getting you three courses, wine, tea or coffee, and dessert. We ordered a few appetizers and- err- entrees on the side. While the meatloaf triangularized (real word?) and put on a toothpick disguised as a fancy meat cake didn’t win us over, a few other dishes did. The crab tacos arrived wrapped in a banana leaf and covered in mole. I didn’t know the tamale-taco hybrid existed, but I guess it was only a matter of time and I’m glad I witnessed it. The nopales salad was relatively less slimy than normal, and dare we say, tasty. The chile relleno, which to me has always been an awesomely awkward looking comfort food incapable of being presented elegantly sat beautifully on top of a tomato and chile guajillo sauce.

For a place in the centro that’s elegant but unassuming, got a slice of history, and still feels young and chirpy, Zefiro is your place.

Izazaga 92, Centro Histórico
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