Thursday, March 01, 2012


The bread basket at Bacan.

From the street Bacan Restaurante is simply gorgeous looking. Ana pointed out to me the other night as we drove by on the way to my favorite B&B. At the corner of Mexicali and Avenida Oaxaca, the place is stunning with it's garden water fountain, Parisian bistro chairs, Euro gas heaters and sharply dressed waiters. It's impressive.

Ana and her mom had been wanting to go and what better time than now?

Printed on the inside of the menu is the definition of Bacan. Dicho de una persona: refinada, de trato amistoso y agradable, muy atractivo y popular, elegante, afecto al lujo y al buen vivir.

And for those of us who are Spanish-challenged, it means a person who is refined, friendly and pleasant treatment, very attractive and popular, stylish, fond of luxury and good living.

In other words: this is place to see and be seen.

And it certainly lives up to its desire. It's obvious that someone spent a lot of money on the buildout because it's gorgeous and everything is well-appointed. This results in a decidedly beautiful crown of Chilangos in nice clothing, driving nice cars and looking like the social elite.

The only problem is that this place is a restaurant and restaurants this nice looking should deliver cuisine that's its equal.

But before I go further, I do have one gripe to grind. This restaurant opened in October of 2011. This is the age of the mobile device. Who the hell thinks its still okay in 2011 to develop a Flash page making it impossible for an entire population of diners to visit your website.

Please take your web designer out to the country and shoot him.

I want to note that the service was really great. The hostess and servers were all very nice, attentive and responded to our needs. The setting is fantastic, the service is good, now what about the food?

Utilizing our scoring standard for barista competitions where a six is extraordinary, I give Bacan a 3.5 - good plus. Described as contemporary fusion, the menu offers an interesting mix of items that sound promising but are produced by a kitchen that doesn't seem up to the challenge. The technique is there, it's just missing that extra detail to make it shine.

Tacos de Pato, Argentinean Empanada and Tuna Ceviche.

Take for example the Tacos de Pato (duck tacos). The meat is lovely. Perfectly cooked and shredded, the texture is also perfect, just where is the flavor of the meat? Strong notes of orange and sweetness dominate over the perfunctory tortilla. The rolled tacos (think: unfried flauta) are laid on top of sweet caramelized (without the caramel color) onions and fried chopped cebollita stems. Sadly, the sweetness comes through and the rest is just flat.

What really makes this dish a shame is that we're in Mexico City - Ground Zero for amazing Mexican cuisine and an ambitious restaurant such as this produces such a taco? For ten percent of the price of this duck taco, I can get an amazing taco at 101 different places. I mean really, a taco here should be stunning.

Then there was the Tuna Ceviche served with avocado on top of a tostada, a nice idea for fusion appetizer. Here the quality of the tuna was just lovely but it was marred by the liberal use of diced tomato (which made it seem like the kitchen is trying to stretch the quantity of tuna used in the dish) and the lack of acidity that is the hallmark of a ceviche. Here the problem of the duck taco returns with a candy like sweetness dominating everything else - even the creaminess of the avocado.

To add insult to injury, the tostadas weren't even executed well. Uneven and bland, some were thick, one was thin. One was soggy. I must note that the one tostada that was thin and crispy made for an excellent texture juxtaposition with the ceviche, it's just a shame the quality control in the kitchen isn't more stringent to maintain tostada consistency.

Senora Garcia's salad of lettuce, goat cheese, apple slices and walnuts was perfunctory but decent while Ana's Penne Con Chistorra was actually nice tasting with a sparse amount of tasty chistorro sausage slices. This dish too was marred by the slightly overcooked pasta which lacked that toothy resistance one expects from a pricey pasta dish at a fine dining restaurant.

Estofado of Ox Tail in red wine sauce.

When choosing between the oven roasted chicken in white sauce or the oxtail stew, our server noted that the stew was the right choice, I went with that recommendation. The braised oxtails were cooked perfectly and dressed with a lovely stew sauce, paired with a buttery smashed potatoes that gave off notes reminiscent of buttered cauliflower, but here too the kitchen fell short with a perfectly textured meat that lacked the oomph to send it over the top.

As I ate the meat, I wondered just what was missing and added a little salt. That was the ticket - the kitchen lacked the ability to season properly. And for a dish that is two hundred and twenty pesos (a little bit more than the average daily wage in Mexico) you expect something stellar.

And that is the problem with Bacan. The food lacks that final detail that make it soar. You want it to be amazing. You hope that it will be amazing, but the food falls short. And that's a shame.

I mean Bacan has all the things you want in a go-to restaurant. Beautiful setting, a place to be seen and great service. It just lacks that one key: stellar cuisine. And that's the reason that stops you from rushing back to eat there again.

Bacan Restaurante Condesa
Mexicali 4 a esquina Nuevo Leon
Hipodromo Condesa DF 06100