Stewart Haverlack, the co-owner of San Miguel de Allende restaurant Zumo, said that. And I’ll tell you why.
But not right away. First I want to tell you that I’ve always liked Zumo. A lot. Always thought it was one of the town’s best restaurants. But there was always a problem. And, for me, it was a big one.
The restaurant was located about fifteen blocks from the jardin, the heart and soul of San Miguel’s social scene. Those fifteen blocks may as well have been fifteen miles if you were a tourist. And they were still a long, long way for full or part-timers in San Miguel.
Don Day’s Wife and I enjoyed a few delightful dinners at Zumo but we didn’t go very often. We loved the decor, the cuisine, the views; the problem was the coming and going. Pre-dinner drinks and after-dinner music are often essentials for Don Day’s Wife and I but having to cab to and from those venues was always a bit too much of a hassle if we ate at Zumo.
That has now all changed. The old Zumo is closed and the property is up for sale. And there’s a new Zumo. And it’s located just two blocks from the jardin and walking distance to those bars we too often frequent before and after dinner. Not only that, the new Zumo is just as attractive, has a larger and more casual menu, plus a location with what Andy Reddyhoff, one of the guys I had lunch there with last week, called “certainly the best view in San Miguel for lunch”.
There are a lot of nice new rooftops to eat and drink at in San Miguel. What makes the new Zumo’s view so special is it extends for about 270 degrees without being blocked by anything. It gives you a panorama that goes from the east to the south right through to the west.
The restaurant sits atop Villa Limon, a five-room boutique hotel that again showcases the decorating talents of Stewart Haverlack’s partner Vanessa Villegas. Vanessa did the old Zumo in a soft lime green; her new Zumo is a brighter lemon yellow. I applaud the way the color is brought to each table with the use of fruit in the floral arrangements.
Though it had occasional attempts at a lunch business, the old Zumo was primarily a dinner venue, mostly a prix fixe format, and open five days a week. The new Zumo has breakfast, lunch and dinner menus and is open seven days a week, 365 days a year. I was particularly intrigued by the very separate lunch menu.
Most upscale San Miguel restaurants have all-day menus which mean, at lunch, dishes can often be too heavy and too pricey. Zumo seems to have solved both of those problems. The front and back, two-page lunch menu has starters on one side, mains on the back.
The cuisine is very much Mexican but has enough twists and turns and European and Asian influences to make it one of San Miguel’s more creative offerings.
On the starters side of the menu, burrata is really one of those dishes that is the sum of its parts. And Zumo’s adds up to be one of the best I’ve had.
The tomatoes should be perfectly ripe heirloom. Check. The arugula should be young without any bitterness. Check. The cheese should be very fresh. Check (the burrata is homemade by executive chef Alex Zuno). Any extra ingredients must enhance not interfere with the overall taste. Check and double check to the capers and watermelon radishes.
“That’s the super-talented Marcela Lopez helping Alex plate”, Stewart Haverlack told me. “She spent a year at Arzac in San Sebastian which is up there on the list of the world’s best restaurants.”
Other interesting starters include a mahi mahi ceviche with pineapple, orange, lime and grapefruit juice; a peach habanero gazpacho; duck quesadillas with Oaxaca cheese and shitake mushrooms; chile crusted calamari with chipotle dipping sauce; and a China meets Mexico dish of shrimp wontons on a bed of poblano cream sauce.
On the flip side of the menu are the main attractions. Chef Alex sautées oyster, portabello, white and cremini mushrooms for the tagliatelle.
My friend Andy had the Jamaican-style pork ribs.
He told me, “The ribs are fall-off-the-bone tender. I was expecting a little more spice for a jerk sauce but I like a lot of heat and this would be perfect for the average person.”
I was excited to find a fairly traditional chicken curry on the menu. Curries have a bit of been there/done that reputation and you seldom find them on chef-driven restaurants any more. Chef Alex’s curry is Thai style with a lot of coconut flavor along with ginger and garlic. The use of chayote as one of the vegetables adds that Mexican touch that slips into most of his dishes.
One more thing that should be said about the curry is the price. It’s $160. That mushroom tagliatelle is $180. Those aren’t the kind of main course prices I’m used to seeing on the menus of high-end San Miguel restaurants. Those aren’t the kind of prices I’m even used to seeing on some mid-range priced San Miguel restaurants.
As we admired another view from the new Zumo’s roof, I spoke to Stewart Haverlack about how, when the old Zumo opened about three and a half years ago, there were three, maybe four high-end restaurants in San Miguel de Allende. We started listing the new ones and we were soon up to ten. I asked Stewart how he thought he could compete against so many contenders.
“I think there’s room for all of us”, he said. “There are enough people coming to this town to keep us all busy. If they’re here for five or six nights, they don’t want to eat in the same restaurant every night.”
“I always believed in our food. I knew we had a good wine list, a good cocktail menu. The ambience, the service, the decor…they were all there. I knew our prices were fair, in the right ballpark, but I also knew what we were missing. I knew I had to do something about it. Now we’ve also got the location.”
Zumo is located in Villa Limon, Quebrada 93, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.