It might just be Mexico’s greatest contribution to clumsy cuisine. A candidate for the top ten dishes you always end up wearing. I’m talking about the crumbly tostada, the dish that began life as a way to use up yesterday’s tortillas. A dish that, along with those tortillas and the taco comprise the tees, Mexico’s three essential food groups.
At rib joints, they give you a bowl of lemon water (“that’s not for drinking, son”). At lobster joints, they give you a size XXL plastic bib (“sure you can take that apron home, son”). At tostada joints, the best you’ll usually get is a shiny dispenser of paper napkins.
There’s a new place in San Miguel de Allende though that’s a lot fancier than your traditional tostada joint. The tostadas are still almost impossible to eat without spillage and the napkins are still paper but the look is much more upscale than the places in my past where my tostadas have collapsed onto my lap.
Fernando, the owner of Parrillada Uruguaya has partnered with brothers Antonio and Andreas Aranda, the owners of San Miguel’s La Choperia, for a major conversion and renovation of the previously Uruguayan restaurant into a Mexcentric restaurant/bar.
The place is called Tostévere and it’s there that you’ll now find made-in-San Miguel heavy wood tables and chairs paired with wooden plates and bowls that have significantly elevated the look of the previous restaurant.
Mirrors have opened up the stone walls. A nine-stool wide bar now gives the space a casual feel…and it’s nice, just once, to be at a bar without a television staring down at me.
The kitchen shines with new appliances, cookware and utensils and manning the brushed stainless stove is the very-talented Sandor Rodriguez, a chef you may remember from Aguamiel, a restaurant that a couple of years ago was rated the town’s very best by the annual Smart Awards.
There are a couple of tacos, a couple of sandwiches, but the heart of the menu is the tostada section. First though, I suggest you start with one of the colorful soups and it’s not an easy choice.
The first soup is simply called Thai. Don Day’s Wife especially liked the glass noodles and the low heat level of the yellow curry. I liked the addition of roast tomatoes to an Asian soup.
The second soup is espárragos. I had never tasted asparagus in coconut milk before. It works. The young spears are still crisp and the flakes of toasted coconut sweeten the broth.
The tostada side of the menu is a lot more difficult to navigate. There are seven to choose from and all of them are more trendy than traditional, all of them topped with the unexpected compared to what you’ll find on most crispy tostadas.
Chef Sandor boils his octopus before grilling it and his use of deep fried leeks as the base of the tostada brings back memories of his many years at The Restaurant on Sollano.
The pulpo has a little crisp over the very tender insides. The crunchy parsley isn’t just for decoration. Grilling the lemon slice is one of those little extras that good little restaurants do. And a warning that the crunchy crust deconstructs almost instantly upon first bite so, even it’s before Labor Day, don’t wear white.
The server sees our dilemma and brings fresh napkins before the next tostada arrives. The corn esquites was the chef’s recommendation. It’s not the most attractive looking tostada but it is a buttery, peppery, creamy delight. And the kitchen doesn’t spare the Olio Fino truffled oil that goes on top.
Chef Sandor uses made in Mexico filet mignon for his carpaccio. The beef is very moist, very tender, very tasty. It’s paired with a spicy aioli, a young arugula without a hint of bitterness, a generous amount of Parmesan, and topped with a fresh quail egg.
Beef carpaccio isn’t as fashionable as it used to be. It’s disappeared from almost all but the most expensive menus. It’s a welcome sight to see it for 105 pesos.
I’ve only experienced three of Tostévere’s tostadas so far. I already have plans to go back for another two, the highly recommended by Sandor Rodriguez, roasted beet and the seared tuna.
Don Day’s Wife and I were talking about how the bar would make a nice late night, last call alternative to street cart tostadas and, as he was making Tostévere’s tasty lime and cucumber water, co-owner Antonio Aranda told me, “That’s in the probable plans”.
My sauce-stained fingers are crossed.
Tostévere is located at Codo 4, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The restaurant is open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 1:00 to 9:00 pm; Friday and Saturday from 2:00 to 10:00 pm; Sunday from Noon to 8:00 pm.