About three and a half years ago, I was shopping in the Mercado de San Juan de Dios when, across Avenida Guadalupe, a sign caught my eye, a classy looking sign, with the words Grille Torres.
The menu persuaded me to stay for lunch and I had some imaginatively-prepared shrimp as well as an exceptional piece of salmon.
I liked Grille Torres a lot. I liked chef Mauro and his wife Teri. But I only went back two, maybe three more times. There were a couple of reasons.
First, I live on the opposite side of town and I had to spend a lot of time and pass a lot of other restaurants to get to Grille Torres. Second, a seafood dinner without a bottle of white is like pasta without sauce, roast beef without gravy, and Grille Torres was missing that all important…to me…wine licence.
Restaurants are like alcoholics. It’s usually a tough life for them without booze. But Grille Torres was a survivor. Did it long enough to find a much more convenient location a few months ago, just off Ancha de San Antonio, San Miguel’s busiest street. The key words in that sentence though are “just off”.
Grille Torres is only about ten metres down a pedestrian lane but, with no actual street presence, that classy looking sign, even when it’s lit at night, might as well be ten miles from the Ancha.
I went to the new Grille Torres a few times for lunch, enjoyed some of the expanding list of items on the menu, and saw the look, the style, the ambience of the place improve every time I ate there. But I never went for dinner until a couple of weeks ago. There was big news. Grille Torres finally had that very precious alcohol licence. I thought it was a good excuse for a celebration.
Chef/owner Mauro Torres and I sat down and planned a multi-course seafood dinner paired with Mexican wines from Baja California. An invite went out on Don Day in SMA and One Night in Mazatlan was inked on the calendar.
I had organized wine-pairings with single Mexican wineries in the past but, this time, I decided to cherry pick (or should that be grape pick?) the wines from different wineries in and around the Valle de Guadalupe in the state furthest northwest in Mexico.
The first winery in the Americas was located there using vines imported and planted by the Spanish conquistadors. Most of the area is classed as desert with less than ten inches of rain annually but, over time, with the help of improving irrigation methods, winemakers have begun to make some very good wines. In my opinion, they are the best wines in Mexico.
With Mexico’s love of sweet, it’s very difficult to find any domestic sparkling wines that are brut or even extra dry. The one I chose to accompany the first course, Chef Mauro’s mahi mahi ceviche, came from one of Mexico’s older wineries, Bodegas Roganto in Ensenada.
Roganto Vino Espumoso’s grape is Cabernet Sauvignon, an unusual choice for a sparkling rose. The wine has some nice notes of strawberry and blackcurrant and a hint of yeast like a Champagne. It’s not the kind of wine that’s going to excite serious wine enthusiasts. It’s more of a fun wine, a party wine, and it was a nice way to get any party and the Grille Torres dinner started.
Next up were Mauro Torres’ shrimp and octopus cocktails. It’s a very Mexican style seafood cocktail, not with the ketchup and horseradish sauce that we ate north of the Rio Grande in the sixties and seventies, but a much more light and refreshing sauce with flavors of lime and chile that’s generously topped by avocado.
I paired them with an interesting combination of three grapes that comes from the Valle de Guadalupe, Trasiego Seleccion Blanco 2017. Viognier, which originated in Central France, is the primary grape in Seleccion Blanco. Arneis, the secondary grape is Italian and rarely seen outside of Piedmont. Arneis has the reputation of adding pear flavors to wine, as does the third grape, another from France called Marsanne. Overall, Seleccion Blanco delivers a puckering mouthful of that pear as well as apple and peach fruit plus a pleasant herbal bitterness in the aftertaste.
The foundations of Grille Torres’ reputation have always been shrimp and salmon. The shrimp, and one of Mauro Torres’ most celebrated dishes, shrimp in garlic butter came next.
Chef Mauro had sourced some extra large beauties from the west coast and they deserved what I considered the best white of the night to accompany them.
I discovered Invisible Hilo Negro via Arturo Bodenstedt, author of the book, Guia de Vinos Mexicanos. Invisible’s winemaker, Daniel Lonnberg combines three of the world’s most celebrated grapes, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay to produce aromas of peach, melon, grapefruit and honey with well balanced acidity.
We drifted a little from the theme with the next course. I wanted Grille Torres to really shine by showcasing their other specialty, salmon, but, as Mauro Torres reminded me, “There are no salmon swimming in Mexico”. We decided to stretch our Mazatlan theme by a few thousand miles with salmon sourced from Norway.
The salmon was served on a bed of risotto and topped with a salsa verde. Leaning on the very top was my favorite part of the pretty in pink fish, a slice of the crispy skin.
I originally intended to pair a Mexican Pinot Noir with Chef Mauro’s salmon but my final decision was for a wine that some might argue is more suitable for meat rather than fish. I first tried Surco Rojo because I was a big fan of Surco 2.7, one of Mexico’s best-value Cabernet Sauvignons that comes from the same winery.
Surco Rojo 2013 adds Nebbiolo to the blend, a grape that performs very well in the Valle de Guadalupe. The wine is aged for 12 months in oak and at least another year in the bottle. The winemaker, Camilo Magoni, spent decades with the producer of the final wine in our tasting, L.A. Cetto.
The dessert wine came from the Reserva Privada line of L.A. Cetto. It combined my favorite sweet grape, Moscatel, with Palomino, a grape I’d previously only seen used for making Sherry. It has a beautiful golden color with a taste of pear, apricots, nuts and honey that’s reminiscent of Port as well as Sherry.
The wine accompanied two other fruit flavors. Chef Mauro had decorated the key lime pie with blueberries.
Mauro Torres (with wife, sous chef and server, Teri on the left and another Grille Torres fan, Paula Nunez, between them) had proven there are a lot of reasons to discover and wander down Callejon de La Bayoneta, that pedestrian lane off Ancha de San Antonio, and discover how his seafood is even better when it has wine by its side.
Grille Torres is located at Callejon de la Bayoneta #2 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. They are open Monday and Tuesday fron Noon to 9:00 pm, Thursday through Sunday from 9:30 am to 9:00 pm. The wines featured at One Night in Mazatlan will only be available at the restaurant for a limited time.