It’s not true that more than half of all restaurants fail within their first year. It actually takes almost two. Don Day’s Wife and I even play a little game. On the way home from our first (and very often only) time at an ambitious new restaurant one of us will just throw out a length of time.
“Six months”, Don Day’s Wife might say. “I’m going nine, maybe ten”, I might reply. Nothing more needs to be said.
A while back, we celebrated the opening of a new San Miguel restaurant called Nomada that had some very fine food. I can’t remember any time period at all being mentioned on our way home. Yesterday, Nomada celebrated their third anniversary.
Though I try to present myself as an expert, I really have next to no idea what requires one restaurant to bolt its doors while the one next door might have a line-up snaking round the corner. I do know two things about Nomada, however, that makes it a lot better than virtually any other restaurant in San Miguel de Allende.
The first is called Marco Cruz. Marco is the chef and co-owner of Nomada. Marco’s creations are original but still steeped in tradition. They are innovative but without those showbizzy smokes or steams or foams that often add little or nothing to a plate or a palate. Marco’s dishes are Mexican and they are international. They are ordinary and they are extraordinary.
I had one of Marco Cruz’s signature dishes this week. It’s a mushroom risotto. It’s a tough one for chefs to do because it requires attention and timing, almost perfect timing. Marco doesn’t do it a whole lot different than other chefs.
He uses a Mexican instead of an Italian rice and he adds a queso de cabra to the Parmesan but, wow, it is so rich, so creamy, so perfectly spiced. It is scrape-the-plate scrumptious.
Another specialty of the house served this week was a charred heart of romaine served with what Don Day’s Wife calls “an oomphy dressing”. It made me wonder why I’m eating so many delicate little field greens when I’m passing up the soul of a good Caesar salad. The crisp romaine is sided with a slightly blackened bread smeared with an earthy spread made from eggplant ash. It’s like what’s good for you meets what’s bad for you and forever the twain should meet.
There were two other knockouts on this week’s tasting menu. Marco Cruz prepared two different tacos, neither of which you’ll find anywhere else in San Miguel de Allende.
The first featured a tender and juicy suckling pig (I’m guessing less than a month old) roasted over an open wood fire. It was accompanied by a medley of roast vegetables highlighted by cauliflower in a chile and orange sauce.
The second taco, this time with the corn tortilla grilled until crispy, had succulent young leg of goat that had been stuffed before roasting. A do-it-yourself toppings table included some rare peppers that had been sourced in Oaxaca the previous week.
Great dishes come from great ingredients and a great chef knows that smart shopping is just as important as creative cooking.
The second reason that Nomada has already been around for three years and may still be around in thirty is called Sofia Antillon. Sofia is the pastry chef and co-owner of Nomada. Don Day’s Wife calls her “La Reina de Los Postres”. But as wonderful as her desserts are, it is her other contributions that make Nomada a survivor. Sofia is often also the front-of-house, head waiter, sommelier, accountant, magician and juggler at Nomada. And she does it with a constant and beautiful beam on her face.
Today, Sofia Antillon took berries and cream to the next level. The rainbow of reds and whites on the plate was, as always, spectacular. Each mouthful presented a new surprise. A touch of anise brightened the ice cream. A nest of strawberries lay hidden inside the meringue. Frozen raspberries were sprinkled like the season’s first snow over the cake. And the postre was personally presented by Sofia at our table as it was to everyone’s.
The last time I wrote about Nomada I focused on their weekly Wednesday tasting menu.
A few things have changed since then. The restaurant has moved uptown a couple of blocks. Marco and Sofia (husband and wife by the way) have opened a new restaurant called Tr3s Tonala in Mexico City (though they’re still almost always on-site in San Miguel). Marco’s hairline is now starting to approach Don Day’s (but Don Day’s Wife thinks it makes him look much more handsome). The wine selection (my former biggest beef) has dramatically improved. And the price of the Wednesday tasting menu has risen to 550 pesos (but still may be the best restaurant bargain in town).
Congratulations, Marco and Sofia and Nomada on your third anniversary. I hope I see you on many Wednesdays (and Thursdays, Fridays, etc.) to come.
Nomada, Cocina de Interpretacion, is located at Calle Hernandez Macias #88 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The restaurant is open on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 12:30 to 10:00 pm; Tuesdays from Noon to 8:00 pm; Sundays from 9:00 to 4:00 pm.