I’m still stuffed from my 72 hours of restaurant reviewing in Guadalajara a few weeks ago, but someone has to do it, right? And I’m glad it’s me! Let’s move on this week to two excellent discoveries I made in Guadalajara.
Sal de Gusano
So, the bartender at De la O’ sent me to a trendy bar that was once a restaurant, but now is a big hangout in the area. The most impressive thing about Sal de Gusano (salt made from the worm, a reference to the salt used to accompany Mezcal) is that their mezcal servings are accompanied by tiny, alcohol-drowned scorpions.
Tasty, like the chapulines (crickets) that are also served with the mezcal, the scorpions are safe to eat as they have hardly any venom. The alcohol they are dipped in neutralizes any venom that might have been developing in these tiny crusty things, which are but babies, smaller than the size of your little pinky.
Of course, I had to try them, and right in front of my 29-year-old daughter who could just not bring herself to chomp on the crispy critters. The place is fun and I recommend going there just for the heck of it. Ask for a scorpion.
Sal de Gusano Morelos 136, Colonia Americana, Guadalajara
I was given a recommendation to try this small, attentive restaurant by the owner of one of the places I visited earlier. Greeted warmly and shown a good table, I leafed through the menu as well as the bar list that so many Mexican restaurants have to inspire you to have a piña colada or a margarita before and during the meal.
Big these days is the Campari spritzer, and so I started with that, finding it refreshing and appetizing. Among the several items on the menu I found a dish of enchiladas en chile poblano, a plate that I like to make at home, finding it easy and quick to serve. But first, I ordered a gordita con pato that took my breath away.
Simple in its composition, it filled my mouth with a delicious flavor of roasted duck and, surprisingly, with little grease. At a previous place I had a similar dish, but here it was exquisite. Topped with a touch of avocado, the blend of the crispy with the softness of the aguacate hit the mark.
I have found several restaurants overuse salt, and when pointing this out, a new dish appears with less salt. In this case, the dish was perfection. It went well with the Campari drink in front of me.
Next, I had the enchiladas and they were just as great as the appetizer. The poblano sauce had an almost sweet taste to it, accompanied by the tart flavor of the poblano chile itself. When blended with garlic, the poblano goes to waste, and so this sauce was rich and thick, as you can see in the photo, and more likely combined with sautéed onions and almonds.
You must try this dish so you know what I’m talking about. I believe this dish is as good as any I have tasted, including the great Mexican chefs of Mexico City and Oaxaca, where poblano peppers abound.
After my meal I ordered a tasting of a particular tequila I had never tasted, a newcomer to the market and selling big throughout the States: Cascahuin. It’s a tequila that was purposely created to taste like the tequilas of old, especially from the days before tequila was what it is today. A light, throat- catcher, this agave spirit tastes wonderful, and it is meant to be had straight, not mixed with anything because then you lose the whole experience.
The brand has another, stronger white tequila and so I tasted that, too. Then came the reposado, which blew me away it was so good. Admittedly, I went for the Cascahuin añejo – the best of the all. Look for it at your local store, I think it will impress you as it did me.
Looking about I noticed several shelves containing hundreds of bottles of tequilas and mezcales. It turns out the restaurant leases a small space to a local couple who display and sell their accumulation of top tequilas and mezcales.
One particular tequila I admired was selling at almost $1,000 pesos – a common price nowadays for top-brand, 100 percent blue agave spirits. The Mezcales were also quite impressive due to their rarity – from Oaxaca to Puebla to local distilleries never heard of. This couple knows their business, and if you visit Pachuco, I suggest you consider purchasing at least one bottle of the heavenly spirits they carry.
Pachuco C. Morelos 1743, Ladrón de Guevara, Lafayette, Guadalajara
Service: Great (Ask for Mariana) Closed Tuesdays