I have been seeing a lot of articles lately about a sudden wave of Mexican restaurants opening in Paris, a trend in which I have zero interest. Usually I would add some qualifier, about why my seemingly extreme view on an issue is not, in fact, so extreme. But to hell with it: not in my lifetime will it be possible to get what I consider real Mexican food in Paris, for a zillion reasons, ranging from non-availability of ingredients and kitchen expertise to the native population's total intolerance of even the mildest pique of spice. So I save my pesos for the cuisines of populations that have an actual cultural presence here: Lebanese, Algerian, Chinese, etc.
I can think of only two exceptions. One is my friends' place in the Marais, Candelaria, which serves a very tasty Mexican-like cuisine in a sadistically small room in front of the cocktail bar. (My interaction with the food usually extends no further than elbowing my way past it.) The other is Itacate, in the1èr. It's sort of the opposite of Candelaria in terms of ambition and sophistication, but the folks are very nice, and crucially it's right around the corner from a friend's cave; after tastings he and I often have recourse to a few inexpensive basically acceptable resto-ticket-redeemable tacos.
Additionally, as I remembered the other night with some friends of friends, they serve Mexican wine by the bottle, thereby offering an oenological experience that, while not advisable, it as least a real curiosity in these parts.
One could make the argument that as Mexican cuisine is to native Parisians, so Mexican wine is to this particular expat wine geek. The only difference is Parisians seem to be appreciating the lame watery version of Mexican food they get served at most places. The white wine available at Itacate is from L.A. Cetto, the largest producer of wine is Mexico, based in Baja, with, they say, over 80 years experience making wines. Their vineyard holdings encompass some 1,100ha, and they export to 25 countries, which fact is, I guess, illustrative of how these wine-like industries work. Any nation that has Mexican restaurants will conceivably have a novelty calling for novelty Mexican wine.
The nicest thing I can say about L.A. Cetto's 2009 Chenin is that at 12% alcohol it was considerably lighter than I was ancitipating. It tasted like old nothing, actually: no acid, flimsy inexpressive fruit, just a generalised wine-ishness. But this sort of thing is less a wine than a Jarritos-like product, just meant to add atmosphere.
I should just bless my lucky stars that Icate don't stock L.A. Cetto's Mexican Nebbiolo, which catastrophically bad idea actually exists. Seeing it on their website recalled the only other time I'd tasted Mexican wine, a memory I'd apparently erased. It was at the restaurant where I worked in LA, a bottle of Mexican Nebbiolo with a dragon on the label that someone had given, possibly as a gag gift, to my boss. He and I shared one sip of that latrine-reeking monstrosity and poured the rest down the drain, shaking our heads at the sheer doltish hubris of attempting to grow a famously untransplantable cool-climate Italian grape in the scorching swill-fields* south of the border.
* It would be interesting to turn up a bottle of quality Mexican wine. Like with any outlier region, there are industry types who insist quality product exists. It will not be a Nebbiolo, I know that much.
94 rue Saint-Honoré
Tel: 01 42 33 39 87.
An article on the wave of Mexican restaurants in Paris @ DavidLebovitz
Another article on the wave of Mexican restaurants in Paris @ DavidLebovitz
An article on Mexican restaurants in Paris @ Eva'sTravelDiaries
An article on Mexican restaurants in Paris @ NYTimes
An article on Mexican restaurants in Paris @ TheTomatoKnife
An article on Mexican restaurants in Paris @ FoodRepublic
An article on Mexican restaurants in Paris @ GuiriGuideToParis
An article on Mexican restaurants in Paris @ LesBonBonsdesRaisons
I can't rightfully complain about the vapidity of this meme because now I appeared to have joined in, even if it was only to voice withering skepticism.
A laughably straight-faced write-up of L.A. Cetto's Chenin @ NowAndZin, wherein the author actually speaks of pairing it with things