Mexico City, or CDMX as locals often refer to it, is one of the hottest destinations in the world — and rightly so. The cosmopolitan city has a rich history, cultural landmarks, innovative eateries, lively nightclubs and friendly habitants.
The city also has a brand-new restaurant from José Andrés, one of the most illustrious chefs in the United States. A James Beard winner, one of Time’s Most Influential People in the world and the owner of more than 20 popular restaurants, Andrés has conquered America and now his sights are set on Latin America.
His first eatery outside of the United States is J by José Andrés. Located on the second floor of W Mexico City in the upscale Polanco neighborhood, J delights with Andrés’ unique approach to Spanish cuisine.
The chef himself is quite the character: he’s tall, jovial, commanding and loud, but in a warm and welcoming kind of way. He’s hard not to love, and that’s obvious by the crowd he runs with — he’s friends with everyone from Gwyneth Paltrow to the Obamas.
There is nothing subdued about him or his restaurants, and this holds true at J. The menu offers several distinct dining experiences. Enjoy a mix-and-match meal of classic tapas by trying Andrés’ collision of Spanish and Mexican cuisine á la carte or order a sophisticated 12-course tasting menu. Whichever you choose, you won’t be disappointed.
Andrés helped introduce America to the Spanish concept of tapas and he’s on a similar mission now with this selection of sensational small plates. Patatas bravas, a simple but prevalent tapa that consists of fried potatoes with a spicy tomato sauce, is elegantly transformed at J. Bite-sized cylindrical potatoes are filled with the paprika-heavy red sauce and a dollop of creamy garlicky aioli.
Order the croquetas and you’ll realize that Andrés doesn’t take himself too seriously. The perfectly fried, meat-filled treats arrive in a glass shoe designed by Sami Hayek — actress Salma’s brother, yet another buddy of the chef’s.
Andrés imports many of his ingredients from Spain, including cheeses, charcuterie and a special type of crusty bread called pan de cristal. With one dish, the pan de cristal con tomate, the bread is topped with tomato pulp, drenched in fruity olive oil and sprinkled with flakes of sea salt. Take one bite and you’ll be instantly transported to the streets of Barcelona.
Andrés uses elements from both countries to re-create traditional Mexican favorites and his signature dishes. Manchego cheese is combined with amontillado sherry to make a Spanish-inspired queso fundido. The chef is known for filling crispy cones with delicious surprises, and at J, he stuffs them with avocado purée and fried grasshopper, an ingredient beloved south of the border.
The tasting menu is where you can experience Andrés’ prowess with molecular gastronomy. The aceitunas Ferran Adrià are little green spheres that burst with the flavor of olive juice when you place them in your mouth. Oysters are topped with foam that tastes like a gin and tonic, and suckling pig is roasted until the skin crackles and the meat is extremely moist.
Another area where Andrés shines is with his paella. Although it takes a little longer to make, the wonderful rice dish is worth the wait. The flavorful chicken and chanterelle mushroom paella have a rich golden color and are plated with aromatic garlic aioli. Even if you’re full, you won’t be able to stop eating this scrumptious rice.
Lift your head from your plate for a few seconds and you won’t help but notice striking décor from Spanish interior designer Juli Capella. A bull’s head is covered with a Mexican luchador mask; red velvet curtains separate the dining room from the entryway; a metallic-gold, U-shaped tufted banquet anchors the room; and black branches are illuminated against a bright white ceiling.
With 240 seats and three different dining areas, including an expansive patio, the restaurant is incredibly large, but still inviting and cozy. Silver pearl chains turn certain tables into private dining rooms, and one of the tables is a functioning foosball table with a large piece of glass on top.
Everything about this new Andrés experience is lively, from the aesthetics to the appetizers, and it all works wonderfully within the W hotel. The talented toque acknowledges this fact by saying, “it is an honor for me to be partnering with W Mexico City to open my first restaurant outside the United States. The playful, dynamic spirit of the W brand is a natural fit for us and this concept, especially this property in Mexico City, one of the most vibrant cities in the world. Today I feel I belong more to this country that I love and that has given me so much.”
While he’s not a native to the city, or even the country, it’s clear that Andrés belongs in Mexico. If his American takeover is any illustration of how far the chef can go, the country better watch out. Andrés is aiming to win over the stomachs of the region, one plate at a time.