Mextizo offers a blend of Mexican and Mediterranean cuisine, but not in the sense of the lazy or trendy ‘fusion’ cooking that forcefully inserts the ingredients from one culture into the classic dishes of another, with no respect. Instead of cavalierly merging these two distinct cuisines into one dish, chef Adrián Marín has chosen a more purist approach, offering a wide array of recipes discovered during his three years living in Mexico (from Cochinita Pibil to Ceviche Baja California), alongside dishes from the classic Spanish Mediterranean coast. Chef Marín hails from Castelló, and his rice dishes stand as a proud testament to his Valencian roots.
After a seemingly endless parade of tacos, sopes, panuchos and salads, a steaming paella pan of saffron rice with tender white fish, mussels, clams and langoustines arrived to the table, presenting a challenge to my already full stomach that I was all too willing to accept.
The decor of this elegant, upscale restaurant, just half a block from Rambla de Catalunya on Carrer de la Diputació, is punctuated with countless “X” motifs in black and white. The omnipresent letter forms looping yet subtle patterns that hatch their way across the walls and fabric coverings of the plush, comfy banquettes that fill the high-ceilinged back dining room.
There is no cocktail menu at Mextizo, but expert barman Gregorio Gracia is almost always on hand to swing by your table in his short-sleeve shirt and barman vest to recommend a signature cocktail to accompany your meal. Gracia has a long history of bartending in Barcelona. He was the bar educator at famous, old-school mixology stalwart Dry Martini, once named one of the 10 best cocktail bars in the world. Gracia’s most common request from diners at Mextizo is a margarita, which he enthusiastically infuses with “tequila tinctures”—tequila macerated with jalapeño, eucalyptus, blueberries, dried apricots, Vietnamese cinnamon and more.
The taco of lechon (suckling pig) might have been the very best three bites of the entire evening.
The wine list at Mextizo is fairly comprehensive, though the offerings by the glass could be better. With such a wide contrast of flavours on their menu, recommending one bottle for the table to cover all pairings throughout the meal is extremely difficult. There are three white, three red and three sparkling wines served by the glass. Of the three whites, all of which we tried (a typical offering of Albariño, Verdejo and Xarel·lo), the latter, a crisp and floral wine from Penedès, was the winner.
The meal began with crispy wonton cones filled with raw tuna, Valencia-style rice and guacamole, quickly followed by a perfect little Sope de Tinga de Pollo. Sopes are thick corn tortillas, molded into the shape of a shallow dish and topped with various fillings. In this case, the tinga de pollo (braised chicken shredded and stewed in a tomato-based sauce) was served with sour cream and eaten in two heavenly bites (or one massive and messy mouthful if you’re like me).
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The meal continued with a wide variety of dishes, including many vegetarian options for my meat-abstaining partner. Tostadas of Grouper Ceviche with mango and langoustines, mini tortillas (panuchos) topped with braised pork and pickled red onions, a tangy salad of tomato, fresh mango, crispy tortilla strips and a mango vinaigrette, and tacos of grilled vegetables, lechon (suckling pig) and grilled ribeye steak followed. The taco of lechon might have been the very best three bites of the entire afternoon. The rich meat was slow-roasted until virtually melting off the bone, and shards of brittle, crispy pig skin were sprinkled across the top of the taco like a beautiful blessing from the pork gods. The accompanying salsas were good, but when the waiter offered a third “extra spicy” sauce, that’s when things truly got interesting. The devil red purée of arbol chilies and chipotle was delicious and just spicy enough to set my inner ear tingling, but not so intense that the intricate flavour of the toasted chilies couldn’t be thoroughly enjoyed. I slathered the chopped bits of chargrilled steak in this addictive salsa and moaned with pleasure, mouth on fire.
As if all this food was not enough, we soon realised that a hearty helping of seafood rice (which was also superb, though their vegetarian rice with cauliflower and asparagus was a bit bland) and two outstanding desserts were still on their way. I noted with appreciation that the rice dishes are available in single servings (as opposed to a minimum of two servings), a not so common find in nicer restaurants in Barcelona.
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I’m not usually a dessert person, preferring a bit of cheese (or another taco) to something sweet at the end of a meal. However, the pastry chef of Mextizo, Ecuadorian-born Gabriela Lastra, nearly stole the show with her Textures of Chocolate and Lemon Lemon Lemon desserts. The chocolate plate was divine, offering chocolate mousse cake covered in ganache, a quenelle of chocolate mousse cream, a chocolate sponge cake, chocolate ice cream and a crunchy chocolate crumble, and the lemon creation featured ultra-refreshing lemon sorbet with lime zest, dense and sweet lemon olive oil cake and a lemon egg yolk cream. Followed by two coffees and some complementary milk chocolate cornflake clusters and mini magdalena muffins, we practically rolled home, stuffed to the gills but utterly content.