The combination of the elevation (7,200 feet above sea level) and constant mezcal hangover resulted in some hazy memories of Mexico City. But, my meal at Contramar remains as vivid as the saturated blues of Frida Kahlo’s garden walls. I was traveling through Mexico’s capital to research the local delicacies. Up until our meal at Contramar, the eating itinerary was built around taquerias — we’d order a Coke, and ask politely for the house specialties. Some tacos were drenched in a thick layer of salty queso, others were a measly tortilla with a pile of meat and bright spices, and many of them were straight-up al pastor — a favorite version with spit-grilled meat, topped with a slice of pineapple. It was all delicious, but eating at Contramar felt like arriving at an oasis in the middle of a landscape loaded with tacos.
There was this interesting conversation happening: servers were trained in fine-dining — not a single detail unattended — and the guests were a blend of young travelers and local office workers. The space was a perfect fit for anyone who entered its four walls. Twenty-somethings shared a cigarette and gossiped about the previous night’s escapades, the men in suits moaned and groaned about workplace logistics, all while one gracious server delivered the same plate of atún tostadas to both groups. No table was complete without the atún: a baked tostada topped with a bit of chipotle mayo, cooked leeks, citrus-marinated tuna, and a slice of avocado. Paired with the cool afternoon breeze and a glass of wine, I was in the middle of meal nirvana. Seafood is the restaurant’s focus, and the fish is incredibly fresh. The whole grilled fish “contra mar style” was a tasty ying-yang of flavor: half was dressed in adobe chili, the other half in parsley rub. We ordered ceviche, clams, and another round of tostadas. Before we knew it, it was late-afternoon (our reservation was at 11:30am). The neighboring table had been turned twice since we sat, and the the sun was no longer directly overhead. We had spent five hours at lunch and it was intoxicating (without the similar hangover that comes with many mezcal cocktails!). I crave those hours just as I crave the atún tostadas. If you find yourself in Mexico City, dedicate an entire afternoon to Contramar. I hope it touches you the same way it touched me.