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What the locals are eating in Mexico City

What's on the menu in the capital? We've rounded up five contemporary combinations of quirky ingredients and top-notch traditional dishes

What the locals are eating in Mexico City

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Weeds and insects at Quintonil
A new generation of big-idea restaurants is shunning Old World influences in favour of local edible flowers, oddball herbs, weeds and bugs. Reserve way ahead for a table at Quintonil (pictured), the impeccable jewel box that’s a high temple of grass-roots grazing. Menus change seasonally but a recent visit here included greens from the city’s muddy, Aztec-invented chinampa gardens, ejote-bean ice cream, ant larvae in charred guacamole, and grasshopper adobo.

Chamorro at Bar Sella
A cantina classic, hamorro is a tender, well-larded, peppery pork shank that falls from the bone into homemade guacamole and corn tortillas, topped with red and green salsas. The best is at no-nonsense Bar Sella, a Valencia-inspired tavern (lunch only) favoured by those in the know. Libations flow freely, increasing the buzz as the afternoon waxes, then wanes. T: 00 52 55 5578 2001

Reina clams at La Docena
A cult object from Baja California, reina clams can be as big as grapefruit, and nearly as round, with glistening golden shells. Shucked and dressed in vinegar and lime, with onion, tomato and red pepper, their flesh is so generous it must be shared. At La Docena it’s served by the piece, or as part of an iced shellfish colossus that, while pricey, provides a feast that’s great for groups. You’ll be digging into it alongside a crowd of neighbourhood hipsters and grandees.

Sopa seca de natas at Nicos
The current trend in Mexican food is transforming age-old working-man’s recipes from the nation’s far-flung regional cuisines into white-tablecloth delights. Sopa seca de natas (‘dry cream soup’), flies from the kitchen to nearly every table at Nicos. Picture two dozen tissue-thin crepes, stacked lasagne-style and held together in a subtle tomato and cream sauce. Its delicacy on the palate is sublime.

Pasta done properly at Sartoria
Loquacious sophisticates perennially jam into this tight, minimalist bunker for delicate yet flavourful Italian-inflected greens, meats and pasta. The menu shifts with the seasons, but recent highlights have included orecchiette with swordfish and tomato, and a fazzoletti (‘silk-handkerchief’ pasta) tossed in a pesto whose each ingredient sounds a distinct, indulgent note.

Published in Issue 2 of National Geographic Traveller Food, distributed with the September 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)