Criollo is one of the newest restaurants from the culinary empire of world-famous chef Enrique Olvera. Enrique could be considered as the chef that put Mexican fine-dining, or even the Mexican cuisine, on the culinary world map. Enrique manages no less than 8 restaurants today, from Mexico City to New York City.
Criollo is located in one of Enrique’s favourite cities in Mexico, Oaxaca. This charming city is located a 5-hour drive or a 1-hour flight from Mexico City and often considered as the artistic centre of Mexico. Many art galleries are scattered around the city centre and a walk through the pleasant, vibrant streets is a captivating experience. Where there is culture, there is gastronomy, and Oaxaca is no exception to that rule. Oaxaca’s food is among Mexico’s most delicious and creative and the city is particularly famous for its mole sauces. A new legion of young chefs is transforming the culinary landscape and inserting it with innovation. At the same time, new restaurants that focus on traditional and authentic Mexican food are opening their doors, too. Restaurant Criollo is one of them.
The restaurant is located just outside the city centre but easily accessible by foot. It is housed in an old Oaxacan, UNESCO labelled house. Guests enter through the kitchen, a typical aspect of the culture of Mexico. Afterwards, right in the centre of the property, the outdoor patio welcomes the guests for their meal. This patio can be found in most houses of the region, where big families often lived together in one house and where it was considered the heart of the home. There are 10 spacious tables at Criollo’s patio, warmed with 4 wood-fired authentic stoves. The eye catcher here is the big fire where fresh tortillas are made in front of the guests. There’s also a bar area where one can get drinks or small bites and which can be rented for group dinners as well. Finally, the big garden with its specially constructed casita is an inviting space for group or family parties.
The design of the property is the work of Javier Sanchez, one of the best architects of Mexico, and is simply unique. It enhances the family-oriented, cosy atmosphere, yet it is minimalistic, modern and pure at the same time. The spacious wooden tables form a great contrast against the concrete walls and the cactuses, plants, open stoves, lots of wood and the serene, contemporary artistic elements create a unique atmosphere.
Criollo is a cooperation between Enrique Olvera, Javier Sanchez and Luis Arellano. The latter is the head chef at the restaurant and hails from Oaxaca himself. Luis and Enrique worked together in Pujol and a few other places as well. At Criollo, Luis is fully in charge and creates a 7-course menu that changes on a daily basis. The name Criollo has different meanings but at restaurant Criollo, it refers to ‘natural’, without unnecessary additions, and to something that grows on a specific place. The chefs buy their ingredients on the Central Market in Oaxaca where local women from the surrounding mountains come to sell their produce. Fresh and seasonal food are the basis of the kitchen, and corn and local herbs and beans are always on the menu. Everything is homemade: from the corn tortillas to the chocolate that is used for their Mole sauces. A good example of the cooking is the traditional tamale, filled with Oaxacan cheese and coloradito mole sauce. The dessert serving ‘final feliz’ combined a traditional corn and tejate hot drink with a Criolé tamale pumpkin pancake, tejocote honey and coffee cream.
Criollo is a unique restaurant located near the centre of one of Mexico’s most upcoming food cities, Oaxaca. Enrique Olvera, Javier Sanchez and Luis Arellano invite you to share a truly Oaxacan experience in an atmospherically setting. The menu focuses on traditional, authentic dishes such as the famous mole sauces from Oaxaca or home-made tacos. A truly Mexican treat.
Written by Sven