Mixtli Restaurant in San Antonio is Subtly Redefining our Concepts of Mexican Cuisine
Mixtli Restaurant at a Glance
If you arrive at Mixtli expecting to see a modern masterpiece of architectural design, you’ll be sadly disappointed. If, however, you arrive expecting to find a humble windowless boxcar painted in a deep ocean blue, adorned with a glimmering cloud design, then, well, you’re a heck of a guesser. But that’s exactly what Mixtli Restaurant is: humble, thoughtful, and unique. It’s not until you cross through the curtained glass doors do you get a real concept of the experience that lay ahead.
Photo Courtesy of @crispy_langan
Upon entering you’re immediately greeted with artwork produced by Chef Torres. Black and white sketches of Mexican families selling produce and abstractions of motion mounted upon dark, highly contrasting, walls. Beneath these works and unfolding just to the right is a set of highly polished walnut tables arranged in order to seat a maximum of twelve guests. The table is already set, with flatware aligned horizontally in slatted wooden boxes.
At your left the quiet song of the kitchen plays as the chefs artfully prepare the beginning course and mis en place for the evening. They work in hushed voices and with intentional movements along the limited length of the small kitchen space. What the kitchen lacks in space, however, is made up for in intent. Smart organization and a keen selection of only necessary instruments gives this area of no more than 300 square feet the air of a million-dollar kitchen in a historic London basement.
It doesn’t take long, thankfully, for all twelve guests of tonight’s dinner to arrive and find purchase. It’s a this point a young man with short cut dark hair, a well-kept beard, and a mild smirk addresses the table, drawing a slow hush among the talkers. Introducing himself as Chef Diego Galicia, he offers us an overview of the restaurant and upcoming meal, describing the menu as a cloud that travels throughout the Mexican sky, spending 45 days in each region before embarking on its next journey. Appropriate as the name “Mixtli” is actually the Nahuatl word for “cloud.”
Tonight’s team includes Chef Galicia, Sous Chef Ramsey, and two other line cooks. Unfortunately, Chef Torres was unavailable, but the staff proved to be more than competent despite his absence. Chef Galicia hails from Taluca, Mexico and is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. He has spent time in Michelin Star restaurants as well as a stint under world famous Mexican chef Ricardo Munoz Zurita.
Sous Chef Ramsey, on the other hand, hails from Bedford, TX and Northern San Diego, CA. A graduate of the Art Institute of San Antonio, Ramsey has spent time working at Lüke, San Antonio, and preparing chorizo at the Farmer’s Markets. Her keen eye for plating and delicate manner fits well with the execution of such elaborate plates.
The Food at Mixtli
The menu consists of ten total courses, which includes paired beverages plus an additional craft cocktail and palate cleansers. The plates are surprisingly light, however, so it was no difficulty to finish each course entirely and leave not feeling overfull. This menu is inspired by the El Campo (farms, milpas, ranches, countryside) regions of Mexico, focusing on vegetables with animal proteins serving a supporting role.
Leading with a twist on a classic Mexican bollilo roll, the Mixtli variation is made with sourdough and paired with a slightly spicy salsa macha butter. This is followed by a palate cleansing Tomatillo Sorbet, finished with lemon oil and fresh petals. This bright and citrusy confection leaves your mouth clean and ready for the next bite.
Requesata Cracker w/ Salsa Verde
Would you consider ricotta a Mexican cheese? In fact, it is! Most cultures utilize a soft curd cheese, usually under different names, but the same essential product. In Mexico, this cheese is called Requeson, and at Mixtli Restaurant, it’s served on a crispy wheat cracker with salsa verde. Delightful crisp, creamy mouthfeel, and a bright acidic finish. Excellently balanced.
One topic chef Galicia felt it was important for us to understand was the true designation of the word barbacoa, which originated in the Caribbean with a Taino people. Traditionally, to cook barbacoa style meant to line a pit with hot rocks or wood, top with food, and then bury it under maguey leaves and earth; or to slow cook meats over an open flame. To further illustrate barbacoa as a method rather than a dish, our next plate comprised itself of broccoli, cauliflower, and mushrooms coated with a chile rub and cooked barbacoa style. This leaves a deep, savory flavor reminiscent of red protein.
The next two courses revealed a playful side of the menu. A delectable corn pudding with egg espuma and smoked salt, followed by a house made corn tostada topped with succulent trout, smoky chileatole, and fresh greens. Of note on the tostada dish: Mixtli Restaurant nixtamalizes their corn masa in house. This is the process of soaking or cooking raw corn in an alkaline solution in order to make tender and release flavors and otherwise indigestable nutrients. It’s a time consuming-procedure, but makes for a very impressive final product.
At this point we break for a small Mezcal cocktail made with the Mexican Hoja Santa, or Root beer, leaf. Sublimely balanced with a hint of smoke and a burst of citrus. I only wish it were a pint.
At this point we’ve arrived at our animal proteins. Leading off is a seared duck breast in a caramelized vanilla sauce with pickled apple. At first thought this dish seems much more European than Mexican, but Chef Galicia informs that vanilla itself is native to Mexico, and that duck meat is pivotal to the El Campo regions. To this I amend my preconceptions and add vanilla and duck to my lexicon of Mexican foods.
Next, we receive a beautiful cut of beef rib-eye coated with the ash remains of burnt vegetables. This is set atop a bed of pureed pinto beans and chile pasado. Amazingly tender, uniquely flavored, and cooked absolutely perfectly, the rib-eye acts as a lavish close to an exceptional meal.
Let’s just be clear, I like dessert. I don’t love dessert. I have a sweet tooth, but generally I’m more interested in the middle of the meal than the end. Mixtli, however, made me LOVE dessert. Their variation of peaches and cream is creative, beautiful, ingenious, but mostly, delicious. The custard is perfectly smooth and decadent with a fresh peach puree center that bursts with flavor, all coated in a shell of white chocolate and painted to look exactly like a peach. Brilliant, just brilliant.
Until Next Time, Mixtli
Some meals provide more than just food. They provide knowledge, emotion, art, and adventure. Mixtli Restaurant offers this type of meal. I highly recommend you take the journey, both physically and metaphorically, to experience what they have to offer.