Best Mexican Restaurant - 2008
The restaurant roasts its own cocoa beans and grinds them by hand in an old-fashioned stone mill that chef-owner Hugo Ortega brought back from Oaxaca. The fresh-ground cocoa paste is used to make its signature mole poblano, as well as the cup of hot chocolate that comes with some of the desserts. Seasonal dishes at Hugo's, like the chiles en nogada, are better than the supposedly definitive versions found in Mexico City. Hugo's serves chiles en nogada through the fall or as long they can get fresh pomegranates. In the summer, the menu switches over to dishes made with squash blossoms. Ortega's cousin Martha Ortega makes the mole poblano. She learned from her mother in Puebla, who learned from her mother and so on back four generations. Martha's mole recipe contains ingredients like plantains that you won't find in published recipes. Cookbooks only skim the surface. The Ortega family has mole in their blood. American foodies make the mistake of thinking that reading Diana Kennedy or Rick Bayless's cookbooks is all it takes to master Mexican cuisine. Mexican immigrants like Hugo Ortega and his family remind us of how deep Mexico's culinary traditions really go.