Portions and Profiteroles

When I first came to Mexico City, portions were always generous, and quality was a quality necessary for survival. Mexico City lives on its stomach, and if a restaurateur/street stall fails to deliver, his business will fall over in no time. There’s no better business to get into if you believe the statistics. While the average new business in DF folds within a couple of years, the life of a food stall averages 11 years apparently.

But I have noticed over the last year, maybe two years, that quality is falling. Vips and Sanborns used to offer a trusted option. Nothing too adventurous, but you knew what you’d get, and that you’d get it quickly and with a smile. Not so anymore, in my experience. If I previously gave them 7 stars out of 10 (you’d need 50 Gary stars  to get one Michelin one – I’m really no food expert) , they’re hovering between 4 or 5 stars these days. Small portions, often not hot enough, served in understaffed joints by harassed waitresses.

There’s still a whole load of great places to eat, make no mistake, but the downsizing of portions has become more common. So it’s a pleasant surprise when you get a giant plate load of food delivered to your table. There’s an ice cream/coffee shop on Plaza Luis Cabrera (map number 49) that serves up good coffee in fairly average sized mugs, but profiteroles on giant plates with plenty of chocolate. Tasty, plenty and…expensive. But worth it. And it’s a nice area, just off Alvaro Obregon, one of my favourite haunts. And home to everyone’s favourite bus company.

12 thoughts on “Portions and Profiteroles

  1. I have to agree with you on the decline of Sanborns and VIPS. Based on their overhead, they have to keep their prices way high, and the only place they can cut is in the portion control. We no longer go to either of them, where we used to go to Sanborns as one of the places on our weekly visits to Morelia. Now we go to a few cosina economicas because of the better quality and value for the peso. You are lucky,because DF does have a vast array of great restaurant, from cheap to very expensive, they are pretty damn good. As you say, if the product isn’t there, they will no be there long…..

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  2. Sorry to hear about the decline of VIPS. We ended up one year in Hermosillo on Christmas day, and the only restaurant open was a VIPS. Had walked past it many times in DF, and sort of snobbishly thought of it as a Mexican Denny’s and not worth trying…of course, in DF, there were always so many other choices. Anyway…VIPS, Hermosillo, Christmas night, the only choice…and we were astonished at how authentic, how flavorful, how good it was.

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  3. We’ve unofficially dubbed Sanborns “El Restaurante que no debe ser nombrado,” with a tip of the hat to Voldemort.

    It’s not that it’s bad, though now that I read your article, I think I agree that it has kind of run down hill over the last few years. But in a city as brimming with gastronomic possibilities as DF, it’s frankly kind of annoying to find oneself in a Sanborns as often as one does.

    And Vips I find distasteful from an aesthetic perspective, though the food is OK.

    Both, though especially Sanborns, seem to have likely expanded beyond their natural market. Perhaps they’ll have to retrench.

    As for Denny’s, are you sure it’ isn’t the name that attracts you?

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where, mercifully, there are very few chain restaurants.

    P.S. You certainly seem to have had some lovely dining companions. Does P know about this? LOL….

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    1. Dining out is often a gamble. If you try a new place, you can never be sure what you’re going to get – I guess that’s half the fun of trying a new place though. The quality of barbacoa can often be hit and miss too. The same place can serve up chunks of delicious meat one week, and then dump a fatty lump of grease the next.

      I’ve had two more disappointments since writing this. We went to the Pad Thai restaurant on Saturday. The food was as delicious as ever, but the servings were substantially smaller. One of the three dishes was positively miserly. Although still not quite as miserly as we got in the Tandoor House last January.

      Today I went for dinner between classes at Cafe Moheli in Coyoacan. They do an excellent pizza there for 48 pesos. Or at least they used to. Now it’s 68 pesos. I ordered it anyway – it’d be my last time there and I fancied treating myself. The waiter returned to tell me that they had no pizza. What the you-know-what? Amateurs. He gave me a menu to choose again. I chose a different establishment. Good ole Subway.

      P is one of the companions in the photos! The other delightful lady is part of the marriage too really. Well, she came with us and shared our room on our Honeymoon in Vegas…!

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  4. Bisquets Obregón is beginning to slip in my star-studded ranks of ratings, not so much for portion size, but for generally quality. Still, you can have a decent moderately priced meal much of the time. Better than VIPS. They also still give a Geezer Discount, if you show your credentials before ordering.

    We were at the Gelato-Neves place at Plaza Luis Cabrera twice this past weekend, and some of the gelato was very good, especially the maracuyá and the mandarina. But small portions and high prices.

    A surprise: a new branch of the venerable Café Emir, this one located on Calle Córdoba, about half a block south of Av. Álvaró Obregón, Colonia Roma Norte. The coffee is very good IMO, and that of our exigent coffee connoisseur friend, Ron.

    More later, on my blog http://mexkitchen.blogspot.com/

    Saludos,
    Don Cuevas

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    1. Bisquets seems to differ from store to store more than most chains. The one nearest my home sucks, and always has. When I’m walking down Alvaro Obregon, I prefer Cafe Paris. But there’s a couple of Bisquets in the north which are still excellent.

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      1. We once ate breakfast at Cafe Paris and although nothing was *bad*, it was all sort of sloshy and insipid. I can’t remember if the coffee was any good.

        Separately, I tried to go to the Hamburguesas a La Parilla on C/ Colima and C/Morelia yesterday morning (in Colonia Roma Norte) but they lacked 30 minutes to opening time.
        A nice, grilled hamburger would have been preferable to the wretched tamales we’d just had at the corner of A.O. and Japapa. They’d been so good on Saturday that I wondered if the came from a different kitchen.

        Saludos,
        Don Cuevas

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        1. Cafe Pairs’ enchiladas poblana were superb last time I had them.

          There is another restaurant, from Jalisco, in the area. I can’t remember exactly where, although I must try and find out. I think it was right at the end of Zona Rosa, nearish Torre Mayor. Superb. If you know of it, or run into it, let me know exactly where it is!

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  5. VIPS has been going downhill for a long time…I used to love the monthly specials they would run and fed there often. I watched the 2006 world cup there while dining on their fare. After that, something went sorely amiss…small portions like you say, less options, poorly cooked meals. Round the same time they added the front end cafes…makes me think they started running the Starbuck’s option that Mcdonald’s and other crap locales went with.

    Sanborn’s I’ve never liked…halfway decent breakfasts and always a bathroom to save you when in need, but little else.

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