If you think that Mexican cuisine, on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list since 2011, can fit into a food truck, think again. There is a whole world beyond cheap tacos, frozen burritos, and corner store nachos.
Nothing wrong with that, but the difference between the Mexican food at many places and the fare you’ll find at Manzana is like the difference between looking at a postcard of Cancún and actually being there. Because at Manzana there is more than just food: there is cuisine.
Nestled on ul. Krakusa, off of Podgórze’s busy main street, Manzana welcomes old regulars and new patrons alike. The restaurant has been a fixture of Kraków’s culinary scene for several years.
Previously located in trendy Kazimierz, the restaurant outgrew its old location and moved to Podgórze. The big new, airy location can hold up to 150 people.
A colorful patio features colorful Mexican murales and looks inviting: it’s a pleasant place to have your lunch or dinner al fresco. Inside, the place feels open and cozy at the same time. Many big windows shed light over the plants and wooden tables. An open floor plan allows the restaurant to rearrange the layout for parties or celebrations.
‘A Chef Must Adapt’
Chef Jerónimo Carrillo is the hombre behind the whole thing. Manzana is his creation and he is rightfully proud of it. From the logo to the mole (a traditional Mexican sauce), he has been shaping Manzana since its inception.
While keeping an eye on the black mole he was preparing, he explained to me how it’s not really necessary to import https://streetwise.pl/files/2018/07/25/many ingredients or brands to make international cuisine. aside from a few irreplaceable spices and chillis, a true cook has to adapt to whatever is available and thus offer fresh seasonal food. “i only use white corn, not the yellow one,” he pointed out. “It’s a big difference that Mexican food has with other cuisines.”
Though Polish customers are not really keen on very spicy food (you can choose the hotness of your meal), Jerónimo doesn’t renounce the strong, vivid flavors that we all associate with Mexican cuisine. Interestingly, the result is a mutual adaptation: in Manzana food is no doubt Mexican, nevertheless, he must cater to local tastes. However, at the same time, Chef Jerónimo is more and more daring to offer dishes that are two steps beyond the beloved though somewhat bastardized burrito.
At Manzana, there are two menus. The main one includes the much liked chili con carne (26 PLN), the classic tacos (23-26 PLN; soft or hard corn tortillas with bean dip and rice) and fajitas (39-56 PLN; flour tortillas with chicken or beef filling). So all is good for the lovers of the usual stuff. Portions are generous and there is a Tex-Mex flair. Yes, there are burgers like Makamaka (beef sirloin marinated in honey and soy sauce and pineapple mousse) and options for vegetarians too. Mexican food is one of the healthiest in the world and every dish has lots of veggies, so don’t feel guilty and indulge.
However, if you want to try Jerónimo’s own recommendations, go for the Huarache, an iconic Mexican dish that takes its name from the sandals that Indians used to wear. Shaped like… well, a sandal is a corn dough stuffed with fresh cheese served with a chili sauce, onion, roasted corn, jalapeño, pumpkin seed powder, and beef or chicken on the top. Tastes intense and hearty, like a soft bread sandwich with smokey meat; the cheese balances the fiery kick that comes from the chili and it’s made so in every bite you have a bit of every ingredient.
Tacos are a staple in every self-respecting Mexican restaurant, but in Manzana, you can try the Taquitos (smaller versions of the rolled-up corn tortillas stuffed with chicken, cheese, and jalapeño with a chipotle mayonnaise dip; 14 PLN). Light and yummy, they’re perfect to share.
Gorditas (little chubbies) is a Mexican pastry stuffed with pork meat marinated in chili and cheese with veggies. Is more than a quick bite and somehow a compendium of popular Mexican food. Tasty, colorful and very comforting (12 PLN).
Enmolada (30 PLN) is, you guessed it, a feast for mole lovers. Along with curry, mole is possibly one of the most complex traditional sauces in the world. The mole poblano (Puebla is the city considered as the birthplace of mole) can have up to 30 ingredients and it takes a lot of work and time to prepare. Some Mexican families have their own blend or secret ingredient.
Though Chef Jerónimo wouldn’t tell me his secret, he was happy to serve it. Black mole features dark chocolate, chili peppers, and many spices. Its smell is so strong that sometimes airport authorities can register it as explosives. No joke. The flavor is complex, somehow dark and sour and close to umami. Try this ancient recipe with enchiladas (stuffed tortillas) and you’ll understand why Mexican food can be so soul-fulfilling.
Go to Manzana with the Laura Esquivel best-seller Like water for chocolate, a magical and romantic story where a woman tries to conquer her impossible love through the stomach. Each chapter begins with a recipe and the descriptions of food will make you feel glad that you are in the right place.
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