Roldán 37 is located on the quiet, pedestrian-only street in the matured neighborhood of La Merced, in the Historical Center of Mexico City. Head chef and owner, Rómulo Mendoza, has fond memories of this house, which was purchased by his grandparents over 100 years ago, in which the downstairs operated as a bodega (storage area) for chiles in the 19th century. His family was the first to cultivate and sell large amounts and varieties of chiles at the vast Mercado Merced, the same place where boats would arrive from the canals of Xochimilco to unload their vegetables and fresh flowers.
Mendoza employs both contemporary and traditional Mexican cooking techniques in his creative use of recipes that have been passed down through generations of his family. The flavors and smells of chiles still hang in the air of the 100 year old kitchen. It was in this very same kitchen where Mendoza’s grandmother, Doña Yolanda, learned how to clean, roast and and cook the variety of chiles that the family cultivated. Mendoza credits his passion for cooking to his beloved grandmother, who ultimately motivated him to remodel the old house on Roldán 37 as a gastronomical center. The tables, chairs, light fixtures, dressers and mirrors were all restored in order to maintain the same intimate atmosphere that it had many years before when it functioned as his grandparent’s home.
All of the products used at Roldán 37 (aside from the fish which comes from Veracruz) are 100% Mexican and are purchased at the neighboring market, La Merced, to ensure quality and freshness. The restaurant offers a rotating menu, however, at least two-four varieties of chiles rellenos are guaranteed, which are the specialty of the house and highly recommended. Chiles rellenos are mild, green, chili peppers stuffed with a meat mixture, then breaded and seared, doused in a manchego cream sauce and served alongside rice and blue corn tortillas. Make sure to save room for dessert and try Pastel El Roldán, which is Chef Mendoza’s version of tres leches (a dense, moist “three milks” cake topped with a rum reduction sauce and nuts). Beverage options include fresh lime margaritas or, for the adventurous bunch, a shot of top-shelf tequila served in a small chile. Mendoza recounts that when his family members would come home from a long day, glasses were scarce so they would simply grab a chile from la bodega, cut off the top and serve the tequila there.
Chef Mendoza believes that the best way to pass down the culinary traditions of one’s family is to not just see and taste the final product, but to witness the blending and transformation of ingredients into these exquisite dishes. In essence, to be an active participant in maintaining the tradition. Fluent in English, Mendoza offers cooking demonstrations for groups of 4 or more. For about $25 USD a person you are awarded a private audience with the head chef and an explanation and demonstration of the preparation of the food, copies of a few recipes taken from his grandmother’s cookbook and, most of all, a full and highly satisfied panza (tummy). [Contact Chef Mendoza personally at his email address firstname.lastname@example.org or call at +52 55 5542 1951]
Address: Calle de Roldán 37, Centro Histórico, Mexico City (between Uruguay and El Salvador)
Hours: open every day from 12:00 pm -7:00 pm