Allium Restaurant: Mexican Farm To Table
It has taken me a few visits to get the courage up to write about Allium. I am hoping to find the right words to do it justice. Allium is one of limited number of restaurants in Guadalajara that are slowly changing how Tapatios look at food. They are challenging the modern agro-industrial model of food production and introducing people to heirloom varietal vegetables. The result is a spectacular display of locally sourced ingredients that are distinctly Mexican.
I have a condition that requires I maintain a gluten free lifestyle. Eating out can be difficult when servers are unfamiliar with the menu they are offering. The servers at Allium would be managers at any other restaurant. Not only do they know the menu inside and out but they describe each dish with poetic flair. They have detailed knowledge of food and possible food allergies, and are willing to take the time to help you through the menu. It has been a long time since I have experienced such elegant service.
If for nothing more, you should visit this restaurant for the burrata and heirloom tomato salad. You can count the restaurants in Guadalajara serving heirloom tomatoes on one hand (I think there are three). After a poor harvest in my home garden I desperately miss real tomatoes and this salad reminded me of the first heirloom tomato I ever tried in the summer of 2000. It was served with mustard greens, cherries and a delicate vinegret that put the tomatoes first. In my opinion this is the best salad in Guadalajara right now.
Next up was the cheese plate. Four artisanal cheeses from Atotonilco with honey comb, a guava and pineapple compote, and an arugula sauce. I spend a LOT of time in the local markets and have never seen any of these cheeses before. You need to be very well connected to gain access to this kind of quality. They were all excellent while the creamy goat cheese was something you would see in Whole Foods for 40 dollars a pound. That cheese spread makes me want to take a trip to Atotonilco and Los Altos de Jalisco ASAP!
I loved the huitlacoche risotto with morel mushrooms and hint of truffle oil. I think the huitlacoche is one of the worlds great mushrooms and I like the way it was paired with the morels. In my opinion truffle oil is overplayed. This dish goes very light on the truffle oil but I still feel like the morels and huitlacoche can stand on their own. Another great appetizer was the smoked beet salad with inflated wild rice, Greek yogurt and an arugula emulsion. Smoking the beets takes the beets a couple steps beyond just roasting them. Everything was balanced perfectly.
We went a little overboard with our appetizers and were getting full before the entrees showed up. Make sure to save room for the duck breast and the pork belly. These are two of my favorite proteins and I love the way they are prepared here. The pork belly is juicy with a crispy skin that rivals the best pork dealers in Mexico. It is served with a sweet potato hash brown, arugula and a chile poblano sauce with toasted pumpkin seeds. The sauce is what I was talking about for days. It has elements of sauces that I know but it is so different. I lathered up every piece of pork belly in the sauce and was licking the plate to finish the sauce.
A seared duck breast with cherries is another taste of summer. The dish evokes memories of my time as a young waiter in La Jolla and is an all time favorite. Allium was serving this delicacy with charred cauliflower, cauliflower pure, a tart cherry gastrique and a sweet cherry jam. Cherries are in season and Allium is taking full advantage. Don’t wait much longer to enjoy this dish!
Overall my time at Allium has been well spent. Each visit keeps getting better than the last. Everything uses garden fresh greens that have distinct flavors. The heirloom tomatoes are almost unheard of outside these doors but remind me of home. The sauces use mexican ingredients in playful ways that highlight the seasons. This is a food trend that Guadalajara can’t pick up quickly enough.