How to not look a tourist? A strange question people have been asking since the beginning of time. In NYC my usual answer is walk fast, ditch your family, abduct a dog from the dog park, and ask random strangers if they like comedy. No one will confuse you for being a tourist. You may go to jail but its a tiny price to pay for the privilege of living like a New Yorker.
But the real question I have is what is wrong exactly with looking like a tourist. Is the tourist stigma really that strong in some parts of the world, or is it the fascination of trying to live like a local, and get a taste of local culture. Perhaps a combination of the wants?
Living in a city like NYC, the flip side resonates with me more. Locals should try to look more like tourists. We often take this fascinating city for granted, and spend our time rushing to the next task. We may pass by the same building 300 times without seeing what tourists see. What if we pause, slow down, smell the roses, and play with the squirrels from time to time.
Anywho, if you are a gringo like me, looking like a local is practically impossible in Mexico City. Especially when you are having lunch at the excellent Contramar, surrounded entirely by tourists. As is the case with many such establishments these days in CDMX, gentrification, and the price points of a Contramar price out the vast majority of the local population. Hence, a destination for the food tourist.
Contramar opened in 1998 by Gabriela Cámara, one of the most influential chefs in Mexico. In fact since 2019 she is also the culinary advisor to Mexico’s president. Sort of the Mexican version of Biden’s senior Ice Cream advisor, and Trump’s burger consultants. At some point Gabriela opened Cala in San Francisco, and the two restaurants were the subject of Netflix’s A Tale of Two Kitchens. The pandemic, Cámara’s move back to Mexico for the presidential job, and other factors contributed to the closing of Cala a few years back.
But Contramar continues to shine, partly thanks to their signatures – tuna tostadas, and the “red and green” fish. The latter is called Pescado a la talla on the menu, and it is glorious. Its a butterflied red snapper, cooked with a red chili sauce on one side, and parsley sauce on the other. Unlike other such dishes we’ve had, the fish is sauced prior to cooking. You’ll see it being paraded all over the place, along with a tray of taco accessories. The tacos we made from this fish were addictive to say the least, though I give the nod to the tangier red side.
And as good as the famous buttery, silky smooth tuna tostadas were, the Galician octopus app was equally as outstanding. Galician style octopus is one of my favorite dishes on the planet, and this was a beautiful and delicate version. We also couldnt find much fault with their famous fig tart either. Even though much of the flavor came from the base, not so much the fig. Another looker, like the rest of the dishes.
Cant get reservations? No problem. Just email them. This is not Pujol or Quintenil where reservations are hard to get. Its important to also mention the Margaritas at Contramar set the stage for pedestrian drinks the rest of the trip. The main room is stunning, comfortable, and the service is like a super friendly well oiled machine. Touristy or not, Contramar is in the business of culinary happiness. Go!