The Oaxaca visitor influx during the 1990s has nurtured a crop of fine restaurants. If at all possible, visit the uniquely elegant Los Danzantes (Alcalá 402, tel. 951/501-1184, 951/501-1187, 1:30–11:30 p.m. daily), where everything seems designed for perfection. We enjoyed their surprisingly economical ($10 until 6 p.m.) set lunch, which changes every day. In the luxuriously airy dining atrium, beneath blue sky and sunlight filtering through curtains artfully draped overhead, waiters scurried, starting us off with yummy chilled artichoke soup, continuing with savory spinach lasagna with Oaxaca requesón cheese, accompanied by mildly delicious pressed guava-apple juice. They topped it all off with delectable dark-Oaxaca chocolate mousse and espresso coffee. Bravo! After such an introduction, you’ll be tempted to return on another day. For dinner, expect to pay at least $35 per person, if you include a glass of wine. Reservations strongly recommended.
Hotel manager and chef Alejandro Ruiz of Casa Oaxaca (Garcia Vigil 407, tel. 951/514-4173, 951/516-8889, 1–11 p.m. daily except Sun.) puts his all into blending the best of old and new cuisine. For example, start off with duck pâté ($8) and continue with flor de calabaza, stuffed with cheese and accompanied by tostaditas (toasted corn) and guacamole ($6). Follow through with broiled shrimp in their juice, with lentils ($18), or baked robalo (snook) with lemon ($22), all accompanied with a bottle of Concha y Toro Sauvignon Blanc from Chile. Finish off with either baby coconut custard, mango pie, or guanabana mousse, or a sampling of all three ($10). Reservations required.
In the far northeast corner of downtown, showplace Restaurant La Toscana (at the corner of Cinco de Mayo and Alianza, in the old Jalatlaco neigborhood, tel. 951/513-8742, 2–11 p.m. daily) offers a long, elegant Mediterranean menu, spiced with a dash of traditional Oaxaca. Although it would be hard to go wrong with most anything here, I enjoyed the lettuce and tomato salad with goat cheese ($7), shrimp fettuccine ($9), leg of jabalí (wild pig, $14), and, for dessert, croquettes of coconut and banana ($8). Reservations recommended.
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Oaxaca, 5th edition