By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Mexico City’s newly opened Baby Grill rooftop restaurant, just above the much more sedate Rubaiyat steakhouse on Presidente Masaryk in Colonia Polanco, is a welcome respite for both informal diners and those wanting to cut costs when eating out.
Clearly aimed at the under-30 crowd, Baby Grill is as much a bar (with a team of creative mixologists producing an array ultra-sweet and unusual beverages for the we-don’t-take-anything-straight millennials) as it is a restaurant, and its blaring rock music and laidback décor are intended to get that message across loud and clear.
But while you may want to carry a pair of earplugs with you to help drown out the noise of the wannabe-DJ looped tapes, the food at Baby Grill is worth the effort and assault on your eardrums.
Using the same imported U.S. Prime aged beef and other quality ingredients that distinguish Rubaiyat as a Mexican foodie favorite, Baby Grill’s head chef, Martín Vázquez, manages to simplify (and economize) the restaurant’s carte de fare with downsized portions and unusual presentations.
Case in point: Rather than serve the arranchera steak on a traditional plate with sides of guacamole and vegetables, the restaurant piles the meat on a submarine bun, along with the avacado dressing and veggies, turning the arranchera into an oversized pepito. (This would not be strange if the plate were listed as an arranchera pepito on the menu, but it is listed as an arranchera, so the presentation is rather unexpected.)
Equally peculiar are the fish and chips, which are served on tortillas as fish and chip tacos (a bit of Liverpool-meets-Mexico fusion).
Baby Grill’s Rubaiyat-style, reduced-portion-sized grilled octopus in spicy black bean sauce is definitely a winner, as is the ripped-from-the-Rubaiyat-menu beef rib tacos with cut-with-a-fork angus beef that has been slow-cooked for 12 hours in a stone oven.
The stars of the menu are the braised oysters with pico de gallo and chopped cucumber and passionfruit.
The presentation is gorgeous, but the flavor is a bit on the bland side until you douse the oysters in the white sauce that is placed on every table, along with three other house salsas.
Two of the four — the red and green salsas — are nothing to write home about, but the aforementioned white sauce (composed of thick cream, powdered chile de árbol and tiny ant larvae, or so says the head waiter) and the yellow sauce (made from habanero chillies and mango) are both extraordinary and add a flare to any of the dishes on the menu.
But as I have already stated, Baby Grill is intended to be more bar than restaurant, so the big draws are the mixed drinks.
To get customers drinking, head mixologist Rubén Cuevas has developed his own brand of bogo with a permanent promotion of buy-two-get-one-free on all mixed drinks.
For those of us who prefer food to booze, the main attraction at Baby Grill is its prices for quality dishes, which run about 50 percent cheaper than comparable dishes at Rubaiyat.
But, of course, that savings can easily be nullified if you let yourself be wooed by Cuevas’ tantalizing and inebriating concoctions.
Baby Grill is located upstairs from Rubaiyat steakhouse, as Presidente Masaryk 20 in Colonia Polanco.
It is open daily from 1 p.m. to midnight, expect on Sundays, when it closes at 7 p.m.
Valet parking is available in front of the restaurant and all major credit cards are accepted.