Papatzul blends the culinary refinement of Mexico City’s ritzy Polanco district with the colorful, sunny charm of the artsy Coyoacan district. Black iron tree-shaped candelabras are mounted on the back room’s white brick wall under a sparkly skylight. In the front bar area, Mexican masks hang on a saffron background above a red leather banquette. Behind the bar, dozens of tequilas, including high-end artisanal labels, are given the pedestal treatment they deserve. Those not ready to sip their agave straight can enjoy a long list of margaritas on the rocks, including the fuchsia Flor de Jamaica, made with sweet hibiscus juice.
Chef Thierry Amezcua, a Mexico City native, got his start in New York in the kitchens of Il Buco and Savoy. The training shows in his elegant preparations of Mexican market-inspired dishes: Tender duck enchiladas come enrobed in an almond-based black mole, garnished with squiggles of crema, and sprinkled with toasted almonds; buttery steamed coins of sliced octopus wade in a smoky, mildly spicy chipotle tomato sauce, accompanied by a green fan of sliced avocado. For a contemporary rendition of one of the world’s most soulful cuisines in an exuberant setting, you can’t beat the experience.