Casa Crespo Restaurant in Oaxaca, Mexico, Shines Brightly

Casa Crespo Restaurant in Oaxaca, southern Mexico, serves uniquely prepared and presented Oaxacan cuisine in a comfortable, downtown Oaxaca setting. While under the name Teatro Culinario and the supervision of executive chef José Luis, this high end downtown Oaxaca restaurant suffered from both inflated ego and prices. But since owner Oscar Carrizosa has been at the helm and in complete charge of staffing, the restaurant, now know as Casa Crespo, has risen to grand heights.

Casa Crespo combines the food quality and presentation, as well as service, of fine Oaxacan restaurants Casa Oaxaca and La Catrina de Alcalá, while borrowing and then adapting some of the secrets of success of more middle of the road restaurants such as La Biznaga and Caldo de Piedra – stalwarts on the Oaxaca restaurant scene.

Decor, Ambiance and Service at Casa Crespo Downtown Oaxaca Restaurant

Casa Crespo is located less than a block from the Santa Domingo church and cultural center; thus in the high rent district of the city. Accordingly, the premises are on the small side, yet not at all cramped. While there is a rooftop patio, the main restaurant comfortably seats 38. Decor is smart and simple; mahogany stained tables and black leather padded chairs, with original Oaxacan art adorning the walls. The kitchen is open, but at the very back and not fully exposed.

There’s no shortage of staff, and Oscar is generally on hand. One is promptly met at the door and seated. The tasting menu is recommended. While I usually refrain from ordering such a selection of menu offerings because price is often not reflected in value, the tasting menu at Casa Crespo won’t break the banco. Even better, one can choose from five, seven or nine courses.

Each dish is presented with a brief explanation of both composition and region of origin in the state of Oaxaca, by either Oscar or his chef. It’s a nice touch rarely encountered these days – in Oaxaca or elsewhere.

Appetizers and Soup from the Casa Crespo Tasting Menu in Oaxaca
Casa Crespo

Casa Crespo

We began with melted Oaxacan quesillo (string cheese) enveloped and baked in aromatic hierba santa leaf. While a popular dish at La Biznaga Oaxacan restaurant a couple of blocks away, Oscar has lifted the plate into the category of extraordinary by including three samplings of seasoning for dipping: a rich balsamic vinegar, finely chopped chapulines (grasshoppers) and a passion fruit mole.

While the crusted plantain filled with cheese was certainly unique, it lacked an impressionable flavor on its own; hence an accompaniment of mole coloradito, which did the trick and took what would otherwise have been a non – descript recipe and made it memorable; and isn’t that precisely how Oaxacan moles are supposed to function?

Oscar also borrowed Oaxacan restaurant Caldo de Piedra’s “stone soup” concept (actually a method of meal preparation dating to pre – Hispanic times, recently incarnated into contemporary Oaxacan jargon). Where Caldo de Piedra prepares the plate using shell – on shrimp, making that dining experience more of a twenty – minute workout, Casa Crespo uses shelled shrimp, for a much more relaxing and enjoyable treat. Large, half gourds filled with seasoned broth and peeled crustacean are brought to the table, whereupon hot rocks are gingerly placed into each receptacle. The soup then begins to boil, and then simmer to perfection before your eyes. Since ingredients are combined moments before cooking, the meal-in-a-gourd presents as an explosion of distinct herb and spice bouquets.

Beef and Fish Main Course Selections Impress at Casa Crespo Oaxaca Restaurant

Casa Crespo’s superb Mole de Fiesta, flank steak with mole from Oaxaca’s Mixteca region, provides diners with an opportunity to sample a mole rarely encountered by tourists to Oaxaca, and even by the city’s residents. The tender serving of beef is accompanied by a rich, thick mole not easily categorized, although if pushed one could reasonably discern some of the attributes of moles negro and coloradito, together with a hint of raisin-almond-olive of a good estofado. As a bonus, the plate also contains a serving of the crushed dry mole ingredients; while intended to merely spruce up presentation, if tasted with the beef it adds a little something to the overall flavor, different from the saucy mole.

Oscar prepares his fish-of-the-day using a pumpkin-seed based pipián along with other traditional green herbs and garlic. His recipe excels in its texture; rather than use the semillas de calabaza as merely an ingredient for pulverizing to provide the sauce with flavor and thickness, some of the seeds are ground separately so as to ensure that they remain somewhat coarse, resulting in a much more textured pipián than usually found. The catch itself was moist and not in the least overcooked.

Desserts at Casa Crespo Restaurant Provide a Classy, All Oaxacan Finishing Touch

Desserts are light; so even if there’s little room for more, a touch of Oaxacan sweet should be in order.

Combining sugary and savory is certainly not uncommon in food preparation throughout the globe. In Oaxaca it’s sweet and spicy; chile on orange sections, as a topping for tamarind, and over slices of fresh coconut. At Casa Crespo ice cream made with traditional Oaxacan chocolate is served with guajillo chile powder. Once you’ve tried it you’ll understand the attraction of the combination.

On the wispy side, the bu’pu is a corn cream topped with cacao foam and flowers native to Oaxaca. Another fluffy dessert selection is the rose petal mousse. As a mixed dessert platter, a combination of the denser ice cream with the two spume – Delicious recipes provides a nice finishing touch to a memorable meal.

Casa Crespo Restaurant in Oaxaca

Casa Crespo Allende 107, Oaxaca Centro Tel: (951) 516 0918 Email: Hours of Operation: Monday through Saturday, 1 – 10:30 p.m. Tasting menus: 400, 500, 600 pesos Appetizers: 40 – 60 pesos Main Courses: 110 – 150 pesos Desserts: 50 pesos. Originally published with suite101

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