Monday, June 17, 2024

There’s a passion for cuisine at this new restaurant in Mexico City

Everyone remembers that one mom who cooked while they were growing up. Maybe it was your mom. Her kitchen was always full of activity and laughter, there was always a little piece of cheese to steal, a carrot that needed chopping, gossip to be repeated.

That was Eduardo Plaschinski’s mom. His friends would literally sign up to come to Shabbat dinner every week.

“In our home there was food, flowers, friends, music and travel,” says his mother, Karen Drijanski. “Cultures were important, and friends, getting people together, enjoying life together.

“Telling stories at the table, fighting at the table, loving each other at the table, being real at the table, but nothing was in the living room, it was always in the kitchen.”

“I remember not wanting to go school because I wanted to go with my mom to work,” says Eduardo with a nostalgic smile. “I knew afterwards she would take me to Granville Island market, one of the best markets in Vancouver, and we would spend hours there, buying ingredients to go back home and cook.”

From left, Reyes, Drijanski and Plaschinski at Niddo restaurant.
From left, Reyes, Drijanski and Plaschinski at Niddo restaurant.

Their strongest bond has always been over food, so it makes sense that they would open a restaurant together. What’s better than cooking and experimenting with your favorite foodie friend?

The restaurant Niddo was born from their combined passion for cuisine, and its ambiance is a bit like those early dinners. Diners wander up to the restaurant’s open kitchen on Dresde street in Colonia Juárez and could almost simply walk into the kitchen and stick a finger in a pot – if the room weren’t already packed to the gills with Eduardo, Karen and their small staff.

Half a dozen tables sit inside and three or four more provide sidewalk dining. And while there is a chic Mexico City tinge to it, Niddo was born to be down to earth.

“We never wanted to open anything pretentious,” says Eduardo, “we just wanted it to be representative of the things we liked – markets, family, home dinners, comfort, casualness. The things that I grew up with. What we had in mind from the very beginning was a place that would make you feel good, because we always felt good going to markets, going to dinner together, cooking at home.”

With a mindset like that it’s easy to understand a menu that doesn’t quite fit into a clear culinary category. It’s a mash-up of the things from Eduardo’s childhood, things from Karen’s childhood and the things they have tasted and discovered as they traveled the world together as a family.

“My family is from Budapest, Vienna and Prague and I am a gypsy cook,” says Karen, a strand of hair coming loose as she gestures passionately about her food.

Breakfast is served: potato latke, fried egg and serrano ham.
Breakfast is served: potato latke, fried egg, serrano ham and fennel.

“I have shakshouka and chilaquiles, grilled cheese from Boston and fishcakes from Vancouver. We have cheesecake and we have linzer torta from Vienna. It’s cooking without frontiers, it’s what feels good to us. I’m not trying to be like anyone else, I just want to cook like myself.”

They call it comfort food. Their motto is “Comida que te apapacha,” apapachar meaning to hug, comfort, spoil or cuddle. The food is flavorful but not haughty. The burrata brava pricks your mouth with its tomato heat then soothes it again with creamy burrata cheese.

The linzer torte carries an exotic spice only just undistinguishable to the palate. The breakfast sandwich has evolved to include Karen’s blackberry onion jam, at the insistence of Eduardo’s brother Carlos when he came to visit — and eat — at Niddo.

A family with eastern European, Jewish roots, Mexicans who spent years in Canada’s multicultural Vancouver, has a lot of culinary ties in its blood, but the warmth of Mexico, its people and its flavors are what have always drawn Karen home.

“For the last six years we lived in Vancouver I could smell sweet conchas everywhere. We weren’t baking conchas at the house, I just had these memories of things that were very important to me. They brought me back to my family, to love, to being together and having a spice for life which you don’t find in many cultures,” says Karen.

Eduardo, who says his time working with celebrity chef Eduardo García gave him a deeper appreciation for ingredients and where they come from, tries to source all of Niddo’s produce and products from the nearby Chinampa farms and ranches in the state of México.

Niddo restaurant in Colonia Juárez, Mexico City.
Niddo restaurant in Colonia Juárez, Mexico City.

He’s picky about his food and believes that attention to detail – knowing where your ingredients are from, how to source the very best, and how to work with them – is what makes or breaks a menu.

For just over two months Niddo has been humbly making mouths happy. As the buzz grows Eduardo and Karen, along with their business partner Mauricio Reyes Retana, are dedicated to keeping the menu, the restaurant and the ambiance representative of all the things they like.

And even with the trials and tribulations of running a restaurant they remain great friends.

“I don’t want to be right,” says Karen about difficult moments, “I just want to continue doing things with love.”

And on their days off, they go out to lunch.

Lydia Carey is a freelance writer based in Mexico City.

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