A mainstay of Le Marais is Candelaria, a brightly lit micro-taqueria with bomb dot com frozen margs and a relatively short menu of well-executed Mex/Tex-Mex favorites. Walk through the unmarked door next to the pint-sized kitchen and you arrive to a sleek and sexy speakeasy specialized in agave-based spirits. Before heading over to Little Red Door, just a 2-minute walk away, a friend and I stopped here for dinner and a catch-up over a first round of drinks. We sat at the counter and asked for two frozen margaritas, which came with the perfect loose slush consistency, sporting a tangy little tajin rim. While waiting for our food, we chatted with the nice folks behind the counter about their different sauces, of which the nutty little macha was especially delicious.
Chips and guac were on point. Corn tortillas made in house with Spanish maseca had been sliced up and deep-fried to the perfect texture. Stiff enough to hold a fat wad of the green stuff but brittle enough to shatter into crunchy pieces when bitten into. The guacamole was great too, with some fresh bits of tom and onions running through it, topped with a feathery layer of fresh cilantro.
The same fresh corn tortillas are warmed up on the grill and topped with a choice of four fillings – Candelaria’s tacos, some of the best in the city. The pollo pibil came with shreds of tender chicken, which had been marinated with achiote and orange juice and roasted with some juicy chunks of pineapple. Piquant, fruity, sweet. Pork carnitas were juicy perfection, the confit meat melting in the mouth and delivering plenty of rich herby flavor, balanced nicely by the pop of acidity from red onions pickled in apple cider vinegar. But my favorite was the chorizo con papa, which came with yummy pork sausage, chopped into bits on the grill with tender potato and served with a squeeze of crème fraîche. Yum. I only regret not having tried the lamb birria tacos, which I had heard quite a bit about, but which unfortunately were not on the menu that night. Next time!
Passing over to the intimate, almost clandestine cocktail bar put us both in the mood for something stronger. I’m generally incapable of not ordering a drink that has the word chili or a 🌶️ emoji in its description. I’ll always be chasing after that Spicy Fifty at Le Boudoir on Wyndham Street in Hong Kong. Absolut Vanilla vodka, lime, elderflower cordial and honey syrup with a single Thai red chili hovering on the edge of a martini glass… to this day, the best cocktail I have ever had. So I ordered the Champurrado, which came with Milo Tequila and the essence of corn, whose sweetness was balanced nicely by the heat from a guajillo chili. My friend had the Deep Search with Madrecuixe Mezcal, green coffee and bitter passionfruit. The Candelaria bar also has a crazy extensive agave spirit list, categorized by flavor: acidic, lactic, bitter, earthy, funky, scotch-y, unclassified weird, mineral and sweet. Next time I will definitely by trying some of these. Next time, next time. A lamb birria taco and a Del Maguey Wild Papalome.