The other weekend I was lucky to get a table at Cantina y Punto, the hottest ticket in town, the relatively new Mexican restaurant on the edge of Zona G that makes you book 3 weeks ahead if you want to go during peak times. The trick, I found out, is to go at the unpopular times and for sure you’ll get a table. We went on a Saturday at 6.30pm and found it empty, since most Colombians predictably hit the restaurant scene between 8-9.30pm. I know what you might think, that you just can’t possibly stomach a dinner that early on in the evening! As a Chinese I plainly have no problem with that! Even if you most certainly won’t be eating at that time, it still makes sense to be there because you can secure a seat at the bar and sip one of their delicious cocktails while being on the wait list for a table. And being the first on the wait list has its perks because there’s bound to be a cancellation or two in such a flakey city. What we did, instead of going for the bar as instructed (imagine how uncomfortable it could be if there are more than 2 of you, with some awkwardness in your neck sure to emerge soon), was to take one of the empty tables, and then stayed on at 8.30ish when a cancellation came up!
Ok so much about how to get to eat there. In short, Cantina blew my mind. It’s fair to say it’s the best Mexican place right now. What’s amazing about Cantina is the combination of modern bar-like vibe, great drinks and food and sleek service (the waiter we had was spot on, an endangered species to be honest for nowadays). You know when you start asking yourself, what else do I need? Made to order tortilla from the house! How can you beat a prawn taco of freshly made tortilla?! We also dug into a sizzling chorizo cheese bake and a duck in full body mole. Don’t expect a traditional Mexican casa that dishes out big filling portions. It’s more like traditional flavours in stylish contemporary.
And then there were drinks that keep making you want more! My tequila-based Bloody Cheneque was spicily perfect with the tacos. The refreshing G&T with a twist of celery definitely helped wash down the heat. El Coronel, tequila with cilantro, pinapple and the unusual choice of Colombian feijoa hit the right spot. The Guacamaya (parrot) of mezcal with tamarind and chipotle was another rare fiery find. The Mezcalito made me crack open a dry chilli right into the ginger and lemon mixture. (yea, I guess you can tell we had a great night) The mezcal at Cantina was interestingly smokey – again, adding complexity to the meal. Where else would you find mezcal in Bogotá? Yes, its timely revival was a welcomed addition to the tired Mexican cocktail choice of tequila or… tequila. And the incredible thing is that the drinks are reasonably priced (at COP 22.500 a pop at a restaurant like this is really shockingly cheap, much better priced than many other bars, which could be at COP 26.900 or COP 32.000 or even the outrageous COP 42.000 at Juana La Loca! (Yea, it’s really loca. Ok I hope Cantina won’t see this and ever think about putting the price up!)
Cantina also deserves extra credit by being a ‘real’ mexican restaurant, in a sense that they gave us 5 different kinds of habanero chilli sauce upon knowing that we love and CAN eat spicy food. FIVE! Where else would you get that?! And they were REAL spicy. As if ordinary habanero isn’t enough, on top of which there was a ‘sweet’ blackened habanero. Real spicy.
Although I mentioned before that I’d rather support small independent businesses, Cantina deserves a mention because there’s nothing like that in Bogotá. Takami, the restaurant group that also owns Black Bear and Cacio y Pepe, is undoubtedly doing extremely well with its resto/bar formula. So.. ooops.. Unfortunately this time I’m selling out!