There are eaters and there are diners. And both are served well in Ajijic.
Eateries come in many modes and with varying menus and dispositions. Emanuel’s Kitchen’s distinction is that its eponymous chef offers a gastronomical fugue of discriminating dining – unique displays of unusual culinary craftsmanship, a smorgasbord of colors, tastes, shapes, ingredients and pairings.
First off, the variety is almost endless. Chef Emanuel has a different menu each week – a challenge requiring vast culinary expertise and creativity. By training, design and aspiration, he has found a niche here at Lakeside, providing photographable fusion cuisine that allows him and his staff to expand their culinary repertoire with taste and presentation surprises that burst through the ordinary in every way.
Fusion is just a fancy word for drawing on many influences to create something new. And in this case, it can only be described by giving examples.
Tender cheese ravioli in an exquisite pistacho white sauce, with a hint of lemon and parmesan cheese, is one excellent example. It’s Italian with Chinese pistachio influences, representing a gastronomical covenant between Chinese, Mexican and Italian traditions that has been going on for centuries.
The same for Emanuel’s vegetarian pie, moist, sauteed vegetables (zucchini, corn, peppers, onions and mushrooms) in a brown, crunchy rice-based crust so interwoven with the veggies that you couldn’t separate the crust from the stuffings. Again, this is a marriage of culinary influences. Rice, a Chinese staple, holds the same popularity as Mexico’s corn.
The sopa was a special fusion surprise, too. A ginger, zucchini, corn and almond combination of soup bowl flavors beautifully sectioned into what could not have been anything but the universal “yin yang” symbol. In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang represents the idea that competing, contrary forces are actually complementary and interdependent at the same time. This soup, with its deep fried sweet potato strings piled on top, seemed an eloquent profession of agreement, and an entertaining nod to culinary fusion.
Our table also ordered a Waldorf salad, which was sculpted into a column, and radiant with the colors of apple, roasted walnuts, seedless grapes, and celery, congealed with a bright yogurt dressing instead of mayonnaise.
Another order was the stuffed quail. It was lean and tangy, bursting with innards of chopped celery, carrots, mushrooms, garlic and corn flour. It was also commended for its presentation and artistry.
And finally, our vegan companion ordered an all-vegetable entree which wasn’t on the menu. Customized just for her by Emanuel himself, this creation came with fresh, gently cooked vegetables shrink-wrapped in a delicate rice bubble. It was another sensational improvisation, and couldn’t have been more remarkable at its arrival.
So, fusion is real and entertaining at Emanuel’s and a must-try if you are bored with the ordinary. Wine choices were simple but worthy of the fare: three bottles of wine greeted us at the table like condiments as we were seated. We chose the nebbiola. It seemed the most amicable choice, given our varied food preferences. And it worked well with all the dishes, particularly my vegetable pie.
Warning: Emanuel’s Kitchen is more kitchen than dining area. The entire venue is contained in a modest home, small but elegant, but awaiting plans for expansion. That means reservations are recommended during the high season. You’ll find Emanuel’s Kitchen on the west end of Ajijic, about 200 meters from the Farmer’s Market on the lake side. Make a left when you see the restaurant’s Carretera sign. If you reach the Los Sabinos sign, you’ve just passed it.