Photo: Casa Carmen
Two brothers, the grandsons of revered Mexican cook Carmen "Titita" Ramirez Degollado are opening Casa Carmen (114 Franklin St) in Tribeca on Thursday, April 14th. Titita, as she is known, was deemed a "matriarch of Mexican flavor" by Mark Bittman in a 2007 New York Times story. At age 83, she is known for her El Bajío restaurants in and around Mexico City which serve authentic, traditional Mexican recipes from Veracruz, Puebla, and Oaxaca. This is the family’s first restaurant opening outside of Mexico.
Nearly all of the recipes will come directly from Titita herself. Two of the head chefs trained at El Bajío for months in preparation for the opening are using proven family recipes and techniques. In the tradition of the restaurants in Mexico, Casa Carmen will also entrust "mayoras" - the elder stateswomen of the kitchen - to oversee the creation of the sauces and other fundamental building blocks of the menu such as tortillas. Titita herself will be in NYC for the first week of the restaurant's opening, and El Bajío's executive chef Josep Rivera will also come from Mexico City for the first three weeks of the restaurant's opening to oversee the execution of Titita's recipes.
“I am very proud that my family’s third generation wants to continue our journey in the restaurant business,” said Titita. “I offered to them all my support and experience - I reviewed the menu with them, and the overall concept and décor proposed by Luis Enrique Noriega. I am honored that the restaurant is named after me. I hope that guests at Casa Carmen will have a fabulous experience savoring traditional Mexican dishes, prepared to perfection, in an elegant place.”
The menu features several signature dishes for which El Bajío is known, including a duck tostada, plantain empanadas, enchiladas de mole (a special mole that only a handful of cooks know how to make), pescado "Veracruzano" and shrimp in a special salsa negra made with charred chipotle peppers.
The cocktail program is agave-forward, and there is also a large list of mezcal and tequila. The restaurant will also offer Mexican wines (mainly Valle de Guadalupe and Parras).
The 105-seat, 2,500 square foot space - divided into a bar room and dining room - was designed by Mexican interior designer Luis Enrique Noriega who also designs all of the El Bajío restaurants. The space evokes the feeling of being in a subdued, earth-toned hacienda with high ceilings and a cozy ambiance.