Cien Anos: More Mainstream in Tijuana, But Still Vital

Mexican Food Tijuana


We arrived at meal six and the sun was still high in the sky. At this rate, we were on our way to doing permanent damage and it was hard to generate much excitement for the day’s final three meals. Thankfully, Cien Anos took mercy on our stomachs by offering light seafood-intensive plates that still managed to pack some flavor.

Chef Tijuana
This long-respected restaurant has been at the forefront of Mexican “alta cocina” for years, but Cien Anos has changed since Ruth Reichl feasted on maguey worms and escamoles (ant eggs) in 1998. The menu is now more mainstream under the direction of 21-year-old chef Talia Nunes, who has worked at the restaurant for five years.

Cocktail Tijuana
We started at the Cien Anos bar with Damiana, an aromatic liqueur made from a Baja herb that was served on the rocks with a splash of tequila.

Mexican Food Tijuana
Cien Anos’ signature involved tiles of crunchy cactus paddle (nopales), lightly dressed and served on a crunchy tostada with crumbles of queso fresco.

Mexican Food Tijuana
Salmon ceviche came in a tostada nest with sweet chunks of mango and pico de gallo.

Mexican Food Tijuana
For the previous 24 hours, Baja veterans kept touting the wonders of the chocolata, a clam with sweet pink meat and a brown shell from southern Baja. It didn’t take long to get our first taste, but this wasn’t the magical experience I’d hoped for. The meat was limp and overpowered by the marinade. Thankfully we got a more convincing taste in Ensenada the following day.

Mexican Food Tijuana
Baby octopus ceviche was a real highlight, featuring tender cuts of tentacle and sweet onions. Some people complained that the accompanying tostada was too oily and pliable, but that didn’t bother me.

Mexican Food Tijuana
Salpicon de marlin was a massive cake of smoked marlin plated with a litter of dried chilies and a streak of yellow sauce. The marlin meat was too dry for my taste.

Mexican Food Tijuana
We each received a near-flawless shrimp coated with chile de arbol, but it was a disservice to pair the shrimp with a lettuce leaf and Ritz-like cracker.

Mexican Food Tijuana
At the risk of obliterating my palate, I tried a teaspoon of spicy habanero salsa. It was a good idea to sample the sauce at the end of the meal so I had time to recover. Fiery stuff.

It probably would have been more interesting to feast on maguey worms and ant eggs, but Cien Anos still offered a refreshing respite from our parade of heavy curiosities.

Thank you to the Tijuana Convention and Visitors Bureau, Crossborder Agency, Cotuco (Tijuana Tourism Board), and Tijuana Canirac (Tijuana Restaurant Association) for sponsoring our eye-opening culinary tour of northern Baja. Thank you to Bill Esparza from Street Gourmet LA for leading the tour and for supplying so much invaluable information.

Cien Anos: More Mainstream in Tijuana, But Still Vital

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Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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[…] … taste the delicious eggs ants (escamoles, the Mexican caviar), and grasshoppers, maguey …Food GPS Cien Anos Tijuana, B.C., Mexico July 17, 2009… but Cien Anos has changed since Ruth Reichl Reichl feasted on maguey worms and escamoles (ant […]

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