El Califa de León: the world's first Michelin star tacos

el califa de león: the world's first michelin star tacos

El Califa de León: the world's first Michelin star tacos

A tiny taqueria in Mexico City, in business since 1968, has become the first taco stand to be awarded a Michelin star.

El Califa de León's chef, Arturo Rivera Martínez, joined a rarefied company of culinary superstars including Alain Ducasse, Heston Blumenthal and Anne-Sophie Pic on Wednesday, when Michelin representatives presented him with the culinary guide's coveted white jacket.

The next day, "a motley array of tourists and trendsetters joined bemused local people" to form a queue that stretched down the block to taste the tacos for themselves, said The Guardian.

A small and – from the outside – unremarkable taqueria in Mexico City's "scruffy-bohemian San Rafael neighbourhood", El Califa de León's entrance is surrounded by "street vendors hawking socks and batteries and cell phone accessories", said the Associated Press. Inside is a 10ft by 10ft storefront with no seating area, just a metal shelf where diners able to stand the heat can rest their plastic plates. Half of the floor space is taken up by "a solid steel plate grill that's hotter than the salsa".

Behind the grill stands chef Rivera Martínez, who churns out thousands of tacos a day. The menu makes for speedy reading: there are only four options, including the signature Gaonera taco. Created in tribute to the famed bullfighter Rodolfo Gaona – whose sobriquet, the Caliph of León, inspired the taqueria's name – the Gaonera is "exceptional", according to Michelin's review. Thin slices of tender beef fillet are seared on the grill, seasoned with a squeeze of lime and then nestled in a freshly made corn tortilla, and "the resulting combination is elemental and pure".

"The secret is the simplicity of our taco," Rivera Martínez told the AP. "It has only a tortilla, red or green sauce, and that's it. That, and the quality of the meat."

"My father said, 'Do you want me to tell you the secret of the meat?'" Mario Hernández Alonso, current owner and son of the original founders, said to reporters outside the taqueria. "'There is no secret, only love and effort'." Even so, Hernández Alonso declined to reveal the source of his beef, delivered by the bag-load throughout the day.

El Califa de León is among 16 restaurants honoured with a one-star rating in the Michelin Guide's first Mexico edition. Mexico City fine dining spots Quintonil and Pujol both received two stars in the rankings.

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