If first impressions are all that important, facing the entrance to the brand new Hacmans restaurant in the even-newer Hotel Amatte (Amatte Wellnest Community) – which has yet to open – is a daunting one: 71 gleaming white stairs leading seemingly up to the sky.
Yes, count them: seventy-one.
Of course, there is a glass-box elevator off to the side, but what’s the fun in that?
The 34-room Amatte is built into the steep hillside on the east side of Salida a Real Querétaro #167, affording it an expansive view of the presa and surrounding countryside, the city and the mountains beyond – and the sunsets. Good lord, the sunsets. From this perch, you feel like you are sitting on the rim of the world.
But getting there …
I confess that the moment the gracious doorman stepped aside and presented the path up to the gastronomic aerie, the old Led Zeppelin lyrics rolled about in my head. (You know the ones. No need for me to go into it.) This of course presented an existential challenge that must be met!
I don’t know if it was the gleaming whiteness of it all or the cerulean sky that awaited us above, but the steps weren’t so bad. Really. I was shocked when our hostess Karen asked if we’d counted the steps on the way up and then with a beaming smile added, “There are 71!”
“Why, there are as many steps as I am years old!” I cried. …
… Quietly. …
… Only to myself. …
… As I tucked in my gut and tried to control my wheezing breath.
That’s when I noticed the elevator.
Some views from the top of the Amatte:
All that said, it is well worth the climb (or elevator ride). For, at the very top of the Amatte is Hacmans, yes, a wonderful new rooftop restaurant, but more of a collection of floating pleasure islands, each offering a unique opportunity to explore a bacchanal of food and drink.
Let’s see if I can navigate through these islands with you. From the top of the stairs, you pass the Aroma Bar where 21 unique cocktails await your survey. Just past Aroma, to the left is the champagne and oyster bar. Self-explanatory, I should think. Then on your right is a more traditional bar.
Mind you, if you are here for dinner, you don’t have to stop at each one. A sunset visit for oysters and champagne would suffice … or a sunset visit for signature cocktails before dining … or, I think you could do a different bar every night at sunset for nearly a week.
Yeah, the sunsets from up here are unspeakably awesome.
Directly ahead of us, at the northern end of the rooftop, is the open-air kitchen where oak-fired ovens and grills are tended to by several chefs, busily filling dinner orders.
To your left and down a ramp is Hacmans restaurant where the Michelin-star chef Drew Deckman from Valle de Guadalupe has overseen the creation of a delightfully eclectic menu. Deckman is a huge advocate of sustainability, local/Mexico sourcing, and farm-to-table fare. You’ll see it reflected in this restaurant as well. You can read Deckman’s gastro-credo here.
As you enter the restaurant, the first thing that you notice is a large glass-topped box. Peering over the side finds you staring down a well of hanging plants and lighting that drops three or four stories.
If you don’t suffer from vertigo, this “table” will be serving up cooking demonstrations, perhaps wine tastings, and, oh yes, during a private opening, a grand piano was placed atop it. The glass looks at least two inches thick. So, no worries if you feel like table-top dancing after dinner … (don’t tell them I told you that.)
Don’t sit down for dinner, yet. We’re not done with the tour.
Just beyond the restaurant proper is the tequila bar featuring the locally-based Casa Dragones tequilas. And adjacent to the tequila bar is another glass-topped box, lower to the ground. This is the temperature-controlled wine cellar. You can walk down a set of stairs adjacent to it and peruse the 391 distinct labels.
Around the corner from the wine bar is Cinco Jotas Jabugo – a quiet little island that has a backdrop of all-Spanish wines and liquors, in front of which a staffer is thin-slicing a gorgeous shank of Iberian ham.
At the very west end of this meandering sea of gastronomy is the heart and soul of the menu – an extensive garden of vegetables, herbs, and flowers — part of Deckman’s eat-local aspirations.
The rooftop facility – and I assume the hotel beneath it, as they echo back and forth the same aesthetic features – was designed by the constructivist architect Shinji Miyazaky. The design is austere, a boxy egg-shell white backdrop of buildings, softened by rescued-wood features, towering columnar cacti and many other plants, natural tree-slab bars, and the like.
We were there for what the restaurant had hoped would be a coming-out party – samplers of cocktails, wines, restaurant fare, and the incredibly pleasant hospitality of the staff. For whatever reason, the RSVPs were light.
Rose and I were placed in the capable hands of our waiter, Emilio, and we, in turn, relinquished the night’s dining to his personal selections. The food arrived family-style — ample portions for two served on single platters. This added to the generally genial atmosphere of Hacmans dining. At a nearby table, two men easily shared a towering hamburger.
He handled our seven courses like the seasoned pro that he is. Emilio started with a tasty little oyster amuse-bouche, prelude to a half-dozen Baja oysters on half-shells on a bed of ice with fresh-baked breads, basil pesto, and artisan butter.
A serving of thinly sliced Iberian ham and grilled bread with tomato spread was a delicious change-up. That was followed nicely by a raw fish crudo in a cured cucumber bed, Rose’s favorite of the night. (“… a raw fish crudo in a cured cucumber bed” — say that three times while I devour this dish …)
The medley of grilled vegetables from the rooftop garden was worthy of being a meal in itself – a luscious mound of baby carrots, beets, zucchini, potato wedges, eggplant, and onions. Served with an anchovy-based dip.
And yet, there was more: a perfectly grilled ribeye steak from the cattle ranges of Sonora accompanied by yet another medley of potato mousseline, delicate asparagus, and mushrooms. To match the main course, the sommelier, Israel, brought over a couple of glasses of Megacero, a hearty and smoky blend of Sirah, Cabernet, and Merlot from the Chihuahua region.
As for desert, resistance was futile. Emilio brought a bowl filled with diced and grilled pear on a bed of creamy panna cotta and a side of citrusy Italian ice. We washed it down with one of Aroma’s trademark cocktails, the name of which escapes me. All I can say is it had vermouth, possibly Compari, a dash of bitters and a fair dollop of deliciousness.
Being up on top of the world has a way of putting you into a relaxed state but Emilio and the rest of the Hacmans crew – Karen, Jennifer, Perla, Israel, and Raul among them – sure help. Can a restaurant be stylishly casual? Hacmans feels like that.
We can’t wait to go back and maybe try the Asian noodles and lobster or Gnocchi or Rainbow trout or maybe the quail, along with a few of the unique signature cocktails from Aroma Bar. And sunset, definitely at sunset.
And the elevator, maybe take the elevator.
Nah. What’re 71 steps when they lead to heaven?