61 F
Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Soma in the city: A chat with the chef

Latest headlines

Omicron strain now dominant in Yucatán

The Omicron variant of COVID-19 now appears to be the most common form of the virus in Yucatán.

Exploring Tazumal and Casa Blanca in Western El Salvador

Though part of the Mayan world, archaeological sites in El Salvador have largely remained unvisited by all but the most avid adventurers. But this tiny country boasts several interesting sites full of unique features and blends of cultural traditions. 

Mérida slated to build nearly 100 new highrise towers

Housing and business developments in Mérida have historically been fairly “close to the ground,” but that seems to be changing.

Yucatán’s COVID hospitalizations begin to creep up

Over 3,000 new coronavirus infections were reported this week in Yucatán. On Sunday alone, 652 new cases were detected, and that's likely...
Yucatán Magazine
Sign up to get our top headlines delivered to your inbox twice a week.

Soma Restaurante got rave reviews by a very curmudgeonly critic, and on a major consumer review site, when it opened on a beach in Chelem. Eventually, Soma moved to Mérida, something brought to our attention when a reader suggested we add their special brunch to our Thanksgiving guide. The paint was barely dry at their new location, yet both of their Thanksgiving seatings sold out quickly. Clearly, it was time to get to know Soma better, so we asked to speak to the owners.

YELinterview-1114webChef-owner Alberto Balderas — being a native of Celaya, Guanajuato — had not only a grounding in the food of Mexico, but also a solid education in how top-level restaurant kitchens are run.

He spent 15 years in the U.S. at four-star/four-diamond restaurants such as the historic Carolina Inn and Elaine’s on Franklin in Chapel Hill, N.C., and Terrapin in Virginia Beach, Va. In 2011, Alberto cooked for the James Beard House in New York City.

How did he and his wife, Linde, end up in Yucatán?

Alberto jokes, “My wife put a gun to my head and said,  ‘let’s move to Mexico,’ before sharing a darker reality.

“The truth is that my wife had a life-threatening illness, and after our family went through that, we decided to take a drastic step toward fulfilling our dream of opening a restaurant,” says Chef Alberto. “Tomorrow is never guaranteed.”

widequotereverseThe couple arrived in Yucatán in January 2013. By March, they opened Soma.

“It was insane!” says Alberto.

Soma has been moved from the beach to the city, but the concept is the same.

“The idea behind Soma is to bring and share something I love to Yucatán,” says Alberto. “Using the techniques I’m familiar with and respecting the ingredients I find locally, I aim to design dishes based on seasonal availability and exploit the best of their flavors. Without losing the essence of the ingredient.”

But plating carefully prepared food at the beach had its challenges.

“We loved our time at the beach, made so many good friends and learned so much, but being subject to the outdoor elements became a bit much,” says Alberto.

“At one particularly unforgettable moment, we had guests wading in the gate up to their knees to attend the monthly four-course dinner!”

The new kitchen is in the city, but still in a region that lacks ingredients a chef may have become accustomed to in the United States. But Yucatán provides many interesting ingredients to have fun playing with.

“Part of my philosophy as a chef is to use what’s local as much as possible and support the community I am part of,” says the chef. “For example, I have a ribeye and lamb chops on the menu right now that come from a ranch in Tizimin. I plate the ribeye with Recado Negro fluid gel, and local charred green onions. An unexpected local ingredient used in a different preparation.”

DSC_0609webIn his own kitchen at home, Alberto cooking tends to harken to foods of his childhood.

“Being a chef really hasn’t influenced how I cook at home like you may think. I usually cook food from central Mexico, the food of my youth. My mother is a great cook, and I like to add crazy ingredients to traditional dishes and experiment on my family.”

But for any home cook, the idea is not to get into a rut.

“I would advise home cooks to not be limited by what they have always known,” says Alberto. “Yucatán offers a wealth of exotic ingredients that can be used in many ways. I like to take my kids to the market and have them pick out something they have never eaten or seen before. Then we take it home and figure out how to use it. Explore the markets and ask questions. You’ll be amazed.”

Speaking of things we’ve never eaten or seen, are there any new dishes coming up on the menu?

“I can’t guarantee anything in this moment, but Alberto is working on a killer braised beef cheeks dish and local rack of lamb,” says Linde. “For breakfast, the house signature French toast is soon to be revealed … unlike any you’ve ever had!”

Soma, Calle 21 #375 x 60 y 12, Fracc. Malaga, Mérida, Yucatán; Hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. +52 999 195 6474

Visit their Facebook page.

somamap720Derived from Google map

- Advertisement -

Subscribe Now!

More articles

Yucatán wakes up to a cold and windy ‘Mukul’

Mark Callum, a Mérida resident originally from England, helped this Chevy's owner move a huge branch behind the Paseo de Montejo...

Mérida Fest to go forward despite COVID-19 surge

The Ayuntamiento has confirmed that in-person events scheduled for Mérida Fest 2022 will continue as planned.

Building in Yucatán to get even more expensive in 2022

Over the past several years, construction costs in Yucatán have risen sharply and all signs point to even higher prices in 2022..

Yucatán’s top 8 street junk food favorites

Walking through virtually any city or town in Yucatán a wide range of food vendors can be seen peddling goodies out of push carts, mobile stands, food trucks, and just about every other configuration you can think of.

Mexico prepares to begin human trials of its Patria COVID-19 vaccine

Federal health authorities are calling on adult volunteers to take part in human trials for Mexico's Patria COVID-19 vaccine. 

Yucatán back to tougher restrictions as COVID continues to skyrocket

Yucatán state health department numbers show a dramatic change in coronavirus data. Yucatán recorded 459 new coronavirus...

The new Mayan Train director says the project is 7 months behind schedule

Javier May Rodríguez, the Mayan Train’s recently appointed director, says the rail project is seven months behind schedule.

Citigroup to sell off Banamex, owner of historic Casa de Montejo 

Multinational investment bank Citigroup has announced that it will sell off Banamex.

Carlos de la Barrera — international experience and local expertise

Architect Carlos de la Barrera is well known in Mérida for projects that blur the line between interior and exterior and challenge established ways of doing things locally. 

Yucatan governor predicts an end to the ‘green’ light

By Thursday, Yucatán's easy-going restrictions under the "green" light will be no more, Gov. Mauricio Vila Dosal predicts.