Bajo Sexto Taco
5303 Charlotte Avenue, Nashville, Tennessee 37209
When Bajo Sexto and Chef Kaelin Ulrich Trilling announced the Del Mercado menu, I was anxiously awaiting my visit. Del Mercado (meaning “from the market”) is an ingredient-driven series of special menus and dishes available during the late summer produce. This menu happened to highlight corn, chilies, and pork – all staples of Mexican cuisine. From what I had heard about Chef Kaelin, I knew this menu would not disappoint.
Chef Kaelin started developing his culinary talent at quite a young age. As soon as he finished high school, he started attending some of his mother’s cooking classes. Foodies, I am sure you have heard of her – Susana Trilling, creator and owner of Seasons of my Heart , located in Oaxaca, Mexico. Tradition is something incredibly important to Chef Kaelin and it shines through in this food. It was as if I was in a restaurant in Oaxaca, learning the heritage of the Trilling family.
First, we started with a few quintessential snacks: esquites ahumando (corn dip), pan de maiz (bajo skillet corn bread) and tamales. Usually I can pick a favorite, but all three of these left me craving more. The esquites ahumando consisted of corn that had been brought in from Mexico and smoked for hours, and then cut off the cob and topped with guajillo chili and totopos. What dip would be complete without freshly made tortilla chips? The epitome of juxtaposition. The tanginess and smokiness of the corn combined with the sweetness of the cream and cheese made for quite a perfect bite.
I pride myself on being a true Tennessee girl through and through and I have to say, this was the BEST cornbread I have EVER eaten (please, don’t tell my mom). Most of the time, cornbread has a very dry and mealy consistency – this version could not be more opposite. The pan de maiz consisted of roasted poblano peppers, crispy Tennessee ham, chipotle, and honey butter. Chef Kaelin came over to check on our progress and it was all I could do not to beg him to put this on the regular menu. PERFECTION. The bread was presented in the most darling cast iron skillet dripping with honey butter and topped with the crispiest piece of Tennessee ham. As the honey butter continued to melt, it permeated throughout the entire dish, making each bite swoon-worthy.
The tamales were just as mouthwatering. As I mentioned earlier, the corn is brought in from Mexico and pressed on a daily basis to ensure the freshest tamales. Filled with braised pork and wrapped in traditional corn husks, these did not disappoint. Chef added a side of serrano salsa which provided the perfect “kick” to the overall dish.
Next up: tacos. Who am I kidding – secretly, I wanted more cornbread, but these did not disappoint. Del Mercado offered two tacos: lechon (suckling pig- left) and barbacoa de Puerco (bbq pork shoulder-right). Honestly gang, it would be like choosing between children. They were both delicious. They cooked a 35-pound suckling pig, cut it into pieces and slowly simmered it in lard, Mexican beer, orange and citrus. Come on… could you ask for a better concoction? Chef Kaelin served this goodness on top of a corn tortilla with avocado corn salsa topped with traditional chicarron cracklings. The chicarron added the perfect crunchy texture to this melt in your mouth taco. And my personal favorite, the barbaco de puerco. Again, this meat was melt in your mouth juicy and tender, and was topped with a smoked corn crema and escabeche – the perfect accoutrements for the dish.
Even though my waist line was like, “hold up” I couldn’t stop eating this Mexican deliciousness. Thank goodness I had a Cyclebar class planned bright and early the next morning.
For our final courses, Chef Kaelin presented us with crepas de huitlacoche, lomo de Puerco and Mexican street corn. For anyone who knows me, they know that I am a die-hard truffle fan. When I found out that each of these dishes had huitlacoche, I was thrilled. Huitlacoche is known as the Mexican truffle as it exhibits similar flavor profiles of black truffles. While it was a large portion, the crepas de huitlacoche did not leave you overly full. This was a great vegetarian option filled with beans, corn and topped with the freshest tomato salsa. Truly a delight.
Next up, the lomo de Puerco. I have eaten at some of the best restaurants in the world and this dish was right up there with some of the courses I have had at Tickets or Next. Beautifully placed atop huitlacoche and corn, the pork was covered with braised cherry tomatoes, mint and a smoky tomato salsa. Grabbing a bit of each of these ingredients made for the perfect bite.
To top it off, elotes rubbed with chile, lime and mayo. Chef did an excellent job recreating the corn that you would have when hosting a BBQ at your house, although his tastes MUCH better than mine ever would. He cooks it with the husk on to ensure that the corn stays bright and moist and then peels the husks back adding on the various chile and lime flavors. Again, yet another dish I begged for him to keep on the regular menu – and apparently, I wasn’t the only one. 🙂
Chef Kaelin was an absolute delight. In between courses, I had the chance to pick his brain and see where his personal hot spots were:
BBQ: Peg Leg Porker
Burger: Jack Brown’s
Tequila: Don Julio’s 1942 (As if I could leave without asking this question!)
Chef Kaelin prepares amazing Mexican food giving us a little taste of his Oaxacan traditions while leaving us wanting more. Nashville, take advantage of this little treasure right off Charlotte Avenue. Del Mercado runs from August 17- September 11 and once it’s gone, it’s gone…. trust me, you don’t want to miss this. I am STILL dreaming about that cornbread!!