I had the opportunity to try two locations of El Cardenal - one at the Centro Historico and this one in the Alameda inside the Hilton Hotel. In my experience, I have found that the one in Alameda attracts a good share of local clientele and the setting is more contemporary.
El Cardenal is considered an upscale restaurant and its dining room is open and elegant. Service is attentive yet unobtrusive. Right after I sat down, the waiter offered me "molcajete" - artisan white cheese produced by the restaurant, served with slices of avocado in a salsa verde with hints of cilantro and onion. This item is a trademark of the restaurant and it is customary to start with one of these before a great meal. A basket of crispy rolls, rosquilla and sesame cracker was also brought along with warm tortillas. Waiters keep an eye and refill them constantly.
I started with an appetizer of cuitlacoche or corn smut. This is a fungus that was revered by the Aztecs and has a slight crunchy texture with an earthly mushroom like flavor. Best when it is just simply done to appreciate all its qualities. This was followed by a lomo de robalo en estofado de hoja santa, which was sea bass in a creamy hoja santa sauce. Hoja santa (sacred leaf) is an aromatic leave that is rarely found outside of Mexico. It has a very complex flavor and has been described as a mixture of eucalyptus, licorice, sassafras, anise, nutmeg, mint, and pepper. The dishes were delicious and I was glad that I had the opportunity to sample some truly Mexican dishes that are rarely available outside of their native country.
For those that are more adventurous, there are some really unique dishes like worms and escamoles (ant's eggs) on the menu.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.