The Mexico City neighborhood of Cuauhtémoc first became an epicenter for Japanese culture following a wave of immigration at the end of World War II. Today, amongst historic mansions and leafy parks, part of the area is gaining notoriety for its unofficial title as Little Tokyo, a reputation propagated by the nearby Japanese Embassy and local proprietors who are lobbying the city for the area’s formal designation. The area’s few square blocks are home to sleek ramen and yakitori eateries, an all-day café that transitions to a natural wine bar by night, and a newly-opened cocktail lounge dedicated to vinyl. And thanks to a buzzy new boutique hotel inspired by origami design, you can now stay at the center of Mexico City’s most exciting district. Here, the best places to explore in the neighborhood:
Japanese and Mexican design merge at Ryo Kan, the first property of its kind to open in Latin America. Located in the center of Little Tokyo, the crisp white hotel’s sculptural fa?ade is inspired by origami and opens to a tranquil patio and Japanese garden: plush seating is framed by a bookcase stocked with literature and ceramics. Climb a spiral staircase to access 10 cozy rooms, all with tatami natural-fiber mats and beds hugged by fusuma sliding doors adorned with monochromatic Japanese landscapes. Yukata robes come with tying instructions, and the sandalwood and white tea soaps are perfect to bring to the terrace-level onsen, where you can soak in one of four Japanese bathtubs overlooking the city.
Exit La Librería
As Mexico’s first contemporary art bookstore specializing in photography and architecture, Exit La Librería hosts an impressive array of hard-to-find, limited-edition coffee table books, including the shop’s own visual arts-inspired Exit Book, and Fluor, a quarterly magazine dedicated to art and culture. The shop stocks a selection of Japanese literature by Satori Press, and if you can’t find the precise book you desire, the team will track down the title for you—no matter how rare or specialized it may be.
Enomoto Coffee & Le Tachinomi Desu
An old-school letter board menu reveals a selection of Japanese sandwiches (known as sandos) and coffee and matcha drinks at Enomoto Coffee, a diminutive all-day café inspired by the concept of kissaten, tea-drinking shops that first gained popularity during Emperor Shōwa’s reign over 1900s-era Japan. Savor delicacies like crust-free tamago egg and tonkatsu breaded pork sandos accompanied by a cold-pressed juice or kombucha. By night, the café transitions to Le Tachinomi Desu, a standing-room-only bar with cold capellini and caviar small plates, to be paired with natural wines and premium sake and whiskey.
Rokai & Rokai Ramen
With an extensive omakase menu, Rokai is undoubtedly one of the most popular eateries in Little Tokyo. At this relaxed izakaya, select from one of two tasting menus offering either seven or 12 courses, including nigiri, maki, and sashimi small plates. Venture off the set menu to order spicy tuna and salmon donburi rice bowls, which are ideal with a Sapporo beer or cocktails like a Japanese-style Aperol spritz made with sake. Next door, find Rokai’s sister outpost, Rokai Ramen, a petit eatery offering spicy bean sprout and fried wonton dumpling starters and around 20 broth, noodle, and ramen soups.
Skewered chicken, quail, and wagyu beef dishes line the menu at Hiyoko, a 14-seat yakitori-style eatery hidden beyond an unassuming concrete fa?ade. Here, chef Shigetosi Narita’s artful dishes, which are usually centered on some kind of bird, come skewered and grilled. Select from myriad vegetable small plates, and have them with decadent ostrich sashimi or a flamed yaki-onigiri rice dish topped with salty salmon caviar.
Located above Hiyoko and beyond a candle-lit concrete staircase is Emilia Restaurante, helmed by chef Luis “Lucho” Martínez. At the newest restaurant in the neighborhood, chef Martínez is receiving quite the buzz for his ever-evolving tasting menu of 9 to 12 plates based on daily-sourced ingredients. Dishes include a smoked duck dashi soup with pine, roasted pumpkin topped in homemade ricotta and kombu algae, and yellowtail sashimi marinated in soy, ginger, and lemony yuzu. And for those who fear a prix fixe, an à la carte dining menu is coming soon.
Tokyo Music Bar
Set just across from Emilia Restaurante is the newest addition to Little Tokyo’s late-night scene, the speakeasy-style Tokyo Music Bar. This convivial cocktail lounge, accessible by invitation only, offers a menu of libations made with top-shelf Japanese sakes and whiskeys. Take a seat at an opulent all-gold stool to order from the bar, a central area illuminated by emerald green and brass library lanterns.