Get ready for one of the toughest reservations to score in Valle de Guadalupe to be even harder to land.
Two nights ago, the annual reveal of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants brought top chefs across Latin America together at the swanky Copacabana Palace Hotel in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to honor culinary excellence. It was an evening full of cheering and celebration, particularly for chefs David Castro Hussong and Maribel Aldaco of Fauna Restaurante en Bruma, which stunned the crowd by grabbing the number five spot on the comprehensive list and was therefore crowned the Best Restaurant in Mexico. Audience members gasped as Castro threw his hands up with his mouth wide open in astonishment, his face soaked with emotion and his body drenched with perspiration from the humid, tropical air of Rio de Janeiro.
This is the first time a restaurant from Ensenada has earned the Best Restaurant in Mexico title. The Valle de Guadalupe powerhouse was joined on the list by fellow area standouts Villa Torel (#19), Animalón (#54), and Lunario (#54). Aldaco, Castro’s partner, was also named Best Pastry Chef in Latin America 2023, an accolade that was icing on the cake on an already perfect evening for Fauna.
The evening was big for Mexico overall, with 11 restaurants ranking in the top 50, and another eight in the extended 51 through 100 list that’s been a boon to historically less represented restaurants in Central America, the Caribbean, and much of South America (outside of Peru, Argentina, and Brazil).
Fellow Mexican chefs cleared folding chairs out of the way to make a beeline to congratulate Castro and Aldaca, who were joined by celebrated oenologist Lourdes Martinez Ojeda of Bruma. “It means the work of the last seven years [for us]; we are going to try to be better, but it doesn’t mean we are going to change who we are,” said Castro.
Fauna opened in 2017 at Bruma to instant success, but this year’s win came as a complete surprise to Castro. “We had no expectations. Last year it was a surprise to be number 16, and this year we didn’t think we’d end up in the top ten, not even the top thirty,” said Castro.
At Fauna, guests are seated at a massive, long communal table that extends from inside the restaurant out to the earthen patio and garden. The dramatic rusticity is a showcase for a menu that includes fresh abalone dressed with aguachile, impossibly delicious callo de hacha poached in butter and served with a puree of charred eggplant, and fire-roasted broccoli in a vivid green broccoli sauce, one of Castro’s signatures.
Castro also runs the brunch-focused Bruna Wine Garden and recently partnered with chef Ana Holguín to launch La Morocha in downtown Ensenada, which serves Ensenada cold bar items and dishes from Holguin’s native Veracruz like chicharrón de pescado con enchilpayado and arroz a la tumbada.
The chef says that opening a restaurant in San Diego could potentially be on the horizon. “There is no San Diego project for now but hopefully soon,” Castro told Eater.