There are a few famous world-class restaurants in Mexico city, which are included in many well recognized restaurant rankings. Being a foodie I can justify spending money on the experience of visiting those restaurants instead of let`s say buying another dress or something else. So, I`ve had around 2 years to make sure that i have visited the majority of them. Pujol, Quintonil, Merotoro, Sud 777, Rosetta, Biko are on the list of the best restaurants in Latin America. Pujol and Quintonil are also on the list of the 50 world`s best restaurants. Today i wanted to share my thoughts about Pujol and Quintonil.
Enrique Olvera is its celebrity chef who respects traditional Mexican ingredients and recipes and brings them to the world of fine cuisine. We went to Pujol for dinner and we loved the place. Smart lighting gives it a very cozy and elegant ambience. Even though the place is always full and the tables are located close to each other, they achieve the goal of making you concentrate on the food and your company without distraction. The nicely lit inner garden behind the glass wall is the gem of its arquitectural design.
The menu consists of 6 courses of which you have choice of in 4 cases. The first entree dish is “Botanas” – snacks. We had a stylized Gordita (normally it is a Mexican pastry stuffed with different ingredients: meat, cheese etc.). It was delicious.
Then we had the most original dish in regards to presentation – baby corn cobs with a nice slightly hot sauce served in a dried pumpkin shell with smoldering corn leaves on the bottom which added a nice smoky nuance.
For the second course we had to choose and I got the Tartar de cecina and Deniz went for the octopus. Tartar was very tasty with a creamy mouthwatering sauce, although it was a bit chewy. The octopus was very good, although the garnish wasn’t impressive as it didn`t go with the dish.
Next in the queue were Jaiba desnuda (blue crab) and Tamal de berenjena (Eggplant tamal). I liked the crab, but you could get it in any good Mexican restaurant, there wasn’t anything special about it, even the presentation was so so. The thing is, when a restaurant is of such a level you expect a little bit more. More effort, more creativity.
Then our feast was followed by beef and fish – Wagyu, semillas de hinojo (fennel seeds), guacamole de hierbas (herbs) and Pescado zarandeado, lechuga, mayonesa de chile de agua. Pescado zarandeado – grilled fish with a gralic-chili paste and a mix of sauces -mayonnaise and mustard. It is a popular dish along the Mexican Pacific Coast. So, both were appetizing, especially the fish, but in both cases the presentation was found lacking.
Number 5 was Mole (a Mexican sauce that include nuts, spices, chiles and chocolate, although there are moles with no chocolate. Mole is eaten with different proteins like chicken, beef etc.). Mole is Pujol`s specialty. Their Mole madre has been aged for more than 1000 days. So, the combination of the fresh mole and the aged one is yummy. I loved it, it was one of the best moles that I`ve tried – balanced, rich and comforting. Although an Indian guy from the neighboring table didn’t even touch it and I heard him ask his friend – “How can you eat this?” My wild guess would be that it stemmed from the fact that they bring you just the mole with no bread, no protein and no tortillas. You are supposed to eat it with a spoon, which I imagine might be a little too much for a foreigner who hasn’t tried it before. The thing is, Pujol is full of foreigners, you can hear only English around the place. I wonder how many plates of mole haven’t had the chance to be fully appreciated in this context.
Before the dessert they brought an invigorating pulque (fermented agave drink) ice-cream which was very timely and refreshed our palette to prepare it for the dessert.
I am happy that we ordered Flan de vainilla, it was pleasant and its silky texture was a perfect finish to the meal. The Tamal de chocolate, however, didn`t impress me at all. It was dry and a bit bland to my taste.
Overall, I can say that the place is very beautiful and the food is very good Mexican cuisine. However, I feel that you can find similar dishes in many other places around Mexico. For me there was something missing – a twist, a personal touch, a creative approach that you would expect from a restaurant of this class.
We went to Quintonil with Deniz`s boss from La Coruña. To put it into perspective – being from La Coruña you are obliged to be a little bit of a food snob. People in Coruña are lucky, they have access to amazing fresh ingredients – the sea food is heavenly, the meat is good and the fresh produce is top notch. Plus they have great restaurants and countless diversity in their dishes. Also, they eat a lot and they are very fit, preferring natural, simple, but extremely delicious food.
Quintonil`s food is everything but simple:) We understood it from the first dish that we got – the chef`s compliment. It was a fish ice-cream with mango and smth else.:) I am quite adventurous about food and I am willing to try anything. I also appreciate molecular cuisine, although maybe not too molecular. For me molecular cuisine is a show and I can`t call it real food. When it is real food with the creative addition of a molecular element it is what I like. You know what I mean? It was a bit funny, but at the same time disappointing to watch how our guest was poking around with his plate of fish ice-cream.
The chef, Jorge Vallejo, is a protégée of Pujol’s Enrique Olvera and he is doing a fantastic job. The menu is very original, he uses Mexican specialities like escamoles (ants eggs), huitlacoche (corn`s fungus), blue corn and guajolote (a type of poultry, which is used in Mexico since pre-prehispanc times). The place is very casual and relaxed.
I totally recommend Tartara de aguacate y escamoles and Cream de queso with chochoyates de platano macho (Creamy cheese soup). Tostada de jaiba azul (blue crab) is an interesting combination as well. In general, I liked the entradas (appetizers) a lot.
Regarding the main dish, I remember only the one that Deniz ordered and it was beef with some mole sauce. Whilst the sauces surrounding the beef were interesting, the beef itself was nothing to write home about.
Overall, Quintonil is a nice place with a creative menu and I would go there again. The thing is, when we went, we had mismatched expectations. We hadn’t researched anything about the place, we just knew that it was famous and had heard good comments about it. We thought that we were going to eat high quality, but classic food. You have to go there ready to appreciate small portions and subtle nuances.
Would I recommend going to these restaurants? Perhaps to Quintonil more than Pujol. Anyway, if I had to choose one restaurant in Mexico city, I would choose Maximo Bistrot without any doubt. I went there twice and both times i was delighted and enjoyed every bite.