19 January 2016
A monumental hangover in Mexico, if anything, is a cliche. But it’s real, no thanks to me toasting the late great Glenn Frey with tequilas — something I rarely, rarely drink. I woke up feeling dreadful, as the altitude of Mexico City compounds the heavy boozing from last night… And to add to all of this, I had a long, long walk alongside roads and highways choked with dense diesel fumes. I probably lost a few years off my lifespan these past 24 hours…
I skipped lunch, as I had little appetite — even after that terrible tasting menu last night at Quintonil. But tonight hopefully is much better at Pujol — which is listed as #16 in the rather useless World’s 50 Best joke list. But I’ve heard great things about this place, so I am really hoping for something to redeem this city’s cooking in my eyes.
The walk to Pujol was a bit longer, but I enjoyed the 20-minute stroll. Got there a little early, so hung out outside until they were ready to seat people. Got a nice table and chilled out with a cocktail…a late hair-of-dog treatment, but sorely needed. I chilled out and happily went with the tasting again. Let’s hope it goes much better tonight. Soon set of amuses bouches arrived, though my attention was on the 4th item (the aroma)…
First up was the pumpkin chileatole — a very nice pumpkin chilli broth. Love the flavours in this.
This dough dumpling, filled with cheese, was also a nice touch. Love the cheese! Then next, a chia fritter.
Mmm, I’d take these over potato any day, delicious, nicely seasoned, healthy. Then finally, what I was waiting for…
This was the smoked baby corn, covered in powdered chicatana ants, coffee and costeño chile mayonnaise. They opened the container when it was presented and the most gorgeous smoky aroma came out… This was fantastic. This set of amuses bouches has blown Quintonil away in a puff of smoke, totally. I could have walked out now and proclaimed tonight better than last night.
Then the last of the amuse was brought out, the crudo of the day.
This mussel was excellent, with a nice kick too. This is turning out to be one excellent meal so far! I relaxed and ordered a glass of Mexican wine and chilled out. This was so far so good, completely in another league from last night. Then the first course arrived, the tongue in stew.
We had several choices for each of the courses and I went with this, and I was beyond happy. The tongue was cooked perfectly, soft as tofu but still kept a strong consistency; no flakiness, shredding or pulverisation here. Beautiful flavours, with a nice bit of squash as a balance. This is exactly what was wrong with last night — Quintonil seemed *afraid* of flavours. This place *embraces* flavours. This is why this place is awesome. One of the best tongue in past few years, I wish it was more tho!
Chilled out a little with more wine before the second course, the suckling lamb taco.
Wow, now this is a beautiful dish. The flavours worked very well too, the lamb being strong and smooth, the avocado playing a strong secondary role in both leaf and puree. Fabulous combination, working perfectly in unison. Again, I wish there was more!
I was enjoying this meal very much, as were other diners from what I can hear. With a little more wine, the third dish arrived — the rabbit.
This was gorgeous, tender but flavourful, with the kick coming from some guajillo in the pepián. Excellent, again the flavours are full-on, how I like it. At this point, if I can compare Pujol to Quintonil, it would be like comparing a beautiful Negroni to a bottle of warm Aquafina…and I’m not exaggerating.
At this point I had a little more wine as the next dish arrived, and it’s one of their special items — the so-called “mole madre, mole nuevo” for good reason…
The two moles are very different as you can see. The two are very different; one is freshly made, the other is the so-called “mole madre” of “mother mole” which is actually 865 days old and counting. The latter is intense in a way I never thought the humble mole can be. It apparently continues to evolve both with additions and aging, and it’s something I can’t really describe. We had 3 tortilla — we use one each, then we’re told to combine the moles for the third. Fantastic. Not just a gimmick, it’s something pretty awesome.
Wow. This was quite a meal already. We still have the desserts. The only thing each dish was that I wish there was more! Now that is a great sign of a much-enjoyed meal. Tonight I don’t want it to end; last night I was begging to get out… The dessert procession began in tribute to the humble sweet potato and wee touch of cheese.
A nice little nibble, helping to create the path to the sweeter items to come…
Again, the progression, we start with the avocado gelato…
This was excellent (much better than the acid ball from last night), with quite a nice bit of chocolate. Then a cookie with chamomile…
I’m sorry about the poor photo, but this camera has issues focusing with low light and a white, off-pattern item… This explains how so many sushi pictures come out odd… But it was nice. Then this joy…
Mmm, chocolate goodness…but wait, don’t drink it yet, cuz we get to use it as a dip for…
Churro! Yep, worked really wonderfully as a dip — and the extras you get to drink! What a choco-tastic end! What a fine meal this was!
My only issue really, pondering this while I have some mezcal (you’d think I learned my lesson…), is that I wanted more! More baby corn! More tongue! More suckling lamb! More rabbit! More mole madre! More churro! That is a sign how good this dinner was. It clearly earns high ranks on anyone’s list — far more than the utterly overrated Quintonil. I don’t want to keep pouring cold water on it, but it was such a wet towel of a night, and the staff did nothing after my burn either — which just soured me completely.
I enjoyed chatting with folks near me, as we compared restaurants in town and elsewhere. This is the “good foodie” type of convo, not the table full of drunken idiots “foodie” (or “droolie” as I call them) that goes by rankings and ratings and don’t understand the food except its PR value. So it was a completely awesome evening, I left very happy.
I walked back to the hotel, another nice 20-minute stroll, bypassing the hotel bar this time, and headed to get some rest. This was an excellent dinner in every way, and it has redeemed my image of the top places in this city. Great way to close my short Mexico City trip! Highly, highly recommended!
Calle Francisco Petrarca 254
Ciudad de México, DF, México