When my friend and I booked our Mexico City trip, we were die hard set on dining at a few of the prominent restaurant establishments located in Mexico City, namely Pujol and Quintonil. Self-proclaimed foodies, my friend Sherry and I were so excited when we got a seating at Pujol. Widely regarded as the best in Mexico, awarded the title by Wall Street Journal, placed 17th in the top 50 restaurants in the world by San Pellegrino in 2013 and ranked in the top 50 three years running (#20 in 2017), Pujol is no stranger to receiving critical acclaim for its achievements.
Chef Enrique Olvera and his team transforms ordinary Mexico street food into mouthful of intricate, delicate and unique tasting experiences with both local and exotic ingredients. In Feb 2017, after 17 years of residency on Calle Francisco Petrarca location, Pujol moved to a new chic, contemporary bungalow in the affluent Polanco area. I absolutely adore the minimal and sleek decor as well as the airy ambiance which provides diners a visual treat as well as a culinary experience.
The 6 course tasting menu combines old staple dishes along with new creations from chef Enrique to represent the current Mexico City culinary scene.
First Course: Street snacks – Bocol huasteco and smoked baby corn. Don’t be fooled by the name “street snacks” for one second. These dishes are anything but. The smoked baby corn was covered with a sauce that is comprised of costeno chile mayonnaise, coffee and Chicatana ants. Wait, ants? Come again? Yes, you read it correctly. the Chicatana ants are extremely rare because they are flying ants and only appear during the first rain of the year in the Oaxaca area. The baby corn was perfectly grilled, so tender and the sauce was just extremely flavorful. We both wanted seconds.
Second Course: Rice, geoduck clam, scallop, mulato for Sherry and Octopus, habanero ink, ayocote, veracruzana sauce for me. Once again, we loved the sauce that covered the rice, it almost tasted like uni (sea urchin puree) but I think it is the combination of the seafood. The show stopper was my Octopus which was extremely tender and flavorful, I have never had any like it and I have had many octopus dishes.
Third Course: Cauliflower, almond salsa macha, chile de árbol for Sherry and Lobster infladita* for me. Ordinarily I am not impressed by vegetarian dishes, I love my meat what can I say, however this cauliflower dish is easily one of the best vegetarian dishes I have ever had. The crunchiness of chicken skin mixed with soft buttery cauliflower is the perfect balance of texture. While my lobster infladita was solid, it wasn’t the showstopper as the cauliflower dish.
Fourth Course: Wild herb open papadzul, quail egg, chiltomate for Sherry and Lamb, mint mole, lime, baby potato for me. My lamb was cooked medium as opposed to medium rare when I received it and the flavour was quite gamy for my taste. I wasn’t sure whether the kitchen can accommodate, however they were happy to replace my dish with Sherry’s papadzul which we both tasted. This papadzul looked simple however it was packed with flavor and texture. My photos turned out blurry for both dishes, however the blue corn tortilla mixed with chiltomate was perfect in every bite.
Fifth Course: Mole madre that is 1411 days old, mole nuevo. This is one of the signature dishes for Pujol, mole two ways. The dark layer is mole that has been aged for 1411 days while the new one was just for theatrical. Pujol’s mole madre is special because the old mole is getting reheated through the months and each time it reheats, it retains a new “age” and ours has been alive for more than 1400 days as dated on our menu. Chef Enrique pride himself on providing a celebratory prerogative for his mole and this dish def preserved its complex yet unique flavor. I have always been a fan of mole sauce and I almost liked my plate clean.
Sixth Dish: Nicuatole for me and Chocolate, pennyroyal, pinole, caramelized banana for Sherry. After we were served a palette cleanser, we moved on to dessert. Nicuatole is a corn based gelatinous dessert made from ground maize and sugar, a traditional dish in Oaxaca, Mexico. It has a creamy rich texture that resembles penna cotta and topped with vanilla flavored ice cream which serves as a perfect compliment. The chocolate pennyroyal was another dessert show stopper. The rich creamy chocolate combines with the perfectly caramelized banana that melts in your mouth was the perfect sweet ending.
After we were offered another complimentary dessert dish, the churros, our server asked whether we would like to tour the kitchen! I never pass on the opportunity to check out what goes behind the scene of a world acclaimed restaurant and boy was this a treat. Chef de cucina Alex Bremont and his team worked in streamlined precision while greeting us and letting us in on what goes behind the dishes we had just tasted. We saw a machine that is pressing fresh tortillas and there were no grilles, or hot stoves, only traditional smoking oven. .
It was an eye opening to see how quick everyone works and we’ve also learned that there is a secret “taco tasting menu” that is only available at the bar seating. Pujol definitely deserves all of its acclaims and awards and I cannot wait to come back to try the taco tasting menu. They also have a location in New York called Cosmos and you can bet that I will make reservation for a visit the next time I am in Big Apple.