Pujol (Mexico City)
What is arguably the most famous restaurant in Mexico City that would be Pujol owned and run by Chef Enrique Olvera. (He also the man behind New York City’s Cosme.) Seventeen years after putting its city and its chef on the world culinary map with its playfully elevated street food, Pujol, Mexico’s most celebrated restaurant is also taking cues of his New York City restaurant stylistically. The current location of Pujol has a casual, neighborhood spirit with the former’s intimacy. There is a wood-burning oven, terrazzo flooring, a private side room with record player and vinyl collection and a long bar that serves its own taco omakase menu. Even though this location opened in spring 2017, it feels like it’s been lived in.
One of my best friends flew in from Los Angeles joined with me for this dinner. Excited for this six course dinner and stunned by the beautiful surroundings, we started our evening with snacks. One of the well known dishes of Pujol is the baby corn covered in mayonnaise made with chicatana ants, coffee, and chili and a mini gordita with cheese and Wagyu beef. The corn was marvelous. The tender, sweet corn met with the smoky, earthy, slightly bitter mixture of coffee, chili and the chicatana ants. (Chicatana ants is an expensive delicacy from Oaxaca.) The gordita was a very dense masa pastry topped with cheese and flavorful beef. I wasn’t a fan of the gordita itself as I found it too doughy but the other components of that bite were fine.
We had the octopus, habanero ink, ayocote, veracruzana sauce and the rice, geoduck clam, scallop, and mulato. The octopus was tender and meaty with a smoky spice from the “ink” and the ayocoyote puree tasted like super smooth hummus. The veracruzana sauce added some freshness to the dish. The rice, geoduck clam, scallop and mulato peppers dish was a tasty risotto-style dish where the scallop and clams added subtle, ocean-y sweetness and the peppers added a gentle spice.
The wild mushrooms soup in red beans stock, and Mexican tarragon seemed like an average bowl of soup but it’s actually a revelation. Clean, rich flavors of mushrooms, tarragon piercing through the earthy beans stock. Even though it’s a mild evening to have soup, it’s welcome any time in my book, especially soup of this caliber.
The cauliflower, almond salsa macha and chile de arbol was delicious mostly vegetarian taco, as there’s a basket of house made tortillas served on the side. The cauliflower was first steamed then fried in chicken fat, chopped fried chicken skin and the spicy almond salsa macha and chile de arbol added some kick and flavor to the dish.
Heading toward the pinnacle of the meal, we had our meat proteins of duck and lamb. The meaty duck breast was crusted with black recado giving a smoky, strong and spicy flavor to the duck. The bright yellow nance fruit added acidity to the earthy duck and the lxil onions added sweetness.
The lamb, mint, mole, lime and baby potatoes is probably the closest to being a familiar dish in Western cuisine. The lamb was perfectly cooked and tender. The mint, mole and lime added brightness to the dense lamb and the potatoes added some heft to the dish. Both were very tasty.
The dish that made this restaurant famous is the mole madre. The ones we had that night was aged for 1531 days (or little more than 4 years and 2 months) served with the special tortillas made with hoja santa leaves. The mole madre is able to be aged like this like sourdough. There is a lot of complexity of flavors that range from smoky, sweet, slightly tart, and spicy. Interestingly, my brain thought it tasted like hoisin sauce but with more flavors in the background. The hoja santa tortillas added a bite of herbaceous freshness to cut through the deep, dark flavors.
For pre-dessert, we had a perfect quenelle of lime sorbet with lettuce leaves and chili. It’s sharp, acidic and zesty to cleanse the palate.
For our actual dessert, we had the roasted pineapple, molasses, and cilantro that tasted like what it is when eaten individually but when you eat a little bit of everything, it tastes like a fine mezcal. Smoky, a little bit of pineapple that you’d expect in excellent mezcal. There’s deep, dark flavors like Scotch except there’s no alcoholic spirit that touched this dessert. It’s a mind boggler and I wish I could recreate this dessert at home! The mango granita dessert is essentially sweetened ripe mango to the third power. It’s intensely flavored with mango and the creamy mango pudding with soft orbs of fresh mango with the vanilla ice cream was delicious and resonates with the season. (It’s mango season when we were there). We were also served churros topped with a black cardamom spiced sugar instead of the traditional cinnamon sugar, making it a little more complex.
Overall, it’s a very good dinner with a couple of stunning dishes. The service was top notch. Servers were professional and observant that and asked us if we needed more tortillas when we ran out. Is it worth the expense for this dinner? Absolutely and technically, it’s not as expensive compared to what I can easily spend in New York City.
To view more photos of this visit, please view the gallery below or CLICK HERE for the photo set:
Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Phone: +52 55 5545 4111