Pujol and Quintonil are two of the most celebrated restaurants in Mexico City. Read on for more about our experience.
We travel for good food. One of the reasons for our trip to Mexico City was the food and we were not disappointed! We knew we would enjoy many casual restaurants and street food, but I also made reservations at Pujol and Quintonil, which are both on the World’s Best 50 Restaurants list, ranked 20 and 22 respectively as of the 2017 list.
As I’ve noted here before, I enjoy a wide range of restaurants and I’m always curious about what makes a highly ranked and/or award-winning restaurant worth visiting. It’s about the quality of the ingredients, the creativity of the chefs, the beauty of the environment, the preciseness of the service, and how everything ties together for an unforgettable experience.
Our meals at Pujol and Quintonil did give us unforgettable experiences, though not quite in the ways we thought we would have. Read on for more about what we ate!
We ate at Pujol for our first dinner in Mexico City. Since it was the first dinner of our trip and we had watched the Chef’s Table episode again right before the trip, we were low-key thrilled about our impending experience.
We were led to a table under the skylight and from my seat, I could see into the kitchen, the bar, and much of the restaurant. I liked that the restaurant was bright and open. They moved to the current restaurant location in 2017.
Pujol only offers a tasting menu, and I like that they present their menu, dated and with a wax seal like it’s a personal letter. They also offer a wine pairing option. One thing I didn’t like was the choices on the tasting menu. Four of the six courses had about three to four choices. It was hard to see all the enticing dishes and only be able to pick one. Also, I enjoy tasting menus because the chefs usually pick dishes and ingredients that I wouldn’t normally be familiar with, but I understand the ability to pick what protein or ingredients you prefer.
Alas, we game-planned and chose different dishes to try more food. Then the tasting part of the adventure began! They timed everything well and adjusted to how fast/slow guests were finishing their plates.
Course 1: We started with street snacks. I was very excited about the smoked baby carrot with chicatana ant mayonnaise in a gourd.
Course 2: Sea bass, cacahuatzintle juice, celery.
Course 2: Octopus, habanero ink, ayocote, vercruzana sauce. Of course, the octopus was cooked perfectly!
Course 3: Softshell crab, cucumber, daiko, shiso. These came with tortillas to make softshell crab tacos.
Course 3: Charred eggplant tamal, chard. This dish was another favorite. Underneath the chard leaf is the purple tamal, the best one I’ve ever had.
Course 4: Duck, black recado, nance, Ixil onions. This dish’s flavors were incredible!
Course 4: Ox tongue, barley, purslane, cactus. This dish was the least impressive of the dinner. While the meat was tender, all the flavors of the dish were very subtle.
I didn’t get any photos of the tortillas that came with multiple dishes but they were very noteworthy. In the Chef’s Table episode, one person notes that it was one of the best things he ate that year. I could see how that could be. You might think it’s just a tortilla. For someone who prefers flour tortillas, I would choose corn tortillas if they tasted like these every time. I never thought corn tortillas could taste this good!
Course 5: Mole madre 1591 days, mole nuevo. The mole is as good as they say. They take their previous day’s mole and add to it, so day by day, the mole madre is getting older. (See the story and recipe here.) There is incredible depth in the flavor of the mole madre yet the new mole also holds its own. The way the moles differ yet interact together with your taste buds was a culinary adventure. The dish came with a green tortilla with a leaf fused to it.
Course 6: The desserts were fantastic! Mango granite, vanilla. Anise infladita, chocolate, praline.
Pujol was everything I had imagined and more. We went in wide-eyed and eager to be enlightened. I knew it would be an impressive meal, but I didn’t know, though I had hoped, it would impact my thinking about the creativity and depth of Mexican cuisine. As good cuisine should, it opened my taste buds to new flavors and made me curious to learn and taste more. Thankfully, we had a whole weekend of eating to go!
- If you are taking an Uber to the restaurant, the auto-fill address is wrong, taking you to the old location, so it’s best if you look up the address (Tennyson 133) and enter it manually. They’ve been trying to get Uber to fix it but it’s not happening. Thankfully, the staff at the restaurant next door to their old location are on the lookout for confused patrons trying to get to Pujol and will put you in the right direction and contact the restaurant to confirm you’re on the way. The new location is a 10-15 minute drive away.
- The pairings were perfect but a little much with the multiple courses! Next time I would ask if they could do half pours.
- Pujol Chef Enrique Olvera recently opened Molino el Pujol, a tortilleria with a menu of tacos, in Mexico City. He also has a restaurant called Cosme in New York City and is working on a Los Angeles restaurant. Pujol has been open since 2000.
Tasting Pricing: I don’t have the exact amount but it’s about $100 USD per person. The pairings are additional.
I’m a little embarrassed to share about this fiasco of a meal but all I can do is accept that it happened and hope I get another opportunity to dine at Quintonil again!
First, our lunch at Quintonil was scheduled for our last day because with other activities planned and the weekend hours, it was the only time we could fit it in. They open at 1 pm and our flight was at 5:30 pm. I admit, this was a bad decision on my part and I recommend not doing this! We worried about the time it would take to get to the airport and get through security and figured it would be best to leave the restaurant around 2 pm, making the meal a little stressful for us and maybe even the wait staff. (Funny thing, when we arrived at the airport, we learned our flight was delayed two hours. Urgh!)
That morning, we both woke up around 4 or 5 am with food poisoning. We popped some stomach pills, hydrated, tried to sleep more, and lay in our hotel room until our check-out at noon. We were both feeling terrible but wanted to dine at Quintonil and knew there would be fees if we canceled our reservation.
The restaurant opened right on time and we were led to our table in the front part of the restaurant. The front part is an intimate space, with low ceilings and constant traffic. They do have a brighter and more open part of the restaurant past this front part.
We ordered a la carte because of our limited timing. We got two appetizers and two entrees. Feeling awful, I ate at most three small bites of each dish. After every course, the wait staff looked confused about why I wasn’t eating my food and asked if I liked it. Boyfriend was feeling better than I was and tried to eat as much of both of our plates as he could!
My taste buds were a little off so I can’t say I got the right flavors of the dishes from my few bites. Much of it tasted extra vibrant and rich. All of that said, here’s what we had!
Our meal started with tortillas, salsa, and black beans.
Before our appetizers, we got a palate cleanser.
Starter: Charred avocado tartare
Starter: Salbut with wild mushrooms confit. This was my favorite dish!
Entrees: Mole with vegetable. We also had the braised oxtail in black recado.
They even brought us a complimentary dessert! Soursop rocks with caramelized white chocolate and pink peppercorn. It was a really cool and tasty dessert.
I ended up apologizing to the hostess before we left, explaining that I was sick and leaving full plates of food had nothing to do with the food or service. The service was very on-point and the plates were beautifully presented. I’m sad I missed the majority of this meal!
- Quintonil Chef Jorge Vallejo opened Quintonil in 2012 and previously worked at Pujol, mentored by Chef Enrique Olvera.
Tasting Pricing: $2050 MXN ($99 USD); $3450 MXN with pairings ($166 USD); a la carte menu available
Pujol or Quintonil?
Because of my skewed experiences, there’s no way I can give you a clear answer about which restaurant you should visit. I know people rave and have criticisms about both restaurants. You will certainly experience incredible service and noteworthy plating and creativity at both restaurants.
I will say that when I’m in Mexico City again, visiting both restaurants will be near the top of my list. There are many, many great restaurants in Mexico City and these two deserve the attention they receive.
Quick Tips for Both Restaurants
- Make your reservations before your trip. Pujol’s reservations are available about six or seven months in advance (I made ours almost four months in advance) and Quintonil’s reservations are available 60 days prior.
- Both restaurants have lunch and dinner options.
- Arrive early. You never know about traffic in Mexico City. These restaurants have 15-minute tolerance policies for tardiness. Your reservation could be canceled and your credit card could be charged.
We savored dining at Pujol and Quintonil and the opportunity to be there. We live for culinary adventures that challenge our taste buds and introduce us to new chefs, and these two meals will be in our minds for a long time!
P.S. Want more dining experiences? Check out our experience at Nahm in Bangkok, Thailand.
P.P.S. Check out more of my Mexico City posts here:
- Mexico City Travel Guide
- Exploring Teotihuacan in Mexico City
- Museo Frida Kahlo in Mexico City
- Best Things to Do in Mexico City
- Eating and Drinking in Mexico City
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