It’s been a month since I came back from Mexico, but my heart (and stomach) still longs for the place, so let’s continue on my food journey in Mexico City. Having done an extensive amount of research online ahead of time, I decided Pujol should set the highest bar for all the Mexican upscale restaurants. Aside from all the raving reviews from major restaurant critics both from the States and worldwide, I believed in my choice more simply because their website looks way cooler than other fancy restaurants in the city.
Anyway, I remembered our cab driver got so frustrusted trying to find the address of Pujol because it is located on a backstreet between two residential houses, with no signs whatsoever at the front door but masked under some plain wooden panels that one could easily pass by without notice. Once we stepped inside, I was almost frightened to find out how fancy the place itself and the people dining here were; casually pulling our jeans and skirt, we were the most under-dressed people there. However, the welcoming servers saved us with a warm welcome and by our request seated us in a not-so-conspicuous table.
I was very much tempted to feast on their seven-course tasting menu, which has an option of either land or sea tasting, but my stomach that had been stuffed from the earlier street food hunting was gruntling constantly, as if telling me not to make some rash decisions that would make it suffer, so we finally settled on the regular three course menu, which turned out to be a hit-or-miss situation since my overall meal was outshined by what Aiai ordered.
If I could vote for the best amuse-bouche I have ever had, Pujol definitely makes the top of the list, beating all the restaurants I’ve dined in New York. Dipped in smoky rich coffee mayo, the baby corn was beautifully charred and then stewed in a hollowed-out pumpkin that was brought out from the kitchen, steaming mysteriously. Think the presentation is a bit too dramatic? It didn’t end there. The fresh taste of baby corn was married well with the intense coffee flavor, and it tasted so delicate, if that’s word to use. As I carefully bit off the tip of the corn, my mouth was envoloped with the warm creamy mayo. So this excellent experience ended quickly, since they only gave one. I wish they put the dish on the menu.
Maybe the baby corn set my expectation too high, what came next fell short and was almost disappointing. Maybe soup was just a bad idea since I never had luck with ordering soup, but I’m really not a fan of chilacayote, or Spanish squash as some might call. It has a really hard texture and doesn’t render much flavor. Overpowered with lemon, the soup was impossible for me to finish as it was too sour.
For my entree, I decided to give it a shot and ordered their newly-added dish, octopus (Pulpo a la mexicana), an item that didn’t even have a description on the menu yet, which made me even more excited. But it turned out to be a promising dish that failed to be an excellent one. Surprisingly tender, the octopus was no doubt prepared perfectly before it was cooked but it definitely needed some more work on flavor because it was bland. I was confused as to why only one end was encrusted in the wonderful tempura coating (the end that is not shown in the picture) because that was such a great way to retain the moisture and to add more texture to the octopus. Maybe for the sake of presentation? If that’s the case, it’s kind of sad to see the flavor to be comproised.
Compared to mine, Aiai’s dishes really stood out to be the more solid ones. The entree (Barbacoa de cordero lechal) she ordered was a clean cut of tender lamb meat that was barbecued and stewed in tomato soup. The use of both avocado and its leave was smart to enrich the texture, and the cocoa powder sutbly added a level of complexity to the flavor. I ate half of her dish.
I walked out of Pujol with an ambivalent feeling and regretted not to try their tasting menu instead, which might have been a better shot. So is this the best restaurant in Mexico City? I definitely need another meal here to answer the question.