Almost Fearless

And Then There Was Pujol



There were two restaurants in Mexico listed on the world’s 50 Best Restaurants. Pujol was one, Biko was the other. They are both in Mexico City. I’ve always wanted to eat at a place like this, with the tasting menu and deconstructed cuisine, but it’s hard to justify the $400 price tag that usually comes with such a meal.

Pujol. $79 USD for their 11 course tasting menu.

Done.

The interior is painted black. Everything is about the food. The first course comes, a shaved ice with chile and lime. Oh that’s nice, I think.

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Then out comes a large hollowed out pumpkin. It’s full of aromatic smoke.

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It’s sort of a gimmick, but inside is corn on little skewers so we pull one out. It’s so good. I really need to find about a dozen more ways to say that because every course during this lunch was perfectly delicious. It’s soft baby corn with cream, coffee, and chile. Loved it. The menu said there was chicatana ant in there too, but at the time that got lost in translation and it’s not until later that I even realize that was in the dish! Can you see ants? I can’t.

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Next sashimi tuna on a corn tostadita. Yum.

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Aguachile with chia seeds and avocado. Delightful.

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Cauliflower with almond mole sauce. Okay, this is where I lost it. It’s cauliflower, but it was so good. It was cooked perfectly, the sauce, the whole thing, it was the most amazing vegetable dish of my life. Okay. Seriously. Look at that unassuming little dish and then imagine that it was so good you died.

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Next was the tacos. I chose the lamb taco, which I folded in half to eat. Nom.

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Meanwhile everyone else in restaurant is texting or studying the menu. We were there for a weekday lunch, so I think it’s mostly business lunches. I’m having this one-off experience and this is someone’s Tuesday food-they-ate-after-breakfast.

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“Oh should we talk business? Yes let’s!”

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Anyway, I didn’t care, the food is fantastic. It’s really like art, little beautiful dishes so thoughtfully and carefully prepared, the meal is more of a performance than anything else. Next up was the fish of the day, with a beautiful elote (corn) sauce that was delicate and lovely.

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Since the menu is fixed, everyone around you is getting the same experience, a little ballet that’s going on while you eat, and you see the waiter performing the same exacting movements from table to table.

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The next dish was mole madre, a thick dark strong mole on a crispy tortilla.

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Then we had fermented plantains covered in camomile flower petals. It was sweet and airy.

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Someone in DF told me Pujol was pretentious, but I actually thought people were pretty casual about the whole thing. The staff are dead serious and exacting but in a professional way. I had my hair in a messy bun and stuffed my backpack under the table. It was pretty laid back considering it’s “one of the world’s best” restaurants.

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Next up was a dish I failed to photography properly without pulling it out of the cup a little. It’s a guava and sweet potato puree. Yum.

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I chose the brioche dessert with cheese, tomatillo-mint marmalade and fruit. It was awesome, although very light on the tomatillo and mint, which I think is a good thing. The cheese was grilled and so good.

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Oh I remember that taco! Ha! I loved watching everyone tackling the dishes we had just eaten.

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Finally there is tea. This one is an infusion of corn hairs, lime, and star anise. Perfect.

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One last sweet bite, sugared pumpkin with country cream.

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And then it’s all over. You get off the ride, exit to the front and look longingly at the sign as you slowly walk away.

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Christine Gilbert

I’ve been dragging my husband around the world since 2008 always with the promise that, “Yes, Drew there will definitely be hammocks there.”

THERE ARE RARELY HAMMOCKS.

http://christinegilbert.com

10 comments

  • Our duck pond is frozen and covered with several inches of snow. We sure are dreaming of Mexico this time next year — or Malaga, Rod says:) Thanks for inviting us along to enjoy this lunch. I don’t care for fish much but perhaps if I were into the experience, I could stomach it. When you have time (off the road, back home) I would love to know how others respond to you photographing your food. Are there others doing it, too? Of course, in my opinion, photographing one’s food is a thousand times more appropriate than that (*&^! texting. I’ve always been embarrassed about taking photos in such places. “Tourist” label and all. Perhaps next time I’ll just lie and say I’m a food editor.hahaha

  • I didn’t think it was pretentious when I had lunch there last year. In fact, given my limited wardrobe, I was feeling a bit self-conscious arriving after a sweaty day of sightseeing in my t-shirt and jeans, but they seemed to care less.

    That was my same experience in Astrid & Gaston in Lima, and Medellin’s best restaurants. Not that I’m opposed to dressing up for a nice meal 🙂

  • It´s a nice place, and your photos are great. As a mexican, I most tell you this is a gourmet mexican cuisine, really new. I mean, it’s not traditional mexican food. It´s sofisticated food, prepared with some traditional mexican ingredients. I can say only the “mole” is a traditional mexican food. Congratulations!

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