Sunday, 17 September 2017

Quintonil, Mexico City

Two days after Pujol, we had lunch at Quintonil. A couple of places behind Pujol in the World’s Best Rankings, it’s at No. 22.

The dining room was much more modest than Pujol, no zen garden or glowing indoor tree, but then again there were no banners warning us about dodgy dealings either. We were told to order two or three smaller dishes followed by one (or two) main courses for each person. After the portions we experienced at Pujol, we decided to cut back as Mexican portions are quite generous. So went with 3 starters and 2 mains to share.

We started with a selection of mole and salsa, followed by an amuse bouche of mango and lime granitas.


Charred avocado tartar with escamoles and mexican herb chips
Escaroles are ant eggs, which used to be a key ingredient in Aztec cuisine. We were slightly apprehensive about the idea but damn these were so delicious. The small globules were buttery, they melted away in mouth like mini balls of ice cream, leaving a trail of fragrant richness. The smoky avocado added extra creaminess to each spoonful, it was a beautifully indulgent dish.

“Salbut” with pink oyster mushroom, “agave” honey, seasoned with “chile mixe” salt

Chef Vallejo came round with a heaped bowl of fungi to show us the various species that went into the small dish. 

The crispy bowl of puffed tortilla was filled with a concoction of mushrooms in a savoury broth. The flavours were intense with concentrated fungi aroma, mixed with bouncy morsels of mushroom that released more juices with every chew.

“Jaiba azul” tostada with lime, radish and “chile habanero” mayonnaise
The crab tostada was one of the signature dishes. The crab was hidden under the large toasted tortilla, dressed with a slightly piquant mayo for a creamy texture to contrast with the crunchy veg. It wasn’t crazy spicy, just a hint of sharpness which was quickly washed away by the sweet crabmeat. It was good, but not as stunning as the ant eggs.

Catch of the day Puerto Nuevo style, grilled salicornias, fermented cabbage and sea weed mojo
Our server said he didn’t know what this fish was called in English. We think it’s monkfish. Quite disappointing dish, especially after such excellent starters. The fillet was marginally overcooked, leaving the fish slightly parched on the exterior and rough on the tongue; the flesh had lost the succulent silkiness. The thick sauce didn’t work either, it was very salty with small grainer bits that resembled black bean.

The portions turned out to be much smaller than Pujol, just as well, we didn’t enjoy it very much.

Braised pork jowl with blue corn “cegueza”, lettuces and pickled “rajas”
Having had an insane number of carnitas, we thought pork would always be a safe option as the Mexicans have nailed pork. Well, this was an exception. The pork jowl was dry and bland, but the most offensive part of the dish was the over seasoned ragu pooled at the bottom. It was like the kitchen had forgotten to dilute a whole box of stock cube.


“Zapote negro” rocks with a guava puree and caramelised white chocolate 
We saw the same dessert arrived at our neighbour's table covered in nitrogen; by the time ours arrived it was just a flat bowl. Well, at least it was back to the standards of the starters. The rocks were frozen ice cream, mixed with tart guava puree at the bottom. It was really quite delicious.

Quintoil was very different to Pujol. We felt Quintonil was more contemporary and perhaps more experimental, though the risks in our mains didn’t quite pay off. Whereas there was a set formula in Pujol and though small deviations may happen, the core flavours were more or less the same. If I am honest, despite the service / decor / ambience being less impressive in Quintonil, I feel we had the most memorable dishes of the entire trip here.

World’s Top 22nd restaurant? Yea, probably.

Newton 55
Polanco
Mexico City

Tel: +52 (55) 5280 2680

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