When I first saw the name, I thought, oh yes, the first baseman for the California (Anaheim) Angels, right? Wrong. Here, Pujol, is the hottest place in town, put together by the hottest chef in the city, Enrique Olvera. He singlehandedly put Mexico City on the global food map. He is known as the 39 year old hero of Mexican gastronomy. His one year old New York City place, Cosme, is said to be equally famous and successful.
Pujol, the Restaurant
He is also writing a book, Mexico From the Inside Out for Phaedon Books. He is soon opening a restaurant, Manta in The Cape Hotel is Los Cabos. He also has a laid back café down the street, Eno, with a breakfast and lunch menu of basic like eggs with chorizo, and quinoa salad.
When he first opened Pujol is 2000, his food was heavily influenced by the French Laundry. After all, why not follow in the footsteps of the world’s most famous restaurant. He basically tweaked American food with Mexican ingredients, for instance, foie gras with guava. It took him only five years to find his true identity, as a chef.
Keeping the small plates or tapas theme, he starts with spring escamoles (ant larvae), bursting from a single pea pod. He uses contrasting moles, a two year old mole madre, brown as the earth, and a brick red mole Nuevo. He spreads them on a plate, like a disc within a circle, similar to an Aztec calendar.
His salsa verde is garlicky tomatillo salsa that goes on many different items, whether tacos, enchiladas, seafood, roast chicken and pork. One of my favorites is the crispy pork belly taco with Pico de Gallo. The salsa is spiked with Mexican beer. A little more edgy are the Salsa Verde Chicharron tacos, containing simmered fried pork rinds in salsa verde, topped with crumbled pork rinds.
For the featured quesadilla, we shared the mixed mushroom and cheese quesadillas. And his unique guacamole contains green peas for added sweetness. But no lime juice, which tends to hide the true taste of the avocados.
Before I proceed any further, food is Mexico is very reasonably priced, except here. The seven course dinner runs 1,650 pesos (less than $100 USD) plus 16% tax. Roughly, here are the courses and choices:
I. Street snacks: pumpkin and chili on a chia seed tostada, baby corn with ants, coffee and chile, and boco huasteco.
II. Green mole, or tongue with broth, or chicken liver, or watercress, and radish creole avocado.
III. Red bean tamal, or octopus, or lamb taco, or suckling pig taco.
IV. Egg infladita, or confit catch of the day, or rabbit, or chicken adobo.
V. Mole madre, mole Nuevo.
VI. Happy ending (dessert)
VII. Did I lose it??
Dessert is a real treat, and reminds me so much of my favorite Elote Café in Sedona. Cornhusk meringue with corn mousse is today’s dessert, and is also featured in his new book.
This place is touted as the best in all of Latin America. That is saying a mouth full, so to speak.
BUT, guess what. I thought Montezuma lived in Arizona, not Mexico. I learned the Mexican hot trot, the hard way. Someone at out old hotel cafe slipped in a glass of water. I drank some, not yhinking, Mike did not. About 5 hours later, after just a cold soda for lunch, it hit me HARD. Just awful, losing it all, dizzy, nauseas, etc. It was a miserable day, so we had to skip going to dinner at Pujol.
Making matters worse, after a light breakfast of hot tea and dry toast, I proceeded back to my room. Can you believe, I PASSED OUT in the elevator, got some help to my room, and all of a sudden the house doc and head concierge show up in my room. Needless to say, I amconfined to my room.
But with a great friend like Mike able to get me through the day until our local friend, Dr. Carlos and lovely wife Rina could get here after work. The Cipro and Vontrol seem to be working. But poor Mike thought he was on vacation but rather than serving an apprenticeship as a nurse and errand boy. What a great friend!!!
So, remember, no matter how nice the hotels or number of stars, DON’T drink the water!!!!!