Even the street names of ultramodern Polanco are snobby sounding… Isaac Newton, Galileo, Alejandro Dumas (or Dumbass as per Shashank). Just about all the streets are named after important writers, philosophers, politicians, and food bloggers. Walking around the area is like playing Jeopardy. Who is President Masaryk! Compared to the rest of Mexico City, the Polanco neighborhood feels like a Beverly Hills gated community without the gates.
Its a rather picturesque, unapologetic enclave filled with ladies with big hats who eat avocado toasts at places like “Snob bistro”. Yes, its a real place inside an attractive development, straight out of Coconut Grove. But yet, we counted three yellow boots, locking pricy cars for some reason. Too important to pay their tickets, or too many spare beemers? There’s a video that went viral recently showing a Polanco resident yelling at a parking officer.
Its therefore not a surprise that Pujol, Quintonil and other CDMX elite are in Polanco. Frankly, I “settled” on #9 world ranked Quintonil over #5 Pujol because I fell asleep and missed my Pujol reservation window. I could barely score one at Quintonil. But while Pujol is the more famous, there’s really no consensus in the city on who’s the best.
From the outside, Jorge Vallejo’s, Quintonil, just like so many great ones, like Osteria Francescana, looks unassuming. While inside, the smart decor, and the pampering of a world class spa, sets the ‘we are not in Kansas anymore’ tone. This was a birthday treat, as was the entire food focused trip. And the result was two unforgettable hours.
The fun actually starts when you reserve months in advance. Do I want a main dining room a la carte, the seemingly insect heavy bar tasting menu, or the dining room tasting menu. The latter two require a significant deposit, roughly 5x the a la carte option. But the fine print states that one can simply opt for the dining room tasting menu upon arrival (when booking the dining room), which raises the question, why would anyone pre-order that over the cheaper a la carte. And after the 4th glass of the excellent matching wines, I tried, unsuccessfully, to get to the bottom of it with my new BFF waiter, while Mrs Z kicking me under the table. After the fourth kick, my facial expression changed, and by the look of his, he probably suspected I was having a stroke, or gas.
As for the food (Its about time Ziggy, sheesh), not one dud, and nothing stood out above all. And that’s a good thing in this case. Like a winning team without a star. Every dish complemented the next and previous. A harmonic flow of colors, textures, and umami. What looked like a simple melon salad, was actually an extravagant melon, tomato, horchata, and pumpkin seed concoction. And what looked like a another photogenic concoction, was a tasty riff on the classic Scallop Margarita with a vivid Aguachile, wasabi, and nori.
In between single courses, you even had a chance to play taco master with carefully selected ingredients that filled the table. There was charred avocado with Escamoles (insect caviar). Smoked cactus salad. Salsad oyster mushrooms. Pureed beans from Oaxaca. Nutty Crottin cheese. Chorizo with oats, and more. Add delicious corn tortillas and you got a flavor jammed fest.
Then comes a perfectly cooked Striped Bass with seafood infused basmati and a coconuty sauce. A young goat with chickpeas puree, and herbs, was aromatic and superb. The dishes featured more science than my combined 4 years of college. Its avant-garde alright, but undeniably Mexican.
The scrumptious desserts really complete the experience. All four of them. A Cactus paddle sorbet. A delightful Creme Fraiche with passion fruit and caviar. The stupendous Guava “rocks”, with pink peppercorns, and caramelized white chocolate. And just when you are about to get too full, comes a birthday flan for the ages. One of those meals, and yet another reason to visit this food paradise.