Frozen Hibiscus Margarita
Tortillas, Beans, Red and Yellow Salsa
Beets, Red Fruit, Mandarin Juice / Cactus Cebiche with Beetroot and Mandarin
Squash, Pepitas, Honey, Fresh Cheese
Shrimp Flauta with Squash Blossom Aguachile
Blue Crab Tostada, Lime, Radish, Habanero Chili Mayonnaise
Custard “Huatape Style” with Scallops and Vanilla
Charred Avocado Tartare with Escamoles and Mexican Herb Chips
Amaranth Blossom, Creamy Tomato Sauce, Chiapas Cheese, Steamed Amaranth Seeds
Jerusalem Artichoke Tamale, Pinenuts, Chaya Pipian
Peas in a Chia and Clarified Tomato Broth, Smoked Lard
Salbut with Cuitlacoche, Oyster Mushroom, Chile Mixe Powder
Grilled Trout, Whole Roasted Cuitlacoche, Spicy Potato Sauce with Smoked Trout Roe
Chilacayotes Squash in House Mole, Charred Tortilla, Basil Sprouts
Dry Aged Duck Breast, Bitter Almond and Habanero Purda, Mille-Feuille of Figs and Agave Honey
Turkey in Recado Negro, Cacao Husk, Fermented Vegetables, Confit Onions
Six and Twelve Month Aged Ramonetti Cheese, Mandarin, Honey and Pumpkin Seed
Frozen Mousse of Roasted Banana, Cajeta and Basil
Ocosingo Cheese Flan, Celeriac Snow, Chocolate Nibs and Almond Tostada
Learning his craft in the shadow of Pujol, and then taking his talents overseas before returning to refine his technique next to Enrique Olvera in the kitchen, many have recently suggested that Chef Jorge Vallejo has replaced his mentor as the best Chef in Mexico City, the 34-year old who opened Quintonil in 2012 creating a delicate balance of indigenous ingredients and modern techniques in high-ceilinged Polanco space that offers both a Chef’s tasting and a la carte options.
Ascending on the San Pellegrino list ever since opening, the most recent guide placing Quintonil at number 22 behind Pujol’s twenty certainly an honor no matter what one’s opinion is of ‘The List,’ it was with reservations made nearly a month in advance that a party of two found themselves seated next to a raucous group comprised of several individuals from various nations celebrating one gentleman’s birthday, the environs otherwise pleasant and unpretentious which falls step-in-step with the kitchen’s contemporary approach.
Reportedly a tough sell at first, both the street and doorway in Polanco somewhat hidden from those not in the know, diners at Quintonil are greeted in both Spanish as well as fluent English, the menu immediately one-upping that at Biko by way of making itself accessible to visitors while the server proved an excellent guide on everything from the bar program to how best one might order one degustation plus several a la carte dishes, the night soon to begin with a fragrant Frozen Hibiscus Margarita alongside warm housemade Tortillas plus Beans and two medium temperature Salsas that would be replaced throughout the meal.
Setting a high standard for ‘experience’ by way of attentive servers, smooth pacing and the sort of environment where most patrons will not feel out of place, it was mere moments after an order was placed that the kitchen began a parade of food that mostly met or exceeded their numerous accolades, the seemingly simple “Cactus Cebiche with Beetroot and Mandarin” served as a simple salad with a glass of juice that mirrored but enhanced the flavors on the plate, the a la carte option of Squash Foam from an ISI container creating a creamy Pudding with upfront sweetness and a sour linger plus a bit of crunch added by salty Seeds.
Always trending fresh and light in ingredients, though the portions are anything but dainty by tasting menu standards while the flavors are as bold as one might expect from the ingredients and ideas involved, a duo of Shrimp Flauta wrapped in Zucchini with zesty yellow Broth and the crisp Shell resting atop fresh picked Habanero and Blue Crab Salad were each as beautiful as they were delicious, the Scallop and Vanilla Custard eating somewhat akin to Chawanmushi with textural juxtaposition from raw Vegetables while the Avocado Tartare with Ant Larve was not really different from Guacamole in terms of texture, though the bitter finish of ash made a case for scaling back the amount served as a little goes a long way.
Taking the tasting menu in an odd direction next, a study of Amaranth featuring the Blossom, Roots and Seeds atop a Tomato Sauce that ate like Pudding far too acidic to be enjoyed past a few bites, the a la carte choice of a ‘Tamale’ made by stuffing the roasted Root with Pinenuts atop a Spinach based Pipian proved far more successful, the Peas in Broth another tasting option that did little to impress save for the smoky sapor while the golden pastry stuffed with Mushrooms and Cuitlacoche doubled down on umami with a subtle, building heat.
Again more impressed by the a la carte choice of Squash Mole topped in charred Bread than the grilled trout with a viscous sauce of Fish Eggs that was not dissimilar to one disdained at Biko the night before, a final savory of rosy Duck Breast thrilled next to a pastry of Figs and Agave Honey while rounds of Turkey Loin were perfectly roasted beneath a sauce of blackened Chili Peppers that found just enough balance in the fermented Vegetables to keep from overwhelming the whole plate.
Refreshing palates with a delicately sweet Cactus Sorbet before progressing into dessert, the duration of the meal now over three hours since arrival, Chef Vallejo continued to trend savory for 2/3 of the desserts served thereafter, the aged Ramonetti Cheese served as a powder and cake from two different dates amidst Orange, Honey and Pumpkin seeds while the Semifreddo of Banana, Caramel and Basil was a texturally beautiful and sweet finish, particularly when compared to the lightly sugared Cheese Flan with the earthy aromatics of Celeriac and bittersweet Cocoa Nibs.