Saturday, January 02, 2016

Quintonil for quintissential cuisine that is modern Mexican in Mexico City (12-29-15)

We had been very excited about our last three nights dining in Mexico City as they were three of the top places in the city and indeed the country (and two other top places were closed for the holidays!).
We headed to Quintonil. Quintonil has received "top 50 restaurants in the world" for 5 or more years now!
We saw the tasting menu (10 courses) and gave in immediately, especially at the 1100 peso price, which is $66US! Sam started with the String cheese sup with fried pork belly and plantain which he loved but declared way too rich and then went on to a main course of Chuck eye wagyu beef in "pulque" with corn and dried chiles demicglace, which came later in the overall scene, but was gone in seconds nonetheless.
We started with a bottle of Emblema Sauvignon Blanc from Paralelo, 2014 in Valle de Guadalupe was very smooth with a light citrus taste on the back palate. The sommelier, Daniel was most helpful and suggested the Unico Gran Resrva 2009 of Cab/Merlot which we had before several years back and is truly one of the best Mexican reds that goes with everything.
The restaurant is small and simple with firm benches and seats, wooden walls and large mirrors on them, which Will hated as he faced one. Unique ceramic plates were used and Spiegelau crystal was a big plus for the great wines.
An amuse of Nopal (cactus) ceviche with onion, vinegar, chiles and cucumber was a treat and then the peanut bread arrived hot from the oven with black bean dip with oja santa, butter honey and huitlacoche honey. Housemade tortillas came in an adorable hand-knitted white basket. Of course, salsas of red and tomatillo arrived as well.
Most of the dishes had local edible flowers, which I always say have little or bad taste, but they are always so pretty and here some larger pansy-like colorful ones were beautiful.
Course 1 was Mexican herb salad with Cotija cheese, grilled tomato and an herb emulsion. The word herb here in most important is that is the essence of the name quintonil itself. Herbs that are rare and unique are used in every single dish making for quite unique and wonderful flavors not available anywhere else on earth. The greens included Purslaine, mint, gasanta (which comes from Oaxaca), cilantro and more, The vinaigrette was to die for.
Marlin was smoked and served in salsa verde with purslaine, fennel, red prickly pear and guacamole just lightly underneath with a hint of chilies. This was sushi/ceviche gone Mexican crazy and we loved it.
#3 was a Smoked Crab "Tostada" with lime, radishes of many colors and chili habanero mayo, which was so light the mayonnaise was almost not there, but the flavor was a great binder (think crab cake with a punch). The tostada was made from corn, but tasted like a rice cracker and was corn-chili dusted as well. This dish beat the previous night's crab tacos by a million miles.
#4 was glazed mushrooms with "escamoles" (ant eggs), chile powder and huitlacoche puree. Daniel suggested we try the red with this and it was brilliant and imbued the intensely flavored fungus dish with even more essence.
More funghi came next in the form of a refreshing Cuitlacoche(they use a variant spelling) broth with seaweed and squash blossom serving almost as a palate cleanser.
Course #6 was the fish course and was Sea Bass with "Chile Guajillo" puree, ayocote(black, green and red radish), black beans, "chile guero" (blond chili) and pineapple pico de gallo. The latter two were actually small puree dots that appeared on the plate to allow you to dip the dish in and get different flavors and essences.
It was at this time that Will departed the table only to return and state he needed to go back to the hotel. I won't blame this mishap on the food as we later discovered he probably had an allergic reaction(possibly due to his asthma) to any one or more ingredients that he was not used to. We ate exactly the same food ALL DAY, and I was fine.
The main course arrived in Course #7 and it was the same dish Sam had just finished, so he gobbled down Will's wagyu with pulque...Now we had tasted this local homemade alcoholic "moonshine" the day prior and liked it a bit, but even  more with fruit flavorings (Sam liked, yes he tasted, the pina colada, and we loved the mix berry), but here it was used for a red glaze that was simply superb.
It was accompanied by Boracha or chayote squash.
Nopal Cactus Sorbet was the palate cleanser and came with a dash of sea salt and chilis for flavor. I could eat this anytime. It was also meant to frame the meal which started with nopal amuse.
Dessert Number 1 was preserved grapes which were frozen with tomatillo, rhubarb, lemon and grass creamy figure it out.
The last course was a Soursop jelly with chocolate, avocado and coriander which was a sweet puree and Sam & I loved this but went bananas when they delivered
the piece de resistance Café de Olila (not what was in it, but it was sweet) and bunuelos (tiny sugared donuts).
A bag with take-home gifts of "punche" or jellies of hibiscus and guava, marshmallows, mandarin marmalade & cocoa and so much more kept us busy remembering the night for days.
Sadly, Will was quite ill, but there were no ill feelings for Quintonil, and I daresay, I would jump at the chance to return.