Pujol – Mexico City

“ So long as you have food in your mouth, you have solved all questions for the time being” – Franz Kafka-

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Intimacy is what this restaurant is all about.

This place is very romantic and exclusive; it is as if everyone is destined to be there that night, similar to a perfect setting for a movie. The place has mirrors all over the edge that meets the wall and the ceiling, thus you can see and be seen (and allows the person that is seated looking at the wall to be able to appreciate the scenery).

Enrique Olvera interprets fine dining in his own and unique way. He focuses in balancing traditional Mexican food, (which everybody should try), with more elaborate gourmet dishes and ingredients, granted that you wouldn’t try something like this menu elsewhere.

A pleasant beginning for the evening is a mezcal drink, a spicy & fruity cocktail that will open your appetite for the six courses you are about to degust.

One of the most popular Mexican appetizers are presented to you in small portions, so you can get acquainted with what Mexicans usually eat on the street, such as huaraches and tacos.

I have to make a special mention to my favorite – “Baby corn with chicatana ant mayonnaise”. One could never imagine that you could get a deli mayonnaise up from an ant, (too small…) but this is a delicate and unique flying ant, one that is only five days a year in Mexico, thus its rareness makes it so perfect to infuse the smoked baby corn, which is delivered in a gourd. (I thought it was a pumpkin at first glance).  Upon opening the lid, the smoke inside seeped out giving you a quick, albeit delicious smell of the perfectly balanced flavors.

The masterpiece of this place is the mole –mole madre, mole nuevo-, referring to an “old” mole that’s been kept for 1306 days to age, and a “new” mole that is freshly made. It is presented in two circles; mole madre on the outside, and new mole in the middle (like a bull’s eye). It is as an elder meeting a newborn. The tortillas with hoja santa, were so soft that they melted in my mouth; oh what a match!

Usually, they won’t give you silverware for this course; you have to soak the tortilla into both moles so as to mix them, just like a true Mexican would do (you won’t regret it). This dish seems so simple but yet is a complex throwback to the Mexican culture ancestors, and the combination of these moles is Enrique’s perfect creation.

For a sweet ending you will have a small portion of Mexican traditional desserts, such as tamales, churros, and even a flan. All of them are amazing; portions are tiny so you can eat all of them without guilt.

Unwind with the wine menu, which presents plenty of great options from different countries. If you are into deep, bold reds, I suggest one goes the Mexican path and try either Icaro or Ojos negros, if not, one can always pair this food with a glass of tequila or mescal – the place has a vast collection from all regions.

In summary, the service is flawless; they really put an effort in explaining everything to their guests, and also have the best attitude.

No wonder The World’s 50 Best Restaurants rates Pujol number 20th worldwide and it’s number 1 in México city.

 

Piazza Duomo – Regione di Alba (Alba- Italy)

“One cannot think, love, sleep well if one has not dined well” – Viriginia Woolf-

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Alba is a small town surrounded by these famous out-of-life wine regions of Barolo and Barbaresco. There must be something flowing through the earth or wind that makes this place so unique.

It has a very distinctive feeling of an old European town that is disconnected from the rest of Europe yet it stands above them.

Getting to the restaurant is an experience in itself. Right next to the Piazza, in a small alley you ring a bell and someone asks for a reservation – very Stanley Kubrick-like “Fidelio” password to enter the place.

Once inside, the setting is that of a neighbor’s cozy living room. Exotic paintings on the wall (a deer and a stove) that end in a few windows with a view of the Piazza.

The menu has some ingredients that you have never heard before (think of…) that lead the customer into the unknown.

Piemonte is so proud of its wine that they have their standalone menu. The rest are classified as “rest of the world”(including the Italian Veneto region which should be a country in itself)

Given that my husband and me are avid Cacio e Pepe fanatics, we could not go for any of the tasting menus as none of them included this traditional Roman dish.

In a very Italian way, we first ordered an apperitivo.

The appetizers where just like a Kandinsky painting, perfect colors, textures, and the flavor was…. Just as “Composition VIII”.

The initial ones were kind of futuristic given the way they look – perfect presentation with unusual plates and bases, like rocks and mirrors.  Homemade pasta, wafer peanut, foie gras and gingerino, chard sponge with tuna sauce – perfect for accelerating the expectation of the actual dish you order.

I asked for the “Sea Bream Carpaccio, Lime, Juniper” which can be defined as a flower symphony, a perfect balance between a fresh and flowery flavor; the presentation was exquisite.

At first I thought that the flowers where mainly decorative, but as I tried each one of them with the balanced fish, I knew that they were made for each other, just like Alice in Wonderland.

The Agnoloti del Plin with meat sauce was smooth in the mouth like a glass of a fine champagne; the flavors where so well balanced that pasta and strong meat reunited themselves at a perfect point.

After all these delicious plates, for the grand finalle, the chef presents you his royal sweet flush with truffles, a smooth Madagascar vanilla milk, and a pair of delicious chocolate popsicles. All of these are just a preview of your actual dessert.

I asked for a Hazelnut Monviso, a creamy pastry that just melted in my mouth. My husband ordered the surrealistic Miró Panna Cotta; I describe it like that because it was colorfully disrupted but tasted just like the Italian grandmother classic dessert.

I recommend strongly the Wine Pairing, so you can perfectly feel the combination of Piemonte’s wines and Enrico Crippa’s original and playful mind.

 

Dish you cannot miss: Rabbit kidneys, bernaise sauce.