While in Mexico City for a quick weekend trip, Mark and I spent an evening at Pujol, one of Mexico City's top restaurants. We knew a little about what we were getting into when we initially made our reservation but once we arrived at the restaurant, we quickly realized we were about to experience something really different and exciting. Pujol celebrates classic Mexican cuisine, introducing traditional ingredients shown in new ways. We heard some exciting buzz about the mole at Pujol and were licking our lips to get a bite of the delicious sauce!
Mexico is known for its mole. Mole, a complex and rich sauce, is so classically Mexico, it's even their national dish! The variations of mole differ between chefs and regions, with the subtle nuances dependent on their maker. The twenty plus ingredients all center around dark flavors and call for plenty of chocolate, roasted chillies, and deep spices. Mole is then simmered for hours thickening into a silky, textured consistency and eaten with a tortilla. If I had my way, I would have a bowl of mole and a stack of tortillas by my bed every night - it would be the tastiest way to end the evening!
Like I said above, mole depends on the maker and the mole at Pujol defies the culinary boundaries of this classic Mexican sauce. The mole at Pujol is a melting pot of mole from days past, adding new batches of the day's mole to the ever growing mole pot. A new daily mole is made fresh, using seasonal ingredients and different spice varieties. Some of that daily mole is then added to a larger mole pot, brewing and intensifying as the days go on. On the night of our visit, the mole at Pujol was 1,258 days old and was served alongside the day's fresh batch of mole to better compare the two, old and new. The tortilla served alongside our mole was imprinted with a large green veined leaf, resembling a pressed flower. I had never seen an imprinted tortilla before, it was so deliciously unique.
The aged mole was so unbelievably complex, with such a variety of spices and rich textures. So let's do the math - if the daily batch of mole has an average of 20 ingredients, and a new batch of mole is created and added to the pot 1,258 times, that means the seasoned and aged mole at Pujol has over 25,000 aged flavors! Holy mole, talk about complex. I hope your pallet is ready for a Pujol punch!
Now let's move on from the mole at Pujol and talk about the other dishes Chef Enrique Olvera eloquently created for us that evening! Pujol's tasting menu played off of familiar flavors we crave, like street tacos, churros, and tortillas, yet elevated and served in a stunning new way. First, let me take you through the restaurant decor and a few courses!
We enjoyed the first course, which was the Chef's version of street snacks. We were served tiny tacos topped with a perfect slice of avocado. The next course was octopus served in habanero ink and topped with fresh herbs.
One of my favorite dishes (aside from the mole) was baby corn served on a stick, which was brought to the table in a smoky, open top gourd. Each baby corn was layers with a creamy and spicy mole, then dusted with chicatana ants. Yes, ants! And not just any ants. These particular ants are found one day a year, after the first rain in a small region of Mexico. The rarity of this celebrated delicacy was so special and exciting! It was my first time trying ants and even though they weren't overly present in the dish, I still loved every bite of it.
Our next courses included Jerky tart tart served with sweet bean blossoms, sea bass with fresh herbs. We enjoyed fried soft-shell crab with a meyer lemon and spicy mole, and charred eggplant tamale.
After a citrus pallet cleanser intermezzo, we finished the meal with a sweet finish. For dessert, we had black sapote (similar to a chocolate persimmon) with fermented coconut water foam, and vanilla flan chamomile cream topped with thyme. To help the desserts go down smooth, I ordered a carajillo, which is Licor 43 mixed with espresso and served over ice. My carajillo was so yummy, sweet, and creamy - perfect for the end of an unforgettable evening. The final course was a churro that was so perfectly spiraled, it looked like edible art. Don't worry, it wasn't too pretty to not devour! We enjoyed every fried, twisted, and sugar-coated inch of the churro.
The food at Pujol had so many elements of familiarity, like the street tacos and the tamale, but they were served in a different and exciting way. Tasting a new dish that looked like edible art that maintained the flavors of foods I enjoy regularly was truly amazing. Chef Enrique Olvera prides himself in serving classic Mexican dishes served in a new way I couldn't describe my experience in any other way. The food is elevated fine dining but served with approachable flavors that also push the boundaries. The mole at Pujol is truly a labor of love and I was honored to be able to taste all the flavors from its three and a half year life.
I can't wait to share our next restaurant adventure with you! Mexico is so full of amazing food, I want to taste it all!
Which dish would have been your favorite? How cool was the leaf imprinted tortilla? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!