As a Photo Editor, I am constantly inundated with imagery from the coolest places around the world. It’s not a huge problem, per se, but it can get overwhelming! Mexico City has been on my list for the longest time, and it wasn’t until seeing Pujol on Netflix’s Chef’s Table, I knew I had to go there. I ended up booking my reservation before I had even secured flights and a hotel. The thought of traveling to a city in a completely different country with my main goal to eat at one specific restaurant felt odd, but now that I am back from my trip, I am so glad I approached it that way. We're used to bringing you Brunch Bucket Lists here at The Venue Report, but today is all about the Lunch Bucket List – and why you should plan an entire international trip around one restaurant reservation.
Chef Enrique Olvera is one of the world’s best chefs, and is a household name (for those in the hospitality industry at least). Not only is Pujol his pride and joy, but he also is the culinary genius behind Michelin-rated Cosme and Atla in New York City. His approach at Pujol drew inspiration from the history of Mexico and has since successfully created seasonal menus that reflect those flavors.
Photography by Adam Szafranski
First Impressions & Design
Well, considering I had made this reservation 4 months in advance, the bar was set fairly high and boy did Pujol deliver. After walking around the neighborhood of Polanco, we approached the entrance of the restaurant, a hidden oasis surrounded by an abundance of plants with an exciting bit of secrecy for what lies behind the gate. Walking in, we immediately felt disconnected from the craziness that is Mexico City, which really set the tone for the culinary experience we were about to partake in.
To be completely honest, I was so overwhelmed from the moment we walked in (mostly because I had been looking forward to this for so long) because there was just so much to take in all at once. You are immediately greeted by the smell of burning incense in a beautifully lit indoor courtyard. Pujol’s mid-century design and a combination of both warm and cool tones give you a sense of comfort as if you are entering someone’s home and they are about to cook you a life-changing meal.
There are four main dining areas within the restaurant: The Taco Bar - (where we sat) this area is reserved for those partaking in the 10-course omakase. I have to say what I loved most about sitting here it is that you are able to speak directly to the bartenders and servers about the food and drinks that are being placed in front of you. The Private Dining Room - Adjacent to the taco bar is Pujol’s private dining table. You are given the option of closing off the room to the rest of the restaurant or keeping it open so that you can experience Pujol to its fullest extent. This colossal table can host groups from nine to fourteen, perfect for those looking for a more intimate dining experience with their close family, friends, or coworkers. The Main Dining Room - Directly across from the taco bar and private dining space is the main dining room. Here, you are able to enjoy Pujol’s famous tasting menu. What stood out about this space was the wall of windows overlooking the private garden and terrace. The Terrace - I have to say this was my favorite part about the restaurant (more to come on that later on). The lounge seating is the perfect place to relax with a cocktail in a jungle-like setting. Interested in having an event here? The terrace can host a function of up to 50 people! More information can be found here.
A 10-course taco omakase at one of the world’s best restaurants? Count me in. We were so fortunate to take part in this life-changing culinary experience. Chef Enrique Olvera took inspiration from the history of Mexico, and made it a goal to incorporate that history into the food served, which definitely did not go unnoticed. At the start of the meal, we were asked what drink pairing we would like to have - Mezcal, Beer, or Wine & Sake. I chose beer, others in my group chose mezcal. The beers presented throughout the meal were all brewed in Mexico, with one brewed specifically for Pujol!
Now onto the food. I’d love to talk about everything we ate, but that would require me to write a novel, which I’m not opposed to, but I’ll just focus on my personal favorites throughout the journey:
Softshell crab taco with a plantain puree, tomato marmalade and shiso. Absolutely phenomenal. I would have ordered five more if I could.
Kampachi taco with avocado and seaweed. I loved this one! Super light and flavorful, and paired extremely well with the beer that I was having.
Enmolada. The star of the show. Enrique Olvera and Pujol are most known for their mole. What was striking about the enmolada we had was the contrast in the two types of mole used. The darker layer underneath had been cooking for about 6 years (you heard that right), and was packed with intense flavors. The lighter layer on top was made the day of and offered an abundance of flavor but was not as dense as the 6-year-old mole.
Mango tamal & churros. What was great about the dessert portion of our 10-course lunch was that we got to move from the taco bar and out onto the terrace. This was such a wonderful experience because we had been so overwhelmed (in a good way of course) by the past 9 courses and the fresh air and outdoor ambiance let us enjoy the desert even more.
Behind the Scenes
Prior to heading out to the terrace for the 10th and final course, I was approached by Pujol’s bar manager, Eli Martínez, who invited me to go back into the kitchen and photograph the inner workings of what makes Pujol one of the best restaurants in the world. I’m not going to lie, I was so unbelievably nervous – to step foot in a world-renowned kitchen, I was shaking. Once inside, I got see everything from the fresh tortillas being made to the final preparation of all the dishes before they headed out into the dining room.
Alright, as you can tell this experience was above and beyond my wildest expectations from before we even stepped foot inside Pujol. I am so grateful to have experienced Enrique Olvera’s renowned cuisine in such a welcoming and beautiful environment – you’ll definitely catch me at his new restaurants, Damian and Ditroit, that will be opening in Los Angeles’s Arts District later this year.
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