Mexico City is an amazing destination for foodies because it has 3 of the world’s top 100 restaurants in the city!! The two most talked about are Pujol and Quintonil. Today I’ll be sharing my experiences to help you determine whether to visit Pujol or Quintonil. I thought it would be a closer race, but one restaurant was definitely better than the other!
Both Pujol and Quintonil are located in the Polanco neighbourhood of Mexico City. This area is like the Beverly Hills and has all your luxury shopping and fancy restaurants. You can easily take an Uber ride to both restaurants. The cost of Uber is very cheap and I’d highly recommend using it to get to and from dinner.
Pujol – Pujol has about 20 tables in the restaurant as well as a row of bar seating for their taco omakase menu. There is actually a beautiful garden terrace but there are no tables there and is reserved for cocktail style events. What is nice though is that 2 walls were huge glass doors and it allows you to peek out into the terrace. The tables and chairs are pretty simple and is mainly made of wood. The most prominent feature of Pujol’s interior is this tree in the photo below. It’s near the entrance of the restaurant and gives a fantasy feel to the whole experience. The overall aesthetic was classy but simple.
Quintonil – I apologize that I did not get a great photo of Quintonil’s interior as it was quite dark. There are only 8 tables in the restaurant along one rectangular space. Some of the table tops had marble and some table tops were wood. There’s a work station at the end of the station that doubles as a bar. The decor is very simplistic and didn’t feel that unique. Everything was clean and streamlined but I was expecting something more inspiring especially since Mexico City is such a design hub.
Pujol – At Pujol, you have the choice of their classic tasting menu or the taco omakase menu. The 6 course tasting menu allows you to choose 4 of your courses which is a neat because usually you don’t have a choice. It costs 1998 Pesos which is $102 USD. It’s definitely a steal compared to the top restaurants in New York and LA. The taco omakase menu is the same price and contains 11 courses along with drink pairings. It’s very unique and great for people who have had a lot of fancy meals and are looking for something different.
Quintonil – Quintonil also has a tasting menu but they actually allow you to order a la carte! This is very different and allows you to have a much cheaper meal if you are only looking to try a few items. The tasting menu is 11 courses but 3 of them are dessert courses. It costs 2050 pesos which is $105 USD. The a la carte menu has dishes ranging from $6 USD for a small appetitizer to $33 USD for a large braised shoulder entree. We ordered 5 dishes in total a la carte and shared everything.
Pujol – The most important thing for me when dining at these types of restaurants is if the dishes introduce new flavors and techniques that I’ve never experienced before. I don’t want to give away every dish, but Pujol’s menu did exactly that! I chose the sea bass for my second course and it came in a corn husk. After you eat everything on it, you can slurp all the juices by tilting the husk. I love unique things like this when dining at the top restaurants in the world.
Another example is the softshell crab for the third course. On it’s own, it’s already delicious. But for an added fun factor, they brought over tortillas so you can make your own taco with the ingredients on your plate! I love the interaction with the food. The street snacks were uniquely served in a bowl that looks like a pumpkin. The mole madre versus new mole is a classic Pujol dish and the mole madre has been aging for 1699 days (that’s 4.5 years!)
Quintonil – At Quintonil, there were a couple of dishes that were innovative and unique. Out of the 5 dishes I tried, the most unique would be this crab tostada and the free sorbet they started with. I liked the spinach powder on the crab tostada which is so cool. The sorbet had this amazing texture that is loose in the bowl but just melts in your mouth. However, the charred avocado tartare, the huauzontles, abalone rice and braised oxtail were not that unique in presentation or technique.
Pujol – The biggest difference between the two restaurants for me though is the service. At Pujol, the server was always the one to explain every dish and took her time to describe why certain ingredients were used. They also had a really helpful sommalier who helped to pick a “value” wine. The service was very discreet and fluid and everyone looks very experienced in their roles.
Quintonil – On the contrary, the issue with our dining experience was mostly down to service. For one, the server did not smile. I’m not sure if it’s because I didn’t order the tasting menu and the bill was going to be a lot smaller but he did not seem friendly. The second was that he rushed his explanations when placing down the dishes so for the large majority of them I have no idea what ingredients were used and what the inspiration is. Also for a few of the dishes, another staff member would put down the dish, tell us what it is, but our server never came to explain what we are eating. Overall, I thought the staff were attentive but they were very methodical in what they were doing. It’s like they were trying to process the formula for fine dining service but not experienced enough to do it perfectly.
I’ll leave you with a few more photos of my dining experience. Pictured below is the mole madre (brown circle) and new mole (red circle) from Pujol. The fun part of this was that they added this cactus leaf tortilla to use for eating.
Here is the cocktail I had at Quintonil. It’s called the Paloma Negra and has tequila, amaro, and activated carbon! I thought this was quite delicious and fun!
I also really enjoyed this tea infusion from Quintonil which had a hand written note of the herbs they gathered from the garden that day. There are many different combinations to choose from and I thought this was a very nice touch.
Pujol or Quintonil
Overall, I preferred my dinner experience at Pujol a lot more than at Quintonil. The food was very creative and every course was delicious! At Quintonil, I wish that our server was able to explain the dishes better. The dishes were tasty but 3 of the courses were not that innovative to me. I’m not sure if I had an off experience because I did not do the tasting menu. But since the a la carte option is offered, it would be expected that they can serve to the same standard. Overall, if you only have the chance to visit one, I would recommend to do the classic tasting menu at Pujol.