I first met Chef Jorge Vallejo last summer when he was a speaker at a conference in Chicago about the modernist movement in Mexican cuisine. I was struck by his thoughtfulness and humble demeanor. When I saw the schedule for our trip to Mexico City started off with dinner at Quintonil I was so excited.
The fact is that I came in to this meal with great expectations (it was on the same level as Templo Mayor in my pre-Mexico City excitement) and Chef Jorge and team at Quintonil blew away every pre-concieved notion I had about Mexican food and modernist cuisine. They delivered one of the most magical and perfect meals I have ever had.
Chef Rick and Andres flew in from China, returning from a mission for the State Department sharing American cuisine with the Chinese people in three cities. They almost didn’t make it, and my colleague (and superior) Amelia almost didn’t go out to dinner because she wasn’t feeling well. That’s how I was almost in charge of leading the group. But at the last minute everyone came together.
The tasting menu started with an amuse of compressed cactus. We had the signature crab tostada (Chef Rick was amazed how perfect it was on this night) and a salad of Mexican herbs, including the namesake quintonil. Course after course of balanced, natural flavors introduced both new and old techniques, weaving the threads together.
The last savory course was a simple avocado taco. It was a palette cleanser for the mind: I realized the ingredient itself, simply prepared with grace, was on a higher par than I knew. Subtly tart cactus sorbet brought the meal full circle. I loved the tomatillo granita under lemon verbana custard.
I have never tasted food on this level, with perfect, team-based service, and lit with real human warmth. The chef invited us into the kitchen after dinner and we took a photo with the team and thanked them. Thank you again, magicians!