Quintonil - Mexico's Best

Quintonil - Mexico's Best

It was a sunny Wednesday morning when I arrived to Quintonil before noon. Located in the Polanco district of Mexico City, the kitchen was busily preparing for lunch service, while kindly presenting a selection of their seasonal menu, to be featured here on Abroad They Feast.

 Quintonil expresses the flavors and techniques of modern Mexican cuisine, with a high emphasis on local and seasonal greens and produce.

Quintonil expresses the flavors and techniques of modern Mexican cuisine, with a high emphasis on local and seasonal greens and produce.

 One of Jorge Vallejo's iconic dishes: Stone crab tostada with lime, radish and chile habanero mayonnaise, crabmeat below tostada.

One of Jorge Vallejo's iconic dishes: Stone crab tostada with lime, radish and chile habanero mayonnaise, crabmeat below tostada.

My communication with chef and owner Jorge Vallejo prior to arriving to Quintonil, was kind and understandably brief – Quintonil is not only one of Mexico’s most renown restaurants in contemporary Mexican cuisine, it has also been named as one of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants consecutively since 2015.

 Quintonil: a wild green herb, common in milpas (crop-growing systems, used throughout Mesoamerica). I think the closest equivalent would be Pigweed, coming from Amaranthus species. Traditionally used often for reductions, seasonings, garnishes, soups…

Quintonil: a wild green herb, common in milpas (crop-growing systems, used throughout Mesoamerica). I think the closest equivalent would be Pigweed, coming from Amaranthus species. Traditionally used often for reductions, seasonings, garnishes, soups…

 Salbute filled with cuitlacoche, corn and escamoles (ant larvae), garnished with chile powder.

Salbute filled with cuitlacoche, corn and escamoles (ant larvae), garnished with chile powder.

Having worked with celebrated chef Henrique Olivera, from acclaimed Pujol, (also named one of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants), and trained in Spain with the late 3-star michelin chef Santi Santamaria, Vallejo’s talent continues to grow and be recognized as one of Mexico’s best chefs. An equally significant force behind the restaurant is Alejandra Flores - Jorge’s wife, who runs the front of the house. Their dynamic brings forth a beautifully integrated experience between culinary delight and exceptional service. 

 Mamey Panna Cotta, sweetened corn crumble and mamey seed ice cream.

Mamey Panna Cotta, sweetened corn crumble and mamey seed ice cream.

While photographing the food and space for this feature, I got a small taste for the heart that drives this restaurant: On a daily basis before service, the entire restaurant family, kitchen staff along with front of the house, gathers intimately in the small, relaxed yet elegant dining room. Together they review the menu, recognize various staff performance, and acknowledge any areas where the dining experience can be elevated even further in reflecting on the previous day’s service. Attention to detail here is evident, and the overall gathering fosters an ambiance of inspiration, respect and camaraderie - what I believe is one of the most important ingredients for a truly successful restaurant.

 Another thing to love about Quintonil, aside from the exquisite flavors and artful presentation, is its attention to sustainability. The restaurant is seasonally based, sourcing ingredients as near as their rooftop garden, pictured below. As praised by the World’s 50 Best: “Vallejo and his team keep their carbon footprint so low that much of their ingredients travel just 30 metres from origin to plate.”

Another thing to love about Quintonil, aside from the exquisite flavors and artful presentation, is its attention to sustainability. The restaurant is seasonally based, sourcing ingredients as near as their rooftop garden, pictured below. As praised by the World’s 50 Best: “Vallejo and his team keep their carbon footprint so low that much of their ingredients travel just 30 metres from origin to plate.”

Towards the end of my visit, I met briefly with Jorge Vallejo in person - even kinder one on one, and humblingly down to earth. I found it particularly moving that he called his wife to join him for portraits to wrap up my shoot. They were expecting at the time, and it was clear to see that Vallejo honors his wife as an equal part in bringing Quintonil its continued success and worldwide recognition.