If you ask Jorge Vallejo what he finds most inspiring about Mexico City these days, he'll tell you that it's people's desire to “eat the city—literally.” Food trucks, pop-up dinners, supper clubs, and the new Mercado Roma, Vallejo points to all of these as proof that Mexico City's food scene continues to evolve in exciting ways.
What he modestly leaves out of this list is his own restaurant, Quintonil, which opened in 2012 and currently sits at #10 on the roster of Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants List. Yet Quintonil is very much part of Mexico City's dynamic, delicious culinary revolution, not the least reason being that Vallejo has entered a market that is dense with competitors who, while collegial, have more name and face recognition than he does.
Though it may seem remarkable that Quintonil ranks so high on the prestigious list after being open for just two years, Vallejo's success hardly happened overnight, nor was it the result of effortless serendipity. Vallejo and his wife, Alejandra, who is also his business partner, sunk their savings into the restaurant and have continued to reinvest earnings back into the business. It's not cheap to run a restaurant like Quintonil, where only lunch and dinner are served six days a week and tables rarely turn during service. Guests arrive for their meal and settle in, eager to savor every bite.
For many guests, the experience of Quintonil involves a tasting menu of at least eight courses that may start with a ceviche de nopal (cactus paddle) and end—two or more hours later—with a series of sweets. In their citation of Quintonil, the 50 Best judges selected Vallejo's chilacayotes (a type of round, zucchini-like squash) in mole sauce with tortilla tatemada, pumpkin, and basil, as the restaurant's standout dish. Vallejo describes his food as indisputably Mexican, and says he always aims to create a dialogue between ingredients and technique.
Next, where to find Vallejo at the start of dinner service...