During the planning stages for my first journey to one of the world’s most daunting urban wildernesses, my traveling companion and I decided that a lunch at Quintonil, regarded almost universally as one of Mexico City’s best restaurants, just hours before our return flight back to Guadalajara would be a fitting way to end the trip, a gilded cherry atop our otherwise (fairly) fiscally cautious five-day blitz into the beating heart of Mexico.
But while far from a loss by conventional standards, our meal there wasn’t the goose-bump-raising, lower-lip-gnawing experience we had hoped it would be. Instead, it offered the teasing potential for the inspired and unforeseen, while not quite arriving at either.
The question to ask yourself when confronted by disappointment in any walk of life is whether culpability aught to be assigned to inflated expectations or at the feet of whatever entity has, from your point of view, fallen short of the mark. A further question to ask yourself, if said walk of life happens to be restaurant-related, is which – or how many – of today’s many P.R. circus clowns were manning the helium tank where said expectations were ballooned out of proportion, and which belong to the restaurant itself?
That brings up a whole other predicament: how to tell where a dining establishment’s own P.R. trickery ends and the food media’s begins? It’s like trying to distinguish oil from egg in the bulbous dollop of creme fraiche quivering atop a small prominence of dehydrated tuna heart shavings.
All this diner knows is, if Quintonil hadn’t appeared several years in a row on Pellegrino’s vaunted Top 50 lists (both in the Latin America and World categories), or been touted as the city’s best restaurant by some (Pujol be damned), or cost a small fortune, my companion and I wouldn’t have walked away hours later feeling somewhat hoodwinked.
But now that I’ve lambasted Quintonil’s overall failure to delivery on an exaggerated promise, I’ll attempt to keep things balances and mention the highlights of the meal, which were like glints of light in a vast, dark cave suggesting the imminence of the surface … which prove to be on further inspection the illusory emanations of a cluster of spiteful glow worms.