Seemingly out of the blue, one of Mexico City’s most lauded chefs, Enrique Olvera, has re-designed and reimagined his fine dining, highly lauded restaurant, Pujol. Except it isn’t out of the blue at all: According to the New York Times, Olvera has been working on the new Pujol — located 11 blocks away from the original location in Mexico City’s ritzy Polanco neighborhood — for two years.
Olvera’s been hinting that he had something new cooking in Mexico City since 2015, a year after opening his hit NYC restaurant Cosme, but he didn’t disclose what it might be. It’s hard to imagine that for two years the chef knew he would be reinventing Pujol — which is currently number 25 on the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants — and not just creating a whole new concept for fans who couldn’t get a seat at one of Pujol’s hard-to-snag, very few tables. But according to the Times, Olvera fell in love with the casual and unfussy nature of Cosme and wanted to recreate that at Pujol, a place he calls the “epicenter of everything that we do.”
“I realized with Cosme that I like restaurants that are fun,” he told the Times. “I like restaurants that are not special-occasion restaurants, and where people can just come in and relax and have a beautiful time.”
Pujol has been a must-taste for Mexico City tourists seeking modern Mexican cuisine. The new restaurant will be very different from the formal, 17-year-old dining room Olvera opened at the idealistic age of 24. Here now, seven things to know about the new Pujol:
1. The architect Javier Sánchez designed a space with mid-century modern lines that the Times notes wouldn’t be out of place on a Mad Men set. But it’s full of thoughtful details like a bar where the bartenders are eye level with diners thanks to a sunken floor behind the counter. Out front, in lieu of a valet stand there’s a bike rack.
2. The interior designer, Micaela de Bernardi, used only objects designed in Mexico for the space. There are no white tablecloths, but the earthenware pots that Pujol uses as water goblets will likely stay.
3. The kitchen is the most impressive part of the space. It’s a traditional Mexican kitchen designed in response to the menu, where everything is seared on a wood grill and then placed in a central hearth to finish cooking. There are no burners; there’s a comal, or cast iron flat top for tortillas. Outside, a brick oven was built into the ground for barbacoa, a type of regional pit barbecue.
5. An herb garden takes up the backyard of the restaurant, which is in a bungalow and not a traditional commercial restaurant space.
6. The dining room will serve a six-course menu — and yes, Pujol’s famous mole madre will still be on it — but the new bar will serve a separate taco menu. This is strikingly different from Cosme, where the menu is a la carte. Olvera hasn’t revealed whether or not the price of the set menu will change; it is currently listed at $96 per person for a six- or seven-course lunch or dinner.
7. Olvera doesn’t care about lists: “We want to be the favorite restaurant of people, not the best restaurant. To me, now, it’s more important to be part of our customers’ regular lives.”