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Punto MX in Madrid, Spain - 1 Michelin star

Rating: 90.
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Pretty much everybody likes Mexican food. Generally speaking (ignoring the cheap and not so cheerful (chain) restaurants) Mexican cuisine is universally loved for its attractive ingredients and the tasty and hearty flavours. Taquerias and taco food trucks have become a cult hit in recent years and tacos are promising to be the New Ramen. The latest example of this trend, is perhaps the taco stand of former Noma pastry chef Rosio Sanchez, which launched in Copenhagen just last September. Amidst all this taco love, there's Mexican restaurant Punto MX in Madrid, opened in 2012 by chef/owner Roberto Ruiz (b. 1975 in Mexico City), which was awarded a Michelin star in the 2015 guide for Spain and Portugal.  

(courtesy of Punto MX)

Punto MX is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday (no lunch on Saturday). On the a la carte menu are small to medium-sized dishes, priced between €7 and €32 and the restaurant suggests ordering up to 4 dishes (excluding dessert) per person. I had lunch with my husband at Punto MX on Thursday 28 January 2016, and we both ordered 5 dishes, obviously!

The restaurant has a great cocktail list, so I kicked off lunch with a fantastic "Margarita Punto MX" (with Jalapeño). Shortly after this was followed by an appetizer of intensely flavoured shrimp broth with subtle heat, seasoned with a squeeze of lime juice. 

Next up was the restaurant's signature, made to order, "Guacamole Punto MX", prepared on a special guacamole trolley. Beautifully ripe and buttery avocados (ripened to perfection in the restaurant's own, temperature-controlled avocado room) are ground with an authentic mortar and pestle, and then seasoned with finely sliced green serrano chillies, chopped onions, fresh coriander, lime juice, salt and a drop of olive oil. After everything has been mixed together I got to taste the guacamole, to see if I wanted to add any additional seasoning. I requested some extra chillies and a touch of salt. Finally the guacamole is garnished with pomegranate seeds and served with a bowl of crisp totopos (corn crisps; some people insist they may not be called tortilla chips). The guacamole was perfectly creamy and spicy, without a single raw note - the best I have ever tasted.

Sole and shrimp aguachile followed. Aguachile is a traditional, ceviche-like, Mexican dish. Here, pieces of raw shrimp and sole are coated/marinated with tangy and spicy Guajillo chilli dressing. Punch-packing flavours that had great length, particularly the fruity spiciness of the Guajillo chilli.

A Panucho (a refried, slightly puffed corn tortilla) came topped with a delicious and succulent mountain of Cochinita Pibil (slow-cooked pulled pork), classically garnished with pickled red onions. A gorgeous combination of textures and the pork was wonderfully seasoned with just the right touch of spiciness. 

Even better was a braised duck enchilada, hidden underneath a Salsa di Pipian verde (a traditional Mexican pumpkin seed sauce aka green mole) and served with some shredded iceberg lettuce. Terrific complexity in the sauce, which had been beautifully seasoned with coriander, chillies and lime. Great build-up of flavours and textures too: first there's the softness of the tortilla and the duck, next there's the tanginess of the sauce with a creamy mouthfeel, then there's some crisp freshness from the lettuce, and finally the heat of the chillies kicks in. The heat was more intense than in the previous dish, but still well-judged and not too powerful. 

The level of heat was kicked up a notch with the next dish, a  90-day aged "buey" (beef) taco, the beef cut into juicy cubes, and served with a fiery Aji chilli sauce and a mixture of finely chopped onions and coriander. A very attractive combination of flavours, which went on and on.

Just before the next dish arrived, the liquor trolley was wheeled up to our table. We each selected a glass of the Rey Campero Mezcal Tobalá Joven 2013. Made from 100% wild Agave Potatorum from the village of San Pedro Martir, this came in at a whopping 48.9% ABV, but managed to be silky and soft, rounded and sweet, with a hint of malt whisky and a very long finish.

Last course before dessert was a smokey Ancho chilli (a dried Poblano chilli) stuffed with a soft and tasty mixture of Chilorio (slow-cooked shredded pork mixed with Ancho chilli sauce) and beans, complemented by a pungent and fruity Poblano chilli-laced sauce. The combination of dried and fresh chillies in this dish worked brilliantly. Loved the different levels of heat; there's the intense, lightly smokey spiciness of the dried chilli on the one side, and the mildly fruity-sweet spiciness from the Poblano chilli on the other. The latter also delivered some subtle bitters. 

Dessert was coconut ice cream excellently paired with dots of elegantly sweet avocado crème, lightly sugared corn crisps, and cubes of lime jelly. An attractive dessert delivering creaminess, sharpness and sweetness, the lime jelly adding a lovely zing to the dish.

At Punto MX they have a rare, upmarket approach to Mexican cuisine. This starts with the cocktails with the original twists at the beginning of the meal, the unique Mezcal collection (carefully sourced and selected by Punto MX's own "Mezcalier" Martin Eccius), the handmade tortillas, the refined versions of classics, such as Panucho Cochinita Pibil, and the expert use of spicing by chef Robert Ruiz in all the dishes. The unique flavours and nuances of each variety of chilli, ranging from fruity, mild heat to full-on sweet and powerful heat, shines through in every dish. All this is achieved without compromising on authenticity and by sourcing the best ingredients (they have their own orchard). This is Mexican food at its finest.

Posted 05-02-2016


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