Pehüa - Mexico City

It’s really hard to find rabbit that actually tastes like rabbit. So often it becomes a bland, dry white meat that could be anything, with none of the nutty, grassy taste rabbit should have. The problem is that it is a very lean beast, and loin aside, really only responds well to very slow cooking - it’s therefore one of the few meats that I really don’t mind cooked sous vide for 46 hours (or whatever that miserable tome Modernist Cuisine recommends) as it’s extremely difficult to get the loin pink and the legs falling off the bone otherwise. Pehüa’s slow-cooked rabbit, with arroz caldoso con adobo ($192) was the best bit of bunny I have eaten since I cooked a wild rabbit back home in Devon over Christmas last year, and despite this rabbit being farmed (I’d obviously take wild rabbit over farmed any day, but in Mexico it’s hard to get hold of commercially), it’s clearly done a fair bit of hopping around in the wilds of glorious Amecameca (Estado de Mexico - the home state of chef Lezli Ramos), where Pehüa source it from, and eaten a nice varied diet, giving it a far gamier taste than other rabbit I have eaten in Mexico. The adobo is exemplary - a lovely blend of chiles, slightly bitter - the perfect counterbalance to the rabbit. 

Pehüa’s duck with chichilo negro ($325), one of the traditional moles of Oaxaca, with a base of a blend of dark chiles - not least the very special chilhuacle negro - as well as burnt tortillas and other ingredients, and then usually thickened with maize and seasoned with avocado leaf (there are endless chichilo negro recipes with all manner of variations) is also excellent. Duck is a fantastic protein choice with chichilo (as indeed is tongue, as it’s served in Rodolfo Castellano’s Oaxaca City restaurant Origen, or Jalisco rack of lamb at Casa Oaxaca) because the sweetness of the duck is wonderful alongside the slightly burnt, dark flavours of the chichilo. I wasn’t convinced by Pehüa’s addition of caramelised onion - I just don’t think the dish needs a sweet/sour garnish. 

The papada de cerdo, pork jowl in English ($312), served with a mixiote salsa and alberjón (lupin beans) was a wonderfully unctuous, crispy, chewy, fatty piece of pig - perfectly cooked and again, the mixiote hit all the right notes. Of the starters, we enjoyed a special of white aguachile of octopus, where they'd cleverly used muscle to turn the octopus purple (see photo above) as well as the lentils with egg yoke and castacán (a crispy Yucatecan preparation of pork belly). On this occasion I didn’t get a chance to try the desserts, but will certainly be back to try them soon. 

There is so often a tendency in ‘modern Mexican’ restaurants to serve dumbed down, diminished versions of traditional dishes - a sort of ‘Mexico-lite’ cuisine, in the mistaken belief that tourists and locals alike will prefer these muted flavours. Despite the modern plating and sophisticated techniques at Pehüa, Lezli and her team don’t shy away from traditional and more rustic flavours, whether its chile, or rabbit. Lezli Ramos’ cooking is brave, and despite nods to other states like Oaxaca and Yucatan, her food is rooted firmly in San Mateo Huitzilzingo, Estado de Mexico, and I’d love to see her focus on this extraordinarily rich but underrepresented area of central Mexico even more. 

Tortillas: Pehua nixtamalize their landrace maize, from Huitzilgo, Chalco (also in Estado de Mexico) which they also use for their esquites (one of the starters). 9/10

Service: Almost too good - I think they could be a bit more relaxed and not detail the ingredients every time they arrive with a plate as the menu is fairly self-explanatory. Good knowledge of origin of ingredients by staff. 7/10

Value: Good for the quality of ingredients (and for this part of town) - starters between $120 -$172 pesos, mains $152 - $325 pesos

Drinks : Good selection of mezcal, interesting cocktail list (I didn’t try any but they sounded good). Would love to see some natural wines on the wine list - they’re all very conservative and too heavy for the spectacular food. 7/10 



Il Becco @ The Four Seasons - Mexico City