When we decided not to accept Rodrigo Llanes’ generous offer to stay with he and his family, he invited us for a lunch or dinner at his restaurant, El Jolgorio located at Plaza de Madrid 9 (www.eljolgorio.com.mx/) . We gratefully accepted the invitation and planned a lunch.
From his short stay with us in Budapest, we knew he was a chef and restaurant owner. What we learned over lunch was the great depth and breadth of his knowledge. He has just completed a project focusing on various aspects of culinary history for the website Animal Gourmet (http://www.animalgourmet.com). During our time shared over lunch, we were privy to his vast base of knowledge, not only about food, wine, business, but also the culture of the city he calls home.
When we arrived, Victoria, the sous chef at El Jolgorio greeted. She explained Rodrigo was running an errand and would join us shortly. In the meanwhile, she poured a prosecco wine to start our gourmet adventure. Before the last glass was poured, our host arrived to greet us with his charismatic smile and a warm hug. Rodrigo has an openness that invites anyone to feel immediately comfortable and relaxed in his presence.
Our meal started with what appeared to be a very small bowl containing soup. To my surprise, size did not matter. Rodrigo, forgive me for not taking notes, so my memory may be faulty. Squash blossoms floated in a rich broth with a black grain. To my surprise, there were more spoonfuls of this wonderful soup than the size of the bowl would ever suggest.
What came next was a total revelation to my culinary worldview. In similar bowls as the soup, there were shrimp covered in a mole sauce over pieces of corn tortilla chips. This immediately rated in the top three shrimp cocktails I have ever eaten. Our bad, we were so mesmerized, we forgot to photograph these courses.
As a US American, when considering tacos, generally we conjure up in our mind, the hard corn shell filled with ingredients, which then falls to pieces with the first bite. How limiting our knowledge can be. After this lunch, I will never think of a taco in the same way. Our next course included two tacos: one lobster and one duck, each with its own special sauce. A taco with lobster or duck? It would never have occurred to me to use such ingredients for a taco, but then again, I am not prone to buying lobster or duck for any reason. A lovely French wine accompanied these delights.
The dinnerware was special as well. One taco sat in a dish with curled side to hold it in place, while the other sat in what looked like a scoop. Rodrigo explained heating these dishes prior to setting the taco in keeps the taco warm.
Our mouths were having orgasmic spasms of enchantment, but listening to Rodrigo’s explanations not only of the food before us, but the history behind different things was an incredible experience.
Next, to appear before us were two more tacos. Mea culpa, but I cannot remember both, but one was rib eye steak. A side dish of nopal cactus was another new and wonderful taste treat. A transformation took us from ordinary eating men to culinary experimenters extraordinaire. Wine flowed with regularity to match each course. We were very happy diners.
If I believed in sin, dessert was as close to sinful as we could get. Freshly made truffles, chocolate with chocolate, some infused with basil, others with different surprises all tempted us with dazzling our taste buds. In addition, there was a cake of several layers. Had I not had concerns about my sugar levels, I would have sampled one of everything. The temptation was great, but I moderately sampled, savoring every bite.
I am going to publicly ask for Rodrigo’s forgiveness if I made any mistakes or omissions. However, it would be a great opportunity for others to visit the restaurant to make your own discoveries.
Lunch lasted for close to three hours and we just about had to roll out of the restaurant after saying our good-byes. Rodrigo had given us a list of things that we should see before leaving the city. He is truly a Renaissance man in the true sense of the word. We are deeply grateful for having met him and for this incredible lunch. We owe Rodrigo and all of his staff a ‘thank you’ for a meal that will live on in our memory for years to come.
Feeling a need for exercise, we decided to walk back to the apartment. Passing by the Monumento a la Independencia, the angel standing on top of the column now proudly has a gorgeous display of poinsettias and green plants for contrast to draw everyone’s attention. The workers were still hoeing and troweling getting the finishing touches on the circle as traffic flows at a rapid pace around them.
We stopped at a mall on the way just to look at the Christmas décor. We had stopped here once before with the Hop On Hop Off bus, but this time there was a difference. There must have been some contest based on the opening of the new Peanuts movie. There were over a dozen displays of Snoopy’s doghouse in different regalia. The artist had their name at the bottom of each platform.