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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Pitiona Restaurant, Oaxaca, Mexico

This is, in my experience, the most innovative of the upscale restaurants in Oaxaca.  I like it better than Casa Oaxaca, which is better known, but for my taste, the emphasis on wild game is less appealing than the emphasis on bringing new age food into the realm of traditional Oaxacan cooking.  The restaurant is housed in an older building that harkens back to a more colonial time, but the paintings on the walls are thoroughly modern, as is the table ware.
The restaurant gets its name from the pitiona plant, a verbena-like herb that is used extensively in Oaxacan cooking. Pitiona is an exercise in versatility and diversity--sometimes successfully, and to my taste, sometimes less so.

Chef Jose Manuel Baños Rodriguez gives diners a gastronomic tour of Oaxaca, from the valley to the coast, passing the Mixtec region along the way, with a cooking style that walks the line expertly between the hyper-traditional and the ultra-experimental. Many of the chef’s recipes can be traced back to his mother and grandmother but I am pretty sure they would not recognize them.
Pictured above is the octopus and white bean tostada that we had.  It was exquisite in its range of flavors and textures--light, chewy, lemony, crunchy, fresh, it was delicious, and yet nothing like any tostada that I had ever tasted.  A real success.  The dish pictured at left was less so.  It was an avocado frozen crema with what amounted to raw shrimp underneath it's ever melting dome.  The shrimp were not the least bit ceviched--although they were fresh, and they did not meld well with the creaminess of the avocado roof over their headless bodies.  I would definitely return here, but I would ask more questions about preparation of each dish before I ordered.

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