El Destilado: A meal worth its own blog post

posted in: Oaxaca 2024 | 5

The other night I had dinner at El Destilado. I made the reservation before I got to Oaxaca based on reading several articles recommending it. When I booked, they asked me to specify whether I wanted to order off the menu or go with one of their tasting menus. And with the tasting menu, they asked if I wanted the pairing. I settled on the nine-course tasting menu with pairings.

In all my travels, I’ve never had a meal in a restaurant that deserved its own blog post. Until now.

My server introduced himself as Noe when he came over and handed me a plate with a hot towel. And soon we were off! For each course the drink came out first, followed by the plate. I asked Noe for a written menu so I would remember everything I ate. He brought the printed menu, but it didn’t list the pairings, so he offered to write them down for me. And the menu is in Spanish and a lot of it defies translation, so I’m just going to give you the Spanish as it appears on the menu. Feel free to copy and paste it into your favorite translation program and see if you can make any sense out of it.

Oh, and for each course, I’ll give you my grade. I use a scale from A+ to F. As you’ll see, however, that scale proved inadequate.

First course

The meal started with this cocktail of aperol, gin, and vermouth. Very similar to a negroni, and very delicious!

By the way, it would become very repetitive if I mentioned that the beverage was a perfect pairing with the food. This was without exception true throughout the evening.

Tamal de verduras lactoahumadas
Gordita de pupo con chicharron prensado
Tetela de cangrejo al ajillo

It’s hard to tell, but the plate is sitting on a little stove. By the time I got the photo, the flame had gone out.

Noe gave me instructions from the chef to eat them from left to right, and to use my fingers. 


Second Course

You can’t tell from the photo, but this is Mexican sake. Yep! Who knew there is sake from Mexico?! Or that it would be so good?Noe brought me three cups, all very pretty, and I selected this one.
Pesto rosso, pesto de hoja santa, miltomate lactofermentado, agua de tomate clarificada

Noe brought a little pitcher with the clarified tomato water and poured it around the tomatoes. The chef’s instructions were to mix it all together. Somehow, the tomatoes tasted fresh and vibrant and smoky and had a lovely tender texture all at the same time. 


Third Course

Pulque. This was my favorite beverage of the night. I kept pouring more.

In case you are unfamiliar, pulque is kind of a wine made from the fermented sap of the agave plant. Its origins go back millenia, well before colonization. It’s kind of sour and sweet and yeasty tasting.

Huitlacoche, mole de gusanos de maguey, setas, aceite de trufa, pate de chapulin

Once again the chef’s instructions were to use my fingers. I picked it up like a taco and devoured it in like three bites, all of which were perfect.


Fourth Course

A California Chardonnay
Vinagre de pera, aceite de te limon, naranja

The bowl was too shallow and it couldn’t quite get every drop of that pear vinegar. Otherwise there would be a plus sign.


Fifth Course

Noe is cutting up the fish to go in the soup. The cocktail is made with fish and mezcal. Yes, I said fish. I didn’t love it, but, though I promised not to repeat myself, it went perfectly with the dish.
Sopa fermentada de guias, pescado añejado, chochoyota


Among all the high marks, that sounds really negative. But it was very good. Just not my favorite.

Sixth Course

Texturas de pera, esferico de poleo, gel de vinagre, perada fermentada

This palate cleanser didn’t come with a beverage pairing.


Seventh Course

This is a California Zinfandel
Mole de la casa, papa anna, guajolote en shio koji, mermelada de tocino.

(Guajolote seems to be a fancy word for pavo, i.e. turkey.)

Noe referred to this as the main course. He also said there are 31 ingredients in the mole. The basket contains small tortillas. Give me a big bowl of the bacon marmalade and a spoon, and leave me alone for 24 hours!


Eighth Course

Fortachón, a fortified red from Octagono, a small winery in the central mountains of Mexico, I believe in the state of Guanajuato.

Noe said the wine is mixed with a splash of sparking water. After i emptied my glass, I poured myself a little more wine out of the bottle. It was better with the splash of sparking water. Delicious either way!

Gel de frambuesa, jamon de pato hecho en casa, nibs de cacao, nuez, buñuelos de aire.

Noe called this “pre-dessert.” I would fill the page with plus signs, but I wanted more.


Ninth Course

Noe called this a milk punch. I’m not sure what was in it. But it was delicious, and guess what: it was a perfect complement to the dessert.
Chocolate artesanal 70%, cacahuate de zaachila, tocino hecho en casa

I like peanuts, but generally not with my chocolate desserts. And I could have done without the banana. Nevertheless, this dessert was a winner!


Dulces de la casa

One more plate arrived before I got the check.

At the right is a chunk of pineapple, and there are two chocolate bars and a bottle of something. They also gave me a little canvas bag to carry them home. I’m not sure what the other two things were, but I enjoyed them more than the dessert.

A+ (and that’s also the overall grade for the meal and the experience)

I spent almost 2 1/2 hours enjoying this dinner. Truly a meal I will remember forever!

5 Responses

  1. Florence

    I’ve been waiting to read about this dinner and it was worth the wait.
    I loved that the portions were small. Not overwhelming and yet enough to savor each course.

    • Lane

      It was really a reasonable amount of food. I was full at the end, but definitely not stuffed.

  2. Timothy Welch

    OMG! That is over the top. Thank you for the post. I want to jump on a plane right now and eat there for a week.

    • Lane

      Hi Lisa, I prefer to avoid talking about money here. Just a personal preference. If you visit the restaurant website and pretend you’re making a reservation, they will tell you the cost.

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