Brady wood has been creating a vivid dream of guadalajara at his Park Cities restaurant, José, with a seemingly endless party and a massive bar. When he brought on Anastacia Quiñones-Pittman as executive chef in December, after almost two years, Wood felt that it was complete, that the final piece was in place. I’m inclined to agree.
Recently, Quiñones-Pittman was infusing masa and leaning modern Mexican at The Cedars Socíal, after working at Alma, Komali, and Kitchen LTO. Under her leadership, the cooking at José is sharper, clearer, more sophisticated. A recent evening offered a perfect example.
An artful aguachile appeared in a delicate register: a tangy, mango-infused emulsion is spooned onto the plate, a yellow orb like a tiny sun surrounded by a crescent of edible flowers. Somewhere in there are cubes of tuna, disguised. Salmon rubbed with achiote, an evocation of the Yucatan, came nestled on a banana leaf, under a coverlet of fresh kale (a light, modern touch), pickled onion, edible flowers, and nasturtium leaves, all over a bed of lentils—a beautifully unified dish.
And her mole (which has been in constant evolution since the first “mother” batch) is better than it has ever been. Velvety and rich, with nuances and layers of flavor, it enrobes chicken thighs and cubes of farmers cheese, nasturtium leaves, and ringlets of onion like bangles. It’s a sumptuous showcase. Even dessert—the magical inverted strawberry flan, dramatically plated to one side—is a composition whose only flaw was a tooth-cracking-hard brittle.
I couldn’t detect the infusion of chipotle in one street-style taco—a shame, given that it is Quiñones-Pittman’s signature. And service is more haphazard than it should be. But it’s clearly a kitchen and talented chef coming into their own.