Nelly Córdova of Cocina Chontal. Nelly Córdova of Cocina Chontal.

Tabasco restaurant serving traditional cuisine among world’s top 20

A culinary critic cited the mole poblano with turkey, scarlet shrimp and the ambience

A Tabasco restaurant specializing in traditional pre-Hispanic cuisine has made it onto the list of the 20 Best Restaurants in the World, compiled by Travel + Leisure and Food and Wine.

Cocina Chontal — a small house with brick floors and wooden tables where dishes are cooked on an outdoor comal and dogs hang out waiting for scraps — might seem an unlikely place to find one of the world’s best foodie haunts.

But the restaurant, located near the ancient Mayan archaeological zone in the jungle of San Isidro de Comalcalco, has won accolades with international tourists and locals alike due to its commitment to preserving knowledge of pre-Hispanic Tabasco cuisine, knowledge on the verge of being lost.

Nevertheless, chef Nelly Córdova Murillo said ending up on the travel magazine’s list was a total surprise.

“Truly it’s incredible,” she said. “I was calmly baking some cinnamon rolls with my daughter, and suddenly it occurred to me to get my telephone. I found all these people congratulating me, and I didn’t know for what.”

Córdova is among restaurants in major world cities like Rio de Janeiro, Sydney, Bogotá, and Santiago, Chile. But she hasn’t let it go to her head. The award, she said, goes to all tabasqueños.

“It’s their culture, their traditions, their customs, their men and women, their products, and their artisans,” she said. “Cocina Chontal is that. It’s Tabasco in a small place.”

In her Travel + Leisure article discussing the winning restaurants, culinary critic Besha Rodell praised not only Cocina Chontal’s cuisine, citing in particular the mole poblano with turkey, the scarlet shrimp, and the tortilla Chontal, but also its golden, sunlight-bathed ambience.

I spent multiple days and flights and car rides getting to this one meal, and I’d do it all again in a heartbeat,” she wrote.

Ironically, the restaurant has been closed for the last four months due to Covid-19 restrictions. “… like many, we are practically at a dead stop,” Córdova recently wrote on Cocina Chontal’s Facebook page. However, she is working to reopen with sanitary precautions in place by the first or second week of September and taking advantage in the meantime to renovate her home, in which the restaurant is located.

“We’re working on giving the house a touch-up,” she added in her post. “It’s a restored house, so we have to do some artisan work.”   

Source: El Financiero (sp)

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