Emmanuel’s Kitchen is a fine dining restaurant in Ajijic that specializes in the fusion of cuisines from countries that include Mexico, Italy, Japan, India, and the U.S.
This cozy restaurant that’s inside of the owners’ small house is run by Emmanuel Campoy and his girlfriend, Alejandra Trujillo, who also run Forest Grill in Ajijic.
There are only six tables here, four in the dining room and two outside, so reservations are required during the high season (November to April or so) and are still recommended during the low season. During the low season, you are encouraged to drop by without a reservation, though, and hopefully, they can squeeze you in.
An early start in the restaurant business
Emmanuel is from the state of Hidalgo and started working at 15 in restaurants in Zacatecas. One of his first jobs was at Garufa, where he was taken under the wing of the then executive chef of this chain of Argentinian restaurants. They have locations in a few states in Mexico, including Ajijic.
Just before graduating university, when it was time to write his graduation thesis about gastronomy business administration, Emmanuel started piecing together a food truck. But instead of writing a thesis, he drove the truck to class and presented his new business-on-wheels to his professor. He graduated at the top of his class.
His second restaurant at 24
Emmanuel moved to Ajijic in 2016 and opened Forest Grill the following year, where he met Alejandra. Alejandra is a tapatía — someone from Guadalajara (tapatío is used for males) — who moved to Ajijic in 2014. Together they opened Emmanuel’s Kitchen in 2018.
Emmanuel spends the mornings with the staff, prepping them on how to prepare and present the menu, which changes weekly.
“I spend the whole morning with the cook and staff so they know the menu,” Emmanuel says. “They know exactly what to do in the kitchen and with the service.” When it’s time to open at 5:30, “I simply have to be the host.”
Emmanuel learned his English from talking with his customers at his two restaurants. At Emmanuel’s, he spends time with each table and makes everyone feel at home, “to make them welcome. Because they are in my home,” referring to the fact that the couple lives upstairs of the restaurant. “They are in Emmanuel’s kitchen.”
A changing fusion menu
The menu at Emmanuel’s changes weekly. Here’s a sample:
- Pear and apple salad ($110)
- Ravioli with shrimp and cheese ($120)
- Ginger and zucchini soup ($110)
- Main Courses
- Pork tenderloin with a berry and balsamic sauce ($240)
- Filet mignon with garlic butter or marsala sauce ($250)
- Wild salmon with a lemon and garlic sauce ($260)
- Vegetarian pie ($190)
- Lemon pie ($80)
Emmanuel has devotees who come weekly and he tries to innovate and mix things up. “Normally I have customers who come every week. Every week they come here and every week I try to do something different. A different salsa, a different garnish, always with this touch of innovation.”
Two items you’ll always find on the menu are steak and salmon. “I always have to have steak and salmon, my customers won’t let me go without it.”
Emmanuel uses some French-style techniques in his cooking and gets inspiration from many countries for his menus. The food is “the fusion of two dishes or cultures in just one plate,” says Alejandra.
Quality over price
“The quality matters more to me than the price,” says Emmanuel. “There are customers who are in search of the best prices. Thankfully, I don’t have that problem with my customers. I maintain the highest quality and they pay what I have to ask. So I always try to get the best quality.”
That means local organic sources when possible and much of the meat comes from special shops in Guadalajara.
“I go every Tuesday to the organic market in Ajijic. There are some things there that are very good but aren’t available very regularly. For me, I look for what I can get all the time and is the best.”
Emmanuel’s Kitchen is located in the Villa Lucerna area of Ajijic, about a half-block south of the highway. Here’s where you turn off of the highway:
Drive down here about half a block, park anywhere, and the restaurant will be on your right.
The couple plans to move the restaurant to a larger location in Ajijic at the start of 2020.
Last updated October 2, 2019
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