Josef Centeno is doing something slightly different at P.Y.T., something that makes this newest venture relevant in its own right. Where all the food at Bäco Mercat — meat and meat-free — is aiming for maximum flavor and contrast and excitement, the food at P.Y.T. is more focused on the soul of the vegetable itself, and the best way to frame singular ingredients so they shine.
This ethos makes for food that's presented in a slightly simpler format, and dishes that are built around produce that Centeno obviously chooses carefully, perhaps even obsessively. The meal starts with an amuse that's usually a green vegetable, cooked simply, presented with a little salt and citrus. One day it was broccoli rabe with grilled lemon for squeezing; another evening it was lightly cooked sugar snap peas served with sweet mandarin orange.
These dishes prepare you for what's to come by encouraging you to really taste the produce itself, rather than the will and creativity of the chef. That isn't to say there's a lack of creativity at P.Y.T., just that it's a slightly different brand of creativity from what you see at Centeno's other restaurants, one that's built on trying to tease out and highlight the essence of these vegetables.
This was perhaps best evidenced with a dish Centeno served early on, in which he figured out how to get the most turnip-y flavor from a turnip by wrapping it in a hoja santa leaf and baking it for hours in a salt dough crust. He'd bring the whole thing to the table and crack it open in front of you, cut the turnip into pieces, and drizzle it with some shiso-inflected chimichurri. The essence of hoja santa that had lightly infused the vegetable and the shiso in the sauce brought out the turnip's wilder, more anise-adjacent qualities, while the hours in the oven turned its sugars in upon themselves. It was like turnip squared; turnip to the power of turnip.