Oaxacan traditions, gussied up in contemporary garb
Claim to fame: The son of a famous chef, cooking his personalized versions of Oaxacan classics
Reason to go: It’s as close as you’ll get to Oaxaca without leaving Ciudad de México
To look out for: Do not underestimate the difficulty of choosing a tipple from the extensive cocktail menu
It’s perfectly plausible that Chef Alam Méndez was bottle fed with liquid culinary heritage. Mexico’s gastronomy is in his DNA, handed down from his mother, Celia Florian, a renowned, traditional cook who obviously taught him well. Building on mom’s knowledge, Méndez has developed a cuisine of his own, modernizing her traditional recipes and melding them with fine dining techniques acquired abroad; in Copenhagen he worked with Rosío Sanchez, at Spanish legends Can Fabes and Arzak he mastered the art of cooking fish, among other things.
Méndez all-day eatery, Pasillo de Humo, two flights up in the Parian Condesa food hall, is a fine place to start your day. Think beautiful country-style bread and hot chocolate made with water instead of milk. Yes, there is a milky version too, but that’s not the one you want. Beyond breakfast, everything takes on the solid, earthy flavors of the country’s culinary superstar Oaxaca; guacamole with grasshoppers, tlayudas (large, crispy tortillas) topped with salt-cured beef, smoky chorizo with eggs smothered in hot sauce, beans cooked with avocado leaves, various types of mole. All of it best paired with mezcal or possibly a local craft beer. Just make sure you cap things off with a few of the unbelievable desserts; cornbread with guava, chocolate tamales and unexpectedly creative ice creams.
This is shrewd cooking, Méndez’s complex preparations may seem traditional, yet he sneaks in modern elements where you least expect them. Pasillo de Humo is the answer if a culinary adventure to Oaxaca is not an option.