Mexico, oh Mexico

Holy smokes that was hot

You know you’re doing something of note when the recurring question ricocheting through your head is: Am I insane?

Last month, we opened up a high-end restaurant at the height of a major art week in Mexico City, one of the most chaotic cities in the world. And only for three weeks! We worked with local creatives, managers, foodies, designers, accountants, mezcal fanatics. We flew in three chefs and a sommelier all the way from Italy. Some good friends became closer, and some faded a bit further away. A few strangers knocked us both out of the park.

éla! already borders the absurd: two foreigners meet and fall in love on Patmos, a holy island floating in the Aegean and pour their love and life into a little farm. We took our labor of love across two seas and an ocean and made a splash in a city that chews people up and spits them out. And that’s just for lunch.

We produced an ephemeral restaurant out of thin air and then, like a magic trick, we disappeared. The project makes no sense. And that’s why it’s on-brand. éla! exists on the border of the beautiful and the wild — a space carved out for the leftover brainiacs, the devilish designers, fucked up foodies and general weirdos looking for solid spot to call home for the night.

First thing I want to say: the name of the project was underappreciated. I suppose a good name always is. 

éla! édo is a combination of our name and Edo Kobayashi, the restaurant group we collaborated with. In Greek, éla! edo means come over. Rounded out, it’s a knockout phase and slips out of any lip. Say it. éla edo. It sounds like it could even be Mexican. Sexy with a little spice and a lotta love. 

The experience of working in Mexico was difficult. But it’s a very different kind of difficult than Greece. Many people, including us, claimed a cultural connection between the two countries. They are both undervalued and prideful. Deeply religious yet love loud music. Obsessed with celebration and gathering everyone together at a table. 

But they also have absolutely nothing to do with each other. 

The temperament, for example, is as vast as the bodies of water that separates them. Greeks are dramatic and confrontational, and it is through that tension, the dialectic, that exists the offering of a heart-in-hand closeness, a forged love through tiny big battles. As a New Yorker, I can understand that. 

Mexicans, self-admittedly, are nothing like this. Seemingly terrified of confrontation, the beauty of closeness, as I saw it, is sweeping under the rug. Not because they do not care, they care deeply — more than most — but because they believe any connection worth its weight is much bigger than all the little stuff. It’s a grandiose orientation on life and love, and deeply romantic. That a smile and a few words of kindness is always the way. 

That’s perhaps why forging a connection with the two cuisines is the most obvious lens through which to understand the similarities (and differences!) Greek food and Mexican cuisine share lots of ingredients. They both love their nightshades, including tobacco. But the way they use their produce has very little in common. Using whatever they could find around them, Cristian, Frank, and Gugliermo — the triptych of culinary talent, as I so dramatically wrote in the press release — created an evolving menu that was a perfect hybrid of Mexico and the Mediterranean. Although much more fanciful and high-end then what we anticipated, it was extraordinary and tasting their food was by far my favorite part of éla edo. 

I’m no food writer, but I’ll write you a jacked up version of my favorites!

The nori bottarga was a passionate delight. A little amuse bouche, like a good kiss, floats up and then smacks you passionately. My whole body tingled.

Whatever Francesco did to that pork was criminal. The smokey flavor of the meat was soaked in a freaky little nut sauce. The texture that made me feel like an animal.

Cristian made the papaya + tomato salad sing like it was belting a swan song. The most subtle of flavors melted into this sort of tangy and slightly sweet thing that landed on the way back of my tongue. The crunch of the crickets tied the whole damn dish together. Intriguing and shows his ability to make everything the most simple of ingredients taste like the whole world.

Nearly every night, I ritualistically asked Gugliermo for a plate of his pasta. Honestly, I had so much of his pasta, I can’t even think of my favorite. Each lived in its own universe and I sat in my little corner shoving pasta in my face while he chuckled in the corner. 

I could easily sit here and write another 1000 words on Mexico. 
I only scraped the surface of our experiences there. 
I didn’t even get to the Mezcal. That, I’ll save for its own post.

But to answer the question I posited to myself: Are we insane? 
The answer is: Yes and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

nori bottarga with roasted bell pepper
charred pork with spinaci
crab spaghetto
pescado del dia with radish, crema de mais