The American restaurant Zy recently morphed into a Mexican restaurant, trading in its focus on cheese and wine for guacamole and tequila. Chef Matt Lake traces his culinary roots to a gourmet Mexican restaurant in New York City and after the cheese and wine concept went stale at Zy in Salt Lake City, decided to return to his beginnings by changing the restaurant’s cuisine to Mexican and calling it Alamexo.
One of the biggest gripes about Zy was its price point, which, unfortunately, didn’t change much when the restaurant evolved to Alamexo. Appetizers still hover around $6-12 while entrees are in the $16-27 range. Most of the menu items are identical to those served at any Mexican restaurant :: enchiladas, mole poblano and tacos, but there are a few that are unique, like cod filet with roasted squash (Pescado con Pipean y atole, $23) and spiced chicken breast with queso fresco taco (Pechuga de Pollo, $20).
The cocktail list obviously focuses on tequilas with a few wines and beers listed too. I tried the Alamexo Vida Ria ($10) with Vida Tequila, Cointreau and jamaica. It was a little sweet for my tastes. I liked the Ginger Fizz ($12), with Patron Silver, ginger and bitters better.
On my first visit to Alamexo I picked the Mole Poblano ($18), one of my favorite Mexican dishes. Theirs is served with pulled pork seasoned with avocado leaf and topped with white onions, cheese and toasted sesame seeds. There was a complex mixture of flavors that I enjoyed but I kept wishing for more spiciness every time I took a bite.
On my next visit to Alamexo, my friends and I decided to split a bunch of appetizers. We started with the Guacamole ($10), made table-side. Avocados are one of my favorite things in the world, so I only wished there was more of it. The Queso Fundido ($8), baked queso Chihuahua with rajas, house-made chorizo and onions, was unmemorable and overshadowed by the Elotes de la Calle ($3), roasted corn with queso fresco, lime and chile molido, a surprisingly delicious dish.
For our next round of appetizers we ordered the Sopes de Langosta y Hongos ($12), Maine lobster and mushroom sopes with tomatillo and habanero, a well-rounded dish; Bistek con Hongos y Rajas ($25), perfectly-cooked steak with rajas, queso and cotija cheeses, and Quesadilla de Calabaza ($8) with roasted squash and poblano peppers, a predictable version of the classic dish.
My favorite appetizer of the evening was the Ceviche del Dia, a creation that changes daily. The seafood mixture was semi sweet, with a nice balance of texture. We finished the meal with a side of Plantanos con Creme ($3), fried sweet plantains that worked as a savory dessert. Alamexo also delivers churros on the house.
I had high hopes for Alamexo, but left the restaurant unimpressed both times I ate there. The dishes have potential but many are missing something, especially for the price. Even with a new concept and menu, I’m afraid Zy’s main issue–the price–might come back to haunt Alamexo as well.
Go to Alamexo for :: a nice dinner when you’re craving Mexican food. Try the ceviche and the fried sweet plantains. Notes :: Open seven days a week, Monday-Friday, 11:30 am to 10 pm, Saturday 5 pm to 10 pm and Sunday 5 pm to 9 pm. Reservations are available online here.