Masala y Maiz in Mexico City, Mexico is a conceptual stronghold, executed with great care. From its mixed-heritage menu to reclaimed design to political history, this relatively small and new establishment is off to a solid start.
Rise Rating: 100%
The Obsidian Rise diagram above provides a visual for the rating explained in writing, below. From left to right—
Story (3/3): A bit of prior reading illustrates that, in less than one year of business, Masala y Maiz had already gone through and claimed victory upon a number of unique challenges. Most poignantly, owners Norma Listman and Saqib Keval declined to give into matters of local corruption that led to several months of halted business operations and some clever work arounds until they were able to eventually reopen this past September. And, thankful of that we are. The multicultural duo produces dishes that seamlessly blend Mexican and South Asian recipes and the many spices and ingredients that go into them. Their friendly servers act more as hosts in one’s home than as waiters fulfilling tasks, and the seeming garage/ alleyway-turned restaurant gives plenty to look at and muse about while in between mouthfuls.
Sustainability (3/3): Much like the idea-driven restaurant that clients sense upon arrival, the behind-the-scenes of Masala y Maiz is mission-oriented as well. In essence, the eatery is just a by product of the projects that Listman and Keval are passionate about, such as sustainable agriculture, teaching, the arts, building community, and providing social assistance. The duo’s efforts to fully use their physical space as an outlet for their personal and professional objectives is beyond commendable.
Experience (3/3): Arriving at Masala y Maiz produces immediate joy as one finds the brightly colored entrance and realizes that the entirety of the eatery lies within one long and linear space, sandwiched in between two buildings, and open to the outdoors. The servers—dressed in modern renditions of traditional frocks, making them seem at once doting and cool—are as hospitable as possible given the limited number of seats, and outdo themselves with making sure that guests feel taken care of. “Can we bring you a dona while you’re waiting? They’re really quite delicious,” and, “Let me pour you some sparkling wine on the house; thank you so much for your patience,” preceded any frustrations on our end but led to immense happiness, as the homemade donuts (sweet, fried batter with a notable hint of salt) would’ve been worth a trip on their own. And so forth went the meal, as a simple yet sensory combination of being in awe of the converted space, its hosts’ graciousness, and an abundance of curated bites.
Cuisine (3/3): As its name suggests, Masala y Maiz melds flavors from India and Mexico with unique takes on traditional favorites from both countries. While starting off with a masala chai or an atole could give one a taste of either, respectively, selecting a dish like the “Uttampam Ranchero” instead blends the two into an original product. And, in further fusion, the menu offers its own take on modern, international favorites like the bowl of sweet corn polenta with coconut milk (not too far off from your usual bowl of oatmeal) or the Western biscuit and scrambled eggs— but with mole. All in all, the culinary center receives a full rating for its respect for heritage and eye for creativity without sacrificing any bit of feel-good flavor.
Diversity (3/3): As given above, human and culinary Diversity are at the heart of what Masala y Maiz stands for and works towards. Its owners are male and female, and from different ethnic and national backgrounds. Its servers are mixed, and its chef’s residency program (complete with live-in quarters above the restaurant) showcases a decided attempt to bring fresh talent in from outside. This, and the full array of interesting plates (also both vegan-vegetarian and meat-based) merit a three of three score for this sector.
For more information regarding this rating methodology, please click here.