Chef Z? Carlos Jim?nez's whole career is a balancing act. As a child growing up in Cuautia Morelos, Mexico, he spent his afternoons in a de facto apprenticeship in his grandmother's kitchen. He watched her roll handmade tortillas and tinker with spices before finding just the right blend to balance out her homespun dinners. As an adult, Chef Z? Carlos treats his own kitchen as a playground, paying homage to his grandmother's family recipes while fusing traditional Mexican street food and fine dining?a style he calls New Mexican Gourmet Cuisine.
The menu?complete with a touching epigraph to Meche, his grandmother?is a compendium of his attempts to blend the two worlds. On the haute end of the spectrum are dishes like the Nopales salad, brimming with pickled cactus and his own housemade vinagrette. Fish-and-shrimp tacos sprinkled with fresh cilantro hold down the street-food side of the culinary fort. Where the menu shines, though, is somewhere in the middle, with dishes such as the molcajetes?Spanish for "stone mortar." The upscale take on Mexican comfort food blends beef or shrimp in the eponymous stone dish along with the tastebud-tingling flavors of nopales, chorizo, and roasted tomato-tomatillo sauce.