In Mexico City, a Restaurant Draws Locally and From 10,000 Miles Away

In Mexico City, a Restaurant Draws Locally and From 10,000 Miles Away

Despite being almost 10,000 miles apart, Mexico and India have surprising similarities when it comes to food. The chefs Norma Listman and Saqib Keval discovered exactly that one night in Mexico City, when they created a menu for a friend’s dinner party. The result is what may be the capital’s most inventive new restaurant, Masala y Maiz , in the residential neighborhood of San Miguel Chapultepec.

The project was never supposed to happen. After years working in some of the Bay Area’s top restaurants, Ms. Listman, a Mexico native, moved back to Mexico City last year to pursue the study of corn and launch a tortilleria. The California-born Mr. Keval — who is of Indian and East African descent — stayed in Oakland, hosting community-based dining and activism events. But then came an offer that the real-life couple couldn’t refuse: a lease on a three-story building in Mexico City, complete with a research kitchen and studio apartment (currently in use as a chef-in-residence program).

But their road has not been an easy one. The original opening date was planned for Sept. 20, 2017, the day after an earthquake ravaged the city. Instead, for the next month, they delivered hot meals all over the city. Then, after a successful October debut, they were closed in April for bureaucratic reasons still unclear to them. Refusing to pay a mordida, or bribe, to the government (as is common in Mexico), they spent the next five months hosting pop-ups in restaurants around town while continuing […]