Teocintle - the ancestor of the corn
There are places where you end up almost accidentally and which still have a power to surprise you. “Teocintle” (teocintle is the ancestor of the corn later modified by humans ) was one of them. Despite that it was late, I decided to call and got lucky - I had a reservation in half an hour. The restaurant is located in Oaxaca’s historical center, open from 2-9 pm, and you do need a reservation. It did not surprise me that such as small place with just a few tables was served by six people in the kitchen and one in the dining room. The preparation of each dish requires plenty of meticulous work. And the most shocking factor is the creativeness of the restaurant team: they come up with a new menu weekly!
While waiting outside, the chef appears with tequila, and the conversation begins.
The restaurant is a creation of Toño García, a 28-year-old chef from Tlaxiaco and his friend Azael Jiménez, a 26-year-old chef from Yanhuitlán. They founded "Teocintle" in January 2019 with the idea of using the ancestral techniques of the cuisine of the Mixteca region of Oaxaca, to which they both belong. Their concept - nothing is wasted, what is left or not being used for human consumption, is given to animals - is very close to my heart as I remember a similar behavior of my grandparents In my home country Lithuania. Except instead of corn as is used in Oaxaca, they used potatoes. Regardless, all ingredients are being used until the last pinch.
The degustation menu consists of 5 dishes plus some beverages, including a shot of tequila and infusion water. The price - 650 pesos or 34 USD - is well spent here as the food is worth a real Michelin star.
A tiny colorful place. Far from perfect but like so many restaurants in Mexico - just perfect 🙂 Many natural details do not allow you to get bored even if you have to wait for the next dish; there is a little surprise everywhere.
The restaurant is famous for infusion waters, whose assortment changes often. Offering agua to welcome you to a home is part of the Mixtec tradition which is followed here in a very creative manner: cacao and toasted corn, clove and pepper, or passionfruit water with fresh coriander and so on.
That night, cinnamon, lemon, and rosemary water was served.
The meal started with salsa Macha, made out of three different nuts (peanuts, almonds, walnuts) and three different peppers (arbol, costeno, pasilla), served with typical local thin corn tortilla, called tlayuda.
Tetela (traditionally is a triangular pocket of corn masa with different stuffing) is filled with blue corn, squash florets, and cheese, painted with ashes and served with carrot puree and watercress and epasote salad.
The salad is an eclectic cuisine: escargot, jicama, fermented with hibiscus flowers, carrots, kiwi, grapefruit, sprinkled with amaranth grains and lemon dressing.
The next dish - a pride of Oaxacenos - is sweetish colorito mole (a traditional and very complex Mexican sauce, made from fruits, nuts, different chili peppers and spices) with dried chepanecos cheese was served with Chile Relleno (chile pasilla stuffed with mushrooms, pineapple, apples) and decorated with pickled carrots. A very earthy dish with a bit of spiciness is the typical example of a local cuisine.
A surprise under marijuana steam - avocado, smoked salmon, goat cheese, cucumber and very sweet skinned grape tomatoes.
The main dish was perfect grilled rib-eye steak with cauliflower puree, and tlayuda with chile castabel, goat cheese, mashed beans, marinated scallions, radishes and herbs.
Although the concept of dessert is non-existent in indigenous gastronomy, "Teocintle" incorporates regional sweets such as ice cream, custard empanadas, and torrejas (bread soaked in milk and eggs and later fried) with cane sugar, in addition to fruits that are first nixtamalised (according to the thousand-year-old technique used for corn), and then crystalised.
In this case, almost to pretty to eat - chocolate bisquets with strawberry cheese cream and mamey smoked puree with edible flowers.
The restaurant is located at Melchor Ocampo 116 Col. Centro 68000 Oaxaca Mexico.
Make a reservation over the phone (961 281 6038) before going there.