Veggie Tostada in Maiz 64. Photograph by Ignacio Urquiza.
Many restaurants with numerical names nod at their addresses. Not so at Maïz64, a modern two-level Mexican restaurant and mezcal parlor opening today in Logan Circle. Here, “64” means corn varieties available in Mexico.
“For us in Mexico, corn is the ingredient that makes us – we are made by masa,” says chef Alam Méndez Florián, originally from Oaxaca, who is also a chef/partner at Pasillo de Humo in Mexico City and formerly at the helm of Urbano 116. in Alexandria. “We want to represent that and bring Mexican traditions and flavors to DC using the best ingredients we can find in the area.”
Not all 64 varieties are available to the Mexican-native team, which includes partner Ricardo Fux, Mexico City-based mixologist Arturo Rojas and pastry chef Elisa Reyna. But masa will be the focus of the two-level restaurant and earth-toned mezcal bar (formerly B Too). The kitchen sources indigenous and regional varieties of corn through importers such as Masienda – heirloom pink bolita beletove corn and yellow bolita corn from Oaxaca, blue chalqueño corn from Tlaxcala, local corn from central the Atlantic and many others will appear. The kitchen grinds masa for fresh tortillas that accompany tacos and wood-roasted meats and fish, or tostadas stacked with toppings like tuna, avocado, ginger and salsa macha.
You’ll have to wait a few weeks for Maïz64’s crème de la corn experience: El Comal, a seven-course menu of antojitos (street snacks) where a variety of masa-based items (tortillas, tetelas, tostadas , etc.) are made to order on a large wood-burning griddle that sits in the center of the dining room. The interactive experience will highlight seasonal dishes like kampachi tostadas with apple puree and tomatillo relish, tacos stuffed with marinated octopus or grilled rib eye, and quatrefoil quesadillas.
In the meantime, Méndez Florián is focusing on an a la carte dinner menu that marries traditional Mexican flavors and techniques with local ingredients. “Every time I start a new project, I focus on the flavors of Oaxaca,” he says. Look for dishes such as a charred broccoli taco with black mole and cashew nuts, esquites (street corn salad) made with Mexican corn-cooked epazote broth, or roasted duck breast with mole manchamanteles ( a reddish infusion with chillies, fruits and nuts), mashed green apple and plantain chips. The menu is quite broad in terms of flavors and experience; diners can splurge on lobster with mussel tamales atop a lobster-epazote bisque, or snack or guacamole and suckling pig tacos at the bar.
A showcase of Mexican wines greets diners, but don’t ignore the extensive collection of mezcals behind the bar. Arturo Rojas, bar consultant and author of Mexican cocktails, select cocktails with Mexican flavors and traditions like a tequila blanco margarita infused with bougainvillea flowers or a horchata riff with tequila, coconut cream, citrus fruits, cinnamon and a mix of amaranth grains (amaranth). Once the restaurant is up and running in a few weeks, drinkers can head to an underground lounge below the dining room for tastings of mezcal and other cocktails.
Maïz64 1324 14th St., NW. Open for dinner, Tuesday through Sunday, with brunch to follow.