It’s a challenge to stand out in a city full of Mexican restaurants, but Alamexo Mexican Kitchen shines. Located in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City at 268 S. State Street, this upscale restaurant offers regional Mexican specialties with approachable, but refined flavors.
Chef and owner Matthew Lake is passionate about Mexican food. “This is the only cuisine I can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner.” confides Lake. “I just really love the food and the people. If the dish is not Mexican, it’s not on my menu.”
His food philosophy is intriguing. Everything is made from scratch, using local and organic ingredients – a notion that jives with traditional Mexican values. Using classic techniques and ingredients is important to Lake. “I’m immensely proud to embrace time-honored techniques. Everything is done the right way. That’s what I’m most proud of.” he says.
Alamexo has a comfortable and cool interior. The first thing I noticed when I walked into the restaurant was a black and white Day of the Dead mural. I was instantly charmed since I love skulls and Day of the Dead. Mexican folk art and photos of street markets in Mexico decorate the restaurant and hint at the traditional food on the menu. The sleek and modern decor is welcoming – just the sort of restaurant I enjoy spending time in, lingering over a three margarita lunch or a romantic date night.
I was invited to a media dinner last month at Alamexo. It was my first visit, but I can’t wait to go back. I’ve been thinking (more like swooning) about this meal. Usually at these media dinners, chefs will try to seduce members of the media with exorbitant and unusual dishes. So confidant in his cuisine, Chef Matthew Lake took the exact opposite approach by offering dishes that were currently on the menu, and served daily. Here are the highlights.
We were greeted with a gorgeous pink Alamexo Margarita. Made with Espolón reposado, Cointreau and fresh citrus, it was as tasty as it was pretty – a wonderful way to start a meal! Appetizers awaited us, served family style. Ceviche with plantain chips was refreshing and tasty. Guacamole was served in a large black stone molcajete with chips and salsa. My mouth watered in anticipation. I dug in right away, placing a huge dollop of the green goodness on my plate.
Our dinner started with a show. Chef Matthew Lake prepared Guacamole en Molcajete tableside for the group, explaining the process as well as educating us about the ingredients. I appreciated the guacamole in front of me, understanding more about the dish. When you visit Alamexo, you can experience this guacamole show yourself (and you should because not only is it delicious, it’s really fun to watch!)
The second course started with decadent Escaplope y Camarones Ajillo. Sumptuous creamy rice was topped with tender scallops and shrimp. Wild mushrooms and roasted vegetables added texture and flavor. The word “heavenly” comes to mind.
Enchiladas Rojas Con Queso y Aguacate won my heart with deep, rich flavors contrasted with mellow avocado cream and queso. I’m fond of enchiladas and order them quite often, but I’ve never tasted anything like these. I complimented Chef Matthew Lake on his vegetarian options and he told me that eats vegetarian frequently, believing meat-free cuisine should be as flavorful and rich as the other items on the menu.
My husband would have loved the Tacos Conchinita Pibil, anchiote and bitter orange marinated pork shoulder served with habanero pickled escabeche and wonderful sweet plantains. I’d be a terrible wife if I didn’t bring him back for this entree. It’s his standard order at Red Iguana, but this version had interesting flavors and accouterments paired with the succulent pulled pork.
For dessert fluffy Tres Leches Cake with delicate churros and Fried Sweet Plantains were served. Each bite was delectable. I’m generally not a dessert person, but I’m definitely an Alamexo Dessert Person.
Vida Anejo (a local tequila) was served neat, with a chaser. The chaser had a warming spiciness and a subtle fruity flavor that was unusual and utterly delicious – a distinct way to end our meal.