Alambres in the Garden of Eden
"Mexican or American?" I asked.
"Jewish," she replied.
"But from Mexico or the U.S.?" I asked.
"That's his daughter behind the register," she said. "I'll ask her."
The owner's daughter said, "He was born in Hawaii, but we grew up in Israel."
That explained the name, I guess, though not how a Jew from Hawaii and Israel ended up opening a Mexican restaurant in Brooklyn.
The thing that brought me to Gan Eden was the fact that I had seen alambres on the menu last time I was in the neighborhood. I'd been searching for this dish ever since I first had it in Mexico City a year ago. It's a griddle-cooked mix of meat (usually several choices), onions, peppers, bacon and white cheese. Alambres are served with tortillas for wrapping (see photo at top).
Apparently the word "alambre," which may be Arabic in origin, can refer to either skewered meat or the griddle-cooked dish shown above. The onions and peppers suggest that the griddled version my have evolved from the kebab. To further confuse matters, "alambre" means "wire" in Spanish. Whatever its origins, it's an addictive dish, and Gan Eden does it justice. They offer a choice of chicken, beef or mixed. We had the mix. In Mexico it's common for the meat to be al pastor (pinapple juice-marinated pork cooked on a rotating spit like shawarma), which itself was inspired by Middle Eastern cooking (pork notwithstanding).
Also quite good at Gan Eden were the chilaquiles with eggs. Chilaquiles is a popular Mexican breakfast dish, with fried tortillas (traditionally it's a way to salvage day-old tortillas), cheese, sour cream and spicy red or green sauce. It's often served with eggs and/or steak.
A plate of chicken, beef, bacon, cheese and vegetables, the quintessence of treyf, is the last thing I'd have expected to find in a restaurant called Gan Eden. I guess the moral is we all make our own Eden.
4620 5th Avenue