Saturday, October 23, 2010

Alambres in the Garden of Eden

There's a Mexican restaurant in Sunset Park called Gan Eden, Hebrew for Garden of Eden. I figured the previous occupant of the storefront must have been some kind of kosher restaurant, and that the Mexican restaurant just decided to keep the name. But my lunch companion, Dave Cook, asked the waitress about the curious name. "The owner's Jewish," she replied.

"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.

Gan Eden
4620 5th Avenue
(718) 439-3399


Blogger Clint said...

Alambres have been one of our favorites since the early 80s. Even though Zihuatanejo is a fishing village, alambres have always been available at several restaurants. There seem to be an unlimited number of ingredients and combinations. One restaurant has about 25 different variation which they give funny names.

12:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

have you been in ZIHUATANEJO, so , you know what is good already, that poictures looks like fake, isnt it? i mean , if you eat there alambres it wont be easy to find a place in US With the real flavor

12:43 AM  

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