Review: Fiesta

5 July 2016

I was starting to feel low on energy. Not jetlag, but just too much in a short time. I realised since Memorial Day weekend at the end of May, so within 6 weeks, I’ve been to 8 countries and 13 states…just too much. I need some down time. But I pushed myself and went for a walk before headed to today’s lunch destination.

Today I chose another well-regarded place called Fiesta. It was famous for its north Peruvian cuisine, so this should be fun. This place was a Héctor Solís restaurant, like yesterday’s awesome lunch at La Picantería. Service, though, was a bit of a mess at the start but it got going… I don’t understand why people just stand around and not look at diners waving for their attention.

But in any case they gave me an English menu and gave me a bunch of recommendations, and it was agreed to. I chilled out as some wine came and then the first course.

1b-ceviche

Not sure what the fish was, but it was a type of grouper. The ceviche was extremely good, I again like the spicy bite to them that you get in Lima. Fabulous quality stuff, and the corn was a nice touch as was the potato cakes. A nice start!

2a-cebiche caliente

Next up was the same fish but lightly grilled over corn, the hot cebiche. Excellent, you can taste the similarities and differences. Strong tasting fish, and a good wee sauce to bring it out. Nice!

When I ordered the main, the waiter looked at me for a second to make sure he heard it right, so he was smiling when he brought it out. Sangrecita, from goat…

3-sagrecito

Yes, it’s basically a blood dish with chopped innards. You gotta like blood to like this dish, and I like it. Actually surprisingly neutral, as they likely used less strong offals. Not bad, perhaps wee overseasoned. This went well with some red.

At this point the place got very busy, and I was surrounded by 2 very large groups. It got chaotic, and I couldn’t get my bill for 20 minutes… Finally, then headed out, not too happy how that ended.

The fish was fantastic and the sanguicita okay, but the price was stupidly high. I forget it’s Miraflores. I paid about the same as yesterday’s lunch at La Picanteria, and it’s nowhere near as good. And service in that casual place was so much better and efficient, even as it was far busier, more crowded and had less staff. I was starting to tire of Miraflores and the attitudes to be honest…

Serious, folks, you go to Lima, see — and eat — some of it elsewhere outside of Miraflores and San Isidro. It’s far better and more rewarding in so many ways…

Fiesta
Avenida Reducto 1278, Miraflores
Lima, Perú

Review: Central

4 July 2016

I was still stuffed from that lovely lunch at La Picantería, but had to get ready for dinner. Tonight was another highly-anticipated dinner, the much-heralded Central. It’s constantly listed as one of the best places to eat in South America, though sometimes I fear the hype. That 50Best list has come up with some massive duds over the years, and this year’s list (which I had seen after I made all the bookings) were no different. Central was #4 in the world this time…

I got to Central a little early and it was pretty bad form for them to make us wait outside in the rain. But when time came, they opened up and got people re-distributed and seated. I think they separate people who had different menus? But I was downstairs and had a nice table with full view of the kitchen at work. Ah, relaxing now…especially with cocktail in hand…

A coca, berry and pisco cocktail, how nice to start this meal! And what’s good to see is the service seems to be very smooth here, which is a pleasure to see after a few odd service days in Colombia — such as at Criterion. But there was a loud American group making quite a lot of noise upstairs, and I’m so glad I’m not up there. Clapping and lauging at a joke? What’s next, whooping? It’s a fine dining restaurant, folks, not an Applebee’s…

Anyway, as the cocktail ended the food began. First up, the snacks…

01-sargassum-limpet-crab

The first one didn’t work too nice as the crab flake broke, although it tasted quite nice with limpet cream. Wee sour, but good. Next up, a cute cracked tray for the trio of avocado.

02-avocado

Nice, from the puree in the croqueta to the chilli-crusted, a nice bunch of morsels for the remainder of the cocktail. The skin-turned-bread is also a fun touch here. Good stuff! A local white poured and we move to more snacks.

03-corn

This is a tasting of corn, the crunch is nice with a touch of sweet in the morsel on the left. The cream on the right is nice, a good balancing combination of sweet and sour. Nice, lovely corn flavours come out very well here. Next up is a duo that confused me a little.

04-05-yacon-snails

On the left is the yacón, or the Peruvian ground apple, which was very delicious — though the plating was very confusing…or disturbing… On the right I can’t make it out, it’s supposed to be snails on the crispbread…it comes through the flavour, but… Well that was interesting!

BTW this is the last trip using this terrible Galaxy S5 camera, I do apologise for these not-so-good photos… We move into another phase with the bread service…and the aroma is intoxicating…(literally?)

06a-bread

The potato cake was okay, the tunta flake too, but the star was the bread in the centre being smoked by coca leaves…I ate some of it, but left it, knowing the smoke will go more into the bread the longer it waits…so I saved it… Then a Mosel riesling is poured and we move onto clams.

07-clam-cucumber

Oddly the star of this dish are the cucumbers. I actually used them to make mini tacos with the clams, lol. Worked really well all the flavours. The next dish is one that could have been so amazing but…

08a-tubers

It’s a tasting of Amazon tubers. Fabulous flavours on them, but I really wish there was more! Too thin to really appreciate their flavours! It left me really wanting, especially as they left this on the table as a demo…

08b-tubers

Oh my, I really wish there was more. Oh well, that was nice tho. Oh by the way that was paired with a barley and quinoa based stout…

So far this has been quite good. Not as good as Leo in Bogotá, but quite good. We get a sparking from Catalunya and move to the next dish — paiche.

09-paiche

The fish is lovely here, though the cream is a bit heavy (hidden below) for this dish. The quality of the fish is excellent. We move on and the next item is the scallop.

10a-scallop

Mmm, these are surprisingly good. I was told they come from the north. Even better than the one I got at Criterion the other night, the sweetness was not subtle here, it just naturally sprung out. I’m very surprised by the quality of the scallops here in South America, they are fabulous! Switching to an Italian white, we have some odd octopus…

11b-octopus

This is a bit tricky here, as you can’t really see them below this, but it’s pretty solid stuff. The chips were interesting, through the sauce was strong for them. Good stuff. Again, a lot of solid dishes, few are mind-blowing, but all solid so far. But next up was the weak dish of the night, the chicken.

12-chicken

Even with a nice wine from Languedoc couldn’t save this dish, sadly, The chicken was boring, the cream was stifling. A very, very mediocre dish. All the other stuff in the cream, from nuts to tapioca, didn’t survive the brutal creaming…too bad. Oh well, it happens.

Next up was a dish that scared me a bit, as I am known to not be a fan of that thing everyone likes…no, not kale (I love kale), but quinoa…

13c-veal-quinoa

It’s actually a veal dish, and the veal is ridiculously tender and quite good. The quinoa is surprisingly good, and the visuals are a huge one here. A wee flake on the side (sorry, my photo of it is real bad) didn’t add much. But as I ate more into this dish, I kept tasting a misplaced egg yolk…was it just me or what? Tasted odd. Anyway, a good dish, and the last savoury of the night.

I took a breath and tried to chill before the dessert courses come. It’s been very good, again not mind-blowing, but very good. Oh, if I didn’t mention, I kept eating that bread through the dinner until it was gone. The smoke did indeed permeate it more and more, and it tasted better the longer I left it. The bread was fantastic, one of the highlights of the night. Then we start…

14-apple

This is a nice combination of rose apple and lemongrass and many other things, loving the exotic fruits being used also. That’s one of the best parts about being down here is getting these wonderful fruits. The next dessert too…

15-cacao-lucuma

This one features the lucuma, alongside cacao. Fabulously rich chocolate here… Excellent, one of the top desserts of the year. Then next came all the remainder of the menu…

16-17-roots-chocolate-potato-cocoa

On the really nice but somewhat disorienting dish are a few treats, from chamomile gel to chocolate. On the frozen chunk (yes, it’s frozen) is a potato chip with cocoa — with a nice bit of coconut water. I ended up drinking the entire bottle it was so refreshing… That and a coffee (and of course the Pedro Ximenez pair), and we finish this nice dinner.

I was full at the finish. The food was excellent. Nothing really stood out as blow-me-away stuff, but it was excellent overall. Balanced. Nowhere as good as Leo tho, I have to say, even with the use of rare local ingredients. Was good to chat with chef Virgilio Martínez Véliz a bit during the service, he came out to chat with me twice — which was nice. We talked about his Michelin-starred restaurant in London as well, Lima*. I finished and paid a hefty amount for the meal and headed out reasonably happy.

Maybe not #4 in the world, but it’s good, and easily one of the top places in South America. Talented chef, solid service, excellent ingredients — this is why people like the place. Well-deserved reputation.

I nearly broke my neck a few times walking back to the hotel as the pavement here is ridiculously slippery when wet. Got back and chilled, happy with my Lima food adventures so far!

Central
Santa Isabel 376, Miraflores
Lima, Perú

Review: La Picantería

4 July 2016

My countrymen back home are celebrating the country’s 240th birthday with BBQs and other flag-waving stuff, so I decided to do something different — being here in Peru.

I got into town the previous late afternoon, and Sundays are tough for dinner in Lima with places closing up early. I ended up having some chifa (Peruvian Chinese) at a place a few stops on the Metropolitano rapid bus from where my hotel is located, and sadly it was oily and expensive… Oh well. But that was sorted in the hotel bar doing a tasting of various piscos from all around the country (nice and neat!), as well as a few local gins that are quite interesting in its botanicals. Back at sea level, so almost no hangover!

But today, I wanted something authentic and local, and it being early in the day I went for ceviche — it is my first day here in Peru. I heard of a place called La Picantería and I headed off on the Metropolitano again out of the über-wealthy Miraflores to a far more modest neighbourhood in Surquillo.

I had to wait as they got ready but was soon seated. My waitress, Kimberly, turned out to speak English absolutely fluently — I found that out when I was frustrated over the menu and how a lone diner would eat stuff that is commonly shared; plus, I don’t want that Tábula excess disaster again. But she had an evil grin and said how about a tasting menu, the “Experiencia Picantería” and I said why not. This place doesn’t open for dinner, so I guess it’s normal to have a tasting menu at lunch…

She turned around quickly and asked if I liked alcohol…and I now returned the evil grin, and she said she’ll take care of me for that same price. How nice is that! And within a minute she returned with 5 glasses of different types of fermented chicha. Oh my!

chicha tasting

I was enjoying them slowly when she reappeared with a bib…oh this is gonna be fun! She was perplexed why I was drinking slowly as she soon appeared with a glass of pisco sour, and my first dish…

01b-tongue

Oh my, tongue! Lovely texture and flavour, far better than the stuff at Tábula. One of my favourite things, but I thought…that glass of pisco sour is the pairing for this? Oh my! This is gonna be more than fun! At this point I drained the pisco sour and finished several of the chicha, and she returned with a nice glass of Spanish white and soon the next dish…

02-crab

Oh my, crab! The flesh is so clean and nice raw, soaking in that sour and peppery goodness. They asked if I liked spicy and I said yes, so this was full on hot. Excellent, with this lovely crab. This was a thick guy so no way I could crack this with my tooth, but I got as much meat out of this as possible. Oh, beautiful!

This was turning out to be a spectacular lunch! And more wine and the next item, a whitefish lightly grilled over corn leaves.

03a-grilled whitefish

I didn’t quite get the name of the fish (so if anyone can help!), but it was delicious, full of richness. Grilling this quickly on the corn was quite nice. Lovely! Then next (and more wine!) is the same fish, but nice and raw…

04a-ceviche

Mmmm, this is rich and solid stuff. Lovely, with a bit of fried collar on the side. If anyone knows what this fish is please let me know! But what lovely fish!

More wine, and we move into something totally unexpected — but one of my favourite things in the world to eat.

05-tripe

Yep, a lovely piece of grilled tripe. Perfect texture, perfect flavour. A bloody fish restaurant has just made the best tripe I’ve had in years. Damn… Kimberly smiled seeing my face eating this. She changed my wine to another white and brought me the next dish, a nice rich soup.

06-soup

I like the touch of acid in this, it works because it’s not overwhelming and the spices balances it out. Plenty of seafood inside so it’s nice and filling. Then an unexpected glass of red and I could guess what was coming…

07-duck

The duck. This place is also known for its duck, and this was a nice wee portion. Very rich, wild ones from the north I heard. It’s a solid dish, and works quite well. But it’s also heavy, and I’m pretty full now. Kimberly asked how I was doing, and I said I was about done, so she said one last dish…

08-fried fish

I think it’s the same fish (again, help if you know what it is, I’m not good with local fishes in South America!), but fried with a nice helping of yucca. It’s almost too much and after that duck, it was a little hard to finish this heavy portion. I was spent…and the drinks have helped quite a bit!

After a nice after-lunch drink, I was spent…and swelled! I had to settle up and thanked my excellent server for this feast! An excellent, unexpected surprise for lunch!

Wow, this was fantastic. I was so full at the end… Lots of people watched my table all meal and I felt like a little prince in the corner with a feast. And this was indeed a feast. Fabulous quality stuff, done simply and honestly. This is what I was looking for in my travels, especially the lunch slots.

This will go down as one of the best lunches of the year. Heavily recommended, and you get to see a little of the real Lima in the process of getting there. Take the bus, get some local flavour before you really get to enjoy the local flavour!

La Picantería
Francisco Moreno 388, Surquillo
Lima, Perú

Review: Criterion

2 July 2016

After last night’s incredible dinner at Leo, not sure what can top that on this trip. But damn, Bogotá, that was excellent! For lunch on a pretty chill Saturday I had a nice rib steak of local grass-fed beef at La Biferia. Excellent stuff. And explored the area a bit more. I really do like Bogotá!

I had to do some planning also as I am heading out to Lima tomorrow, so that took part of the late afternoon before I headed out for dinner. Tonight’s target is one of the places praised most often in town, Criterion. It’s my last meal in Bogotá, so I want to have a good one in this town that I’ve really come to like.

I got there and the service was already a bit odd. They seem to not have the front-of-house sorted right, and the waiters were just standing around. Took me 10 minutes to get seated, and 15 minutes to just get a cocktail…not a great start. But I went with the tasting menu and pairing again, and am looking forward to this experience.

The martini wasn’t bad as soon we started the dinner. No amuse per se as we go straight into the menu. First up was a potato and guasca cream soup with native corn — served as a “cappuccino”…

01-potato-guasca-cream soup

Actually very tasty, full of strong flavours. A nice start to this dinner. I also drew down my martini as the pairings are about to start. Next up was the tiradito.

02-lionfish tiradito

Lionfish tiradito with various local fruits such as lulo and tamarillo. Very nice, love the local fruits in this, and the fish is quite nice too. A white Italian paired okay.

So far things are going okay, and next up — with a white from Luxembourg — was scallops.

03-scallops

Ooh, these are excellent, retaining a very nice sweet flavour while bathing in nice tomato and cucumber water. Some of the best scallop I’ve had in awhile to be honest, love it when the sweet sneaks out! It’s going pretty good so far this dinner, despite the initial service hiccups — though why are those two waiters just hanging out and doing nothing?

After a little bit, as the restaurant is getting busier this Saturday night, the next dish arrives — the smoked octopus.

04-smoked octopus

The smoky aroma is very nice and the puree is fantastic, boasting of wild mushrooms. This would have been a fabulous dish except as I was in the middle of eating this dish — literally in mid-bite — the runner comes by and starts laying out new utensils. Huh? What happened? I actually stopped eating in mid-stream, shocked at what they were doing? Is this normal? Did I miss something? This threw me off so badly I almost didn’t enjoy the rest of the dish.

Huh? I’m still confused. That was such a good dish but what were the staff thinking? Then the next dish arrived, the pork belly.

05-pork belly

Oh dear, this is really bad. The crackling was droppy and soggy, the meat was somewhere between chewy and ropey, and some really bad pickled veg I had to abandon. And more puree… Oh dear, even if that stupid service thing didn’t happen, this would have been the most dramatic turn in amazing dish –> crap dish. Oh dear, may be the worst belly of the year, and that’s saying a lot…

I’m starting to worry as I see the runners dropping silverware on people when it’s convenient — so they don’t need to go back to get more. Huh? Laziness? Understaffed? At a fine-dining restaurant? I’m disappointed. And since most people were ordering a la carte the rhythm is really off, and it seems the front-of-house crew isn’t really trained to deal with it. Sigh…

After a prolonged wait the next dish arrived, and it was one where I could choose between 2 beef dishes (one of course being wagyu — with a supplement). I chose the other, the braised morrillo (hump).

06-braised beef morrillo

Sorry for the bad photo, but it wouldn’t have helped. The beef was cooked very well and is very tasty, but more puree? Come on, can we please have some solid vegetables? Just really lack of imagination here, or trying to be too imaginative. But with the last 3 dishes it’s turned somewhat repetitive. This place is helmed by Jorge Rausch — who is a local TV superstar. But what is it with TV chefs? This is actually really boring. The last 2 dishes, come on…

I’m almost happy the savouries are over as I didn’t want to endure more puree! And of course they screwed up the service again. How am I supposed to eat the cheese course with only a spoon? They brought it out and I had to point out the silverware mistake…

07-cheese

Three goat cheeses for this cheese course, but it did very little for me. I usually adore goat cheese, but perhaps I was just so ticked off by now with the odd service. First of all, the slow service caused the gelato to have started to melt in earnest…

To be honest, I didn’t mention half the other crap that happened from the service fail, from some dodgy wine pours to having to wave like a madman to get some water, to having a full glass of water (which came from a bottle I paid for) taken away while I went to use the facilities… Just a total fail in the front-of-house department… And what set this off? I was still chewing on some of the cheese when they took the dish away! UGH.

08-fruit salpicon

In any case, next up was the fruit salpicon, which was nice — though I really would love if they used more exotic fruits instead of these usuals. This was a bit meh that I could have had in Topeka or Knoxville…  I just wanted to get out as the last item arrived…

09-curd cheese

Curd cheese with a glass of rum. I’ll be honest I didn’t remember much about this, I just wanted to get the bill and go. And those 2 guys are still standing there — and no one notice me waving for 10 minutes looking for the bill! UGH! I skipped coffee and a drink and just bolted — after giving the manager an earful on what went wrong with the service…

There were a few good dishes, but it seemed everything went very quickly downhill from that blunder during the octopus dish. Some of the dishes were very poorly thought out and very difficult to eat. And the service was just awful. What were they thinking? Again, I mentioned this to the manager and he was apologetic about it. But it’s really very poor front-of-house training to have this constantly happen.

Goodness, this was night vs day in difference from last night’s amazing dinner at Leo

I left not the happiest person. As much as Bogotá has totally grown on me, this leaves a poor last memory of this wonderful town for me.

Criterion
Calle 69A Nº 5-75
Bogotá, Colombia

Review: Leo

1 July 2016

I was still pretty full when I had to get ready for dinner, one which is highly anticipated. I had found this restaurant, Leo, by chance. But when I saw the stuff they offered, I was hooked. I took a cab there and ironically it was a block from where I had that nearly fatal lunch…

With a cozy, romantic dining room and fantastic front-of-house staff, I sensed a wonderful tasting menu to come. I went with the full tasting and pairing. They had a non-alcoholic one that looked fantastic, but I stayed boozy. The menu looked utterly fantastic and I was excited to get started! The first thing they brought was a cool little drink… This is a drink made from coca leaves (yes…) that’s fermented. Mmm, this was really tasty, and it came with the opening bread service.

01 - achín bread - chontaduro butter

Not the most fantastic thing as the bread is made of achín (taro). I grew up in Hawai’i, so… The butter now added a little more flavour, as it’s infused with chontaduro — or beach palm. Nice, a great example of using the exotic and unique flavours of Colombia! Soon after the four-piece amuse arrived…

02a-amuse

Nice. First, on top is a beautiful cacay nut milk. If you didn’t know, cacay nut oils are the new health craze these days, but this was just beautiful and creamy. On the left is sun-dried salted beef with wild papaya jam — which was really a nice combination. In the centre is an essence of river snail with a piece of culantro (not cilantro, but culantro) enmeshed. Then on the right is a potato cake topped with local apples and river shrimp. Fabulous stuff! Really enjoying this so far!

I smiled as I finished these, as well as the coca drink. Soon the feast began with a nice glass of pinot grigio and the first dish, and what a vision it was…

03b-tuber-bean-conch

This was a tasting of Andean tubers, as well as beans, all accompanying a very nice portion of conch in a base made of tamarillo (a local fruit called the tree tomato). Fabulous flavours, with the tamarillo base playing very well to the starchy tubers. The conch was of excellent quality and flavour, not rubbery nor difficult to eat. Perfect. A fabulous alamgamation of flavours!

One thing I realised is that many of the flavours tonight will be very new for me, as these ingredients are just impossible to find outside of the region. And what best way to experience that than a kitchen that understands the flavours! As a generous glass of sancerre is poured, the next dish arrives — the seasonal fish.

04-corvina

In this case the fish is corvina, with a splendid combination of vinegar and local herbs. The fish is excellent in quality and flavour, boasting fine texture too, melting in your mouth when — and not before — you want it to. In addition to knowing the flavours of the rare ingredients, the kitchen has executed very well. Am beyond satisfied so far, the sancerre working so well here too.

I was also looking at the list of non-alcoholic pairings, and I sometimes wish I get both options! In any case, a Spanish white is poured and next up is something surprisingly good.

05a-palm

This was a dish based on palm from Putumayo — slices of the heart of palm, a palm foam, and a cream of palm — with a small inclusion of paipano hard cheese to give the cream a nice kick. Simple, yet excellent, with really fabulous quality heart of palm. On a good day it’s even better than artichoke, and this is indeed one of those days.

The meal is moving at a proper pace, even when the place is getting busier. I began dining early (for Colombians) this Friday evening, so it went from me being the first diner to the place getting busy. I noticed, unlike last night in the more cosmopolitan Zona G, tonight is more of a local crowd — which I like. People in Zona G are missing out on a great experience here! A big pour of riesling and we go to the next dish, which is one I was really looking forward to.

06b-caiman-pepper broth.jpg

This is caiman (yes), in a broth of Amazon peppers. Oh my goodness the broth is utterly heavenly, the aroma is something that will live with me for a long time. Beautiful taste too. The caiman is cooked very tender, and it is a nice flavour. Not too strong, but for those unfamiliar it would resemble alligator. Or else, you can say it’s between rabbit and frog I guess… They told me this is a new dish and they’re trying to perfect it, but I say they got it pretty close already — especially that broth. Oh my goodness is it amazing. I wish I could get a glass of this to drink!

Spectacular meal so far! The wine pours, by the way, have been more than generous. I was a little worried how the altitude will affect me with a boozy night, but so far so good. Did the coca help? Who knows! In any case, the next drink was a little different — one of the unique things about this evening…

This is a corozo drink that’s fermented — which is quite nice. Corozo is a palm fruit, and the flavour is a nice, mildly sweet concoction that went well with the next dish — tuna.

07-tuna

A fabulously good piece of seared tuna, boasting a coating of hormigas culonas — or “big ass” ants and molasses. This was probably the best coating on tuna I’ve ever had. I usually like my tuna unadulterated, but this was nearly perfect. The pea puree was also nice, but the tuna is a blown-away type of item. Wow…

The smile on my face is pretty evident to the staff as they can see how much I am enjoying this. They stayed on the odd pairings and next up was rice horchata with some local rum…mmm, this was very tasty I almost asked for more after the meal! The next dish was the rabbit croqueta.

08-rabbit

Nice, but for me probably the weakest of the night. The smoked rabbit was excellent, the aroma is just awesome. But as my readers know I’m not a croquetas fan at all. But the aroma was something that I just let it linger so I could enjoy it. And that horchata, mmm… Loved it! And as I finished that the next surprise drink came — and they went off-menu for this.

They switched the item listed and gave me some fermented coffee. Oh my…I can almost die now… That’s better than a coffee-crusted rib, which wasn’t what was next but it was indeed pork rib.

09-pork rib

Very tender and full of flavour, no stringiness here. Perfect execution. The pearl barley on the side was a solid addition, balancing out all the flavours. I really like the balance here. Even when there was acid, they cut into it so everything comes out balanced at the end. It’s a demonstration that they truly understand all of their ingredients, which is marvellous. We shifted back to wine with a syrah for the next dish…

10-mutton

Mmm, mutton. It’s a bit of work to eat this, so it’s proper mutton. Strong flavours, just the way I like it. I can see some people not liking this dish, but for some of us that like full-flavoured meats this is nice. I like working on my food for a dish or two during the course of a tasting menu! But they also used a similar pepper sauce as the caiman dish, so I was in heaven…

I was starting to get rather full — no thanks to that crazy lunch today at Tábula — but that was the last savoury course, so it’s plain sailing now. They poured another interesting drink for the next course…

This is pirrín — a herbal aguardiente. Mmm, not strong alcoholically, but a full flavour firewater it certainly is. Oddly it didn’t clash with the first dessert.

11-arazá-caquetá cheese gelato

The dish features another rare local fruit, the arazá — a very acidic but unique item. The acid is cut by the gelato made with Caquetá cheese. Perfect balance, brings out the best in both! Fabulous dessert! This is what I mean about understanding flavours and balance! I don’t praise desserts often but this was nice. Then the final item on the menu came, the chocolate sphere filled with naidí liqueur…

12-naidí sphere

What is naidí? Perhaps it’s better known to most people as açaí. A nice treat to close this account! Of course that wasn’t really the end, as they brought out a chocolate frozen in liquid nitrogen…

13-chocolate frozen

This came with the coffee…oh, this was a real treat, this awesome coffee…

Wow, that was a meal. I think this is the tasting menu of 2016 so far. Amazing diversity of ingredients you can’t get elsewhere, and there is true understanding of how they worked. Not one dish was off, off-balanced nor disappointing. Execution excellent, planning awesome. This shows a true understanding of how each dish worked, and it’s rare I have a tasting menu of this quality.

It was getting way busier and I see both families and young couples. I suspect they would be packed if up where I am based near all the top restaurants in Zona G, but frankly there’s an amazing charm about having this next to the Museo Nacional.

Amazing dinner. May I even add that the full tasting plus pairing was under USD 100? Amazing innit? If it does not remain the best tasting menu of 2016 it will certainly be in the very top. Beyond recommended!!!

It’s really one of these you-must-do-once-in-your-life tasting menus…

Leo
Calle 27B Nº 6-75
Bogotá, Colombia

Review: Tábula

1 July 2016

I trekked towards the centre this second morning in Bogotá, heading to do what I always do — trek cemeteries. Today is Cementerio Central de Bogotá, which is a beautiful but haunting place. I caught the very busy TransMilenio rapid bus there, which seems to be very pricey for locals… Got there and had a nice long walk…until I was interrupted by security, telling me it’s too dangerous to take photos. Huh? Oookay…they insisted I stop, so…

I left the cemetery a little ticked off, but that’s life down here. I wandered around a little and eventually went to a place a read about for lunch, called Tábula. It’s a trendy place next to the Museo Nacional, famous for doing local dishes with a flare. So I headed there.

Had to wait a bit but soon was seated. They had an English menu, so that helped. I asked them how many dishes for one person, hearing this place did stuff family-style, but they said 2-3 is good for one person. Stupidly I ordered three…

After enjoying some wine my first dish arrived, and I immediately regretted ordering so much…

oxtail

Holy crap, this is one dish? Oxtail, as you can see, but it’s a ridiculous portion! Not quite a tapa! A nice spicy sauce and you can tell this is proper and age-appropriate ox, as it has a slight gamey flavour. Lovely, but it was daunting looking at it. Funny no one from other tables stared. I saw some of the portion sizes going to other tables and I was worried…

papas

The potatoes showed up and I calmed down a little. I am usually not a potato person but this was looking fantastic — a rich smoked butter on top. Nice. Then my heart skipped…

lengua 1

My tongue dish. Not as crazy as the oxtail, but still kind of a ludicrous portion. They had obviously left it under a heating lamp as I fought through the oxtail (I got through about 2/3 of it), as the tortilla were unusable at this stage, flaking and ripping. My bad kinda… But the tongue was good.

I troopered on for awhile, and managed to finish pretty much the tongue and potato dishes, but had to abandon about 3 pieces of the oxtail…

They smiled and understood, and I’m sure they’ll find a use for them. I settled up after having a much-needed coffee. But what I really needed now was a nap… So instead of doing the museum as planned I headed back to the TransMilenio and rode the bus back towards my hotel. A 15-minute walk back and I did take a nap…oh dear…dinner is in a few hours…

Tábula
Calle 29 bis Nº 5-90
Bogotá, Colombia

PS: Later I found out Tony Bourdain was here, which explains the popularity…

Review: Rafael

30 June 2016

I was still enjoying that fine lunch today courtesy of Rey Guerrero, but am starting to feel the altitude a little. But the test will be after more booze really, as that’s really what makes it harder for me with altitude.

I did a bit more planning for dinners here, and for the first night I have no idea what drove me to book at Rafael — considering it is the 2nd restaurant of Peruvian chef Rafael Osterling, and I was headed to Lima in a few days… But nevertheless I did it and here I am.

Chic place in Zona G near my hotel. It was a little chaotic at beginning, and the service was a little spotty. I asked for some recommendations and went with that. And also an out-of-place pisco sour… Maybe this wasn’t a great move…

Well, it was okay. Then the first dish arrived, the octopus. I apologise in advance for the bad photos. During this trip I realised I needed to get a new phone after seeing these…

pulpo_edited

They had recommended it, and it was pretty good indeed. Nothing too special, but it worked well. Good texture, not excessively chewy nor soft. I should have gone with other more interesting, more local stuff but oh well… Nevertheless I was really looking forward to the main item, and soon it came.

arroz de pato_edited

Mmmm, the duck is perhaps chef’s most famous dish, a northern Peruvian dish slow cooked in dark beer. The duck itself is cooked very well, fine flavours. The sticky rice is also excellent, though the shredded duck within was a little dry. But a very tasty dish overall.

However, the service was starting to collapse here and it was nearly impossible to get the staff’s attention — despite them standing around — so I decided to pass on anything else. I paid and headed out.

Not a bad first night in Bogotá, but lunch today was far better. Should not have strayed from Colombian cuisine…

Rafael
Calle 70 Nº 4-63
Bogotá, Colombia