Getting caught up, really. This will bring us to just two days ago and tomorrow’s post will bring us right up to date. And, as an added bonus, you get to have me more or less reverse my opinion on two places! And you can imagine how often that happens, right?
I’d almost always just ordered omakase, chef’s choice, from the sushi bar and had a parade of sushi and sashimi and the occasional cooked dish, without having a clue what the price would be in advance. I noticed that they now have a teishoku, a prix-fixe, on the menu and asked about it. Apparently it was always there, but it’s not a sushi option, it’s all cooked food from the kitchen, and runs 250 pesos. I asked if there was a way to get a little sushi included, figuring I could cover both bases and Kazu-o readily agreed. I expected maybe a half dozen nigiri or something on a plate in place of one of the other courses, but he made up a full sized board of different sushi for me, and not only didn’t cut out any of the hot dishes, but didn’t charge me anything extra either (I wouldn’t count on that as a regular thing, he just recognized me from times past and welcomed me back). The rest of the dishes were a sampling of different cold and hot dishes from the kitchen, each one perfectly prepared. Great option to try different things, though I’d probably either return to my omakase ways, or order some sushi and a zaru soba, my favorite noodle dish.
And you know what, it’s great food. It’s everything that it should have been on those visits before – creative, interesting, and explosive with flavor, properly seasoned, perfectly cooked, filling, in short, the kind of place that I could, and will, make a regular spot to lunch at. The starter of house smoked pejerrey actually made me put down my book and pay attention. The crispy skinned, spice glazed quail filled with humita that actually had a kick to it and accompanied by beautiful globe zucchini and sweetcorn was everything those two previous quail only fantasized about being. Even the confited figs in vanilla cream with notes of sesame and a crisp phyllo disk atop (which I removed so you could see what’s underneath) was a thing of beauty. A glass of Diamantes Viognier accompanied it all. And I was happy. Even to pay out 324 pesos plus tip for three courses, bottle of water, coffee, glass of wine. Let’s see, seven years ago on that first visit the same quantity of food and drink would have run about 60 pesos plus tip, which at the time would have been around $25, today the pricing comes in at about $45. The difference? Now, that’s a bargain for the quality.
The roller-coaster that has been the kitchen, menu and service at Bardot Nueva Cocina Peruana (they’ve lengthened the name), Honduras 5237 in Palermo, has been impressive. They’re on their third or fourth chef since opening. Behind the scenes, I gather, has always been the duo of Ray and Germán Cardenas, respectively the manager/owner and chef/owner. But they don’t seem to be involved in the day to day operations, I gather they have other things on their plates as well, in various locations. These days, the kitchen is under the direction of Luis Oxa, who I mention (though not by name) in the last of my comments on the above linked review – and the comments will give you a sense of how things have gone up and down. On our last visit he’d just taken over the kitchen and the menu was very much in the vein of the menu at the time of Astrid & Gastón, where he’d been the pastry chef. And it was perfectly fine, but it seemed very much a copy of the other, without much individuality.
That’s all changed. Rather than focusing on the whole Nikkei style cooking, chef Luis has ventured off in another direction entirely, bringing in the flavors of the Amazon, to the extent that he can with ingredients available here. The bar features a selection of piscos infused with various herbs, spices and fruits from northern Peru. The menu, too, has a new feel and look to it. It’s somewhat odd to flip through, each page has only one or two dishes on it, with a rough sketch of the plate drawn out and little labels of the components, almost like pages from his personal workbook. It’s an interesting touch. I met up with a friend for dinner. We started off with a trio of ceviches – a classic version with lenguado, or sole, then a salmon and cecina, smoked pork, ceviche, and finally an ají amarillo version with shellfish. Quite different and all delicious. Lacking in chilies, but a request for them brought two chinese soup spoons, one heaped with chopped rocotos and the other with fiery little charapitas that he has someone bring him from Iquitos (our plants, by the way, that we sowed from a little bag of chilies we brought back with us, are almost three feet in height and are starting to flower, so hopefully we’ll soon have our own). We also split a Paella Amazonica, not really a paella, more of just a rice dish, the rice cooked in what I’d guess was a stock made from shellfish and cecina, and topped with peppers, shellfish, a delicious housemade sausage that the menu says is traditional from the Amazon, and more cecina. The menu also listed chicken, though we didn’t spot any and our waiter said there never is any. Absolutely spectacular dish. All told, one cocktail, two bottles of water, and the two plates – though both were sharing sized plates and are the more expensive options on the menu, and a 40 peso cubierto – 515 pesos (less a 20% discount for having made the reservation online through Restorando), so dinner ran 412 plus tip, for two. Very happy.