Statera Restaurant – Emerging From Central’s Shadow

I realize that I’ve been ignoring Statera restaurant. Or rather, that I haven’t been going there enough. Part of the problem, I think, has been that I forgot that they are open for lunch (their dinner service doesn’t start until 8 p.m. which is way past my bedtime.) But, their lunch is Tuesday-Sunday, 12:45 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. I think I’ll go more often for lunch. It’s located at Av. Mariscal La Mar 463, Miraflores. The place doesn’t look so big from outside so it’s easy to miss.

The reasons that I recommend Statera are:

It’s possible to eat there without planning for months out, as one has to do at Central.

The tasting menu is half the price and half the time.

The bartender is superbly skilled.

The owner, Andres, is a young chef who worked as Central’s Research and Development chef for two years. He also worked at Noma in Copenhagen. Plus, he speaks English and is personable (and he remembers the critique of his clients). He continually changes his menu, but has managed to keep menu items that worked well (like the pumpkin done in three ways — completely vegan — even though it tastes like fois gras).

While I send people to Statera if they can’t get in to Central, I think that Statera actually manages to embody the “nueva andina” cuisine better — combining both the beauty of presentation and imaginative use of local ingredients, while also providing food that is delicious and of normal portion size.

If for nothing else, go for the black aguaje butter and bread (see photo).

And before it becomes impossible to book a table.

El Chato – The Food Revolution Is Coming

12719416_10154035309304618_2582625394252442684_oEven if I’m not a fan of molecular gastronomy, I can deal with a bit of foam on my plate once in a while, if it tastes good! The desserts at El Chato (Diagonal 68, #11-29) are light and refreshing (note cucumber foam in the photo). The amuse bouche of pork rind was as light as pop rocks candy on the tongue. Delicious! The main courses and salads seemed healthy and did not taste as fancy as the treatment they received (pork shank brined for six days, then smoked for three etc.). Several of the dishes had smoked components which is not one of my favorite flavors. But, that’s just me.

When we went, one of the chefs came out to introduce each dish to us. Leonardo was extremely friendly. Plus, he worked at Noma in Copenhagen for seven months. Chefs like him could be the start of the Colombian food revolution. He told me that El Chato is closing for a re-vamp of their menu and restaurant. It will be interesting to see what they come up with. 12916965_10154035309209618_2448080628793039209_o

Haute Saison Catering and Cooking Classes – Elegant and Relaxed

Egg custard tarts
Portuguese egg custard tarts

As I am no longer in Bangladesh, I cannot afford a personal chef, so I took a cooking class, which is the next best thing. There is nothing like cooking with a world class chef to remind you of how superb food should taste. Jan Van Haute of Haute Saison Catering is Belgian, but this particular cooking class was in Portuguese food. The cooking class was at a private residence of an expat/international type in DC which was fitting as Jan has a fancy curriculum vitae (he was the Belgium Ambassador’s chef, he cooked for the Belgium royal family, won prizes, worked in Michelin starred restaurants… Despite this, he’s extremely laid back and down to earth — and no, he did not pay me to endorse him!).

Salt cod and chickpea salad.
Salt cod, egg, and chickpea salad.

Our cooking class was a small group of five and it cost $60 per person. For that we got a lovely setting, three course menu, wine, and food to take home. The cooking class was not a regimented class with chopping exercises, and for those of us (ehem, me) who wanted to take photos and drink wine, no chopping was expected of us. Just my sort of class!

Hot, cheesy, chewy, bread balls.
Hot, cheesy, chewy, bread balls.

Here’s what we made:

“Pão de queijo” or Portuguese Brazilian cheese bread
“Salada de Bacalhau a Grao-de-bico” or salt cod, chickpea, and egg salad
Octopus rice stew
“Pastal de nata” or Portuguese egg custard tart
Jan gave us recipes to take home.
Jan gave us recipes to take home.

First we made cheese bread (actually, first we had a glass of wine), which reminded me of the Colombian “pandebono.” While these were in the oven, we made the salt cod chick pea salad. Then we sat down to eat these while the octopus cooked. Then we returned to the kitchen for to make the next two courses. Finally, we returned to the elegant table and chatted. It was much like a dinner party. The owner of the house had been to Bangladesh which I should have guessed as she had a “nakshi kantha,” or Bangladeshi embroidery, on her wall.

Notice the nakshi kantha hanging on the wall.
Notice the nakshi kantha hanging on the wall.

A few words about octopus: The octopus looks quite scary to many people. It is slimy. It is rubbery. But, not that night when cooked properly. The flesh was soft like conch meat. Seriously surprisingly tender and sublime.

This is what the octopus looked like after cooking in the pot for an hour.
This is what the octopus looked like after cooking in the pot for an hour.

The evening and the cooking class ended with us packing leftovers to eat the next day. As part of his philosophy of sharing good food, Jan offers these private cooking lessons. But, as they say in the bread business, “get it while it’s hot!” As his business grows (it just started a few months ago), he may not have time for these small classes. I really hope so because experiences like this are what life can be… plus, it was just so much fun. By the end of the class, I felt more like I was in the company of friends.

The food was revelatory and Jan made us feel totally capable, and at ease, which made for a stellar evening. Wonder what’s on the menu next time?

The octopus stew, creamy and sublime.
The octopus stew, creamy and sublime.