January 2, 2021

Supporting chef friends: MONO solo

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It's the first Saturday of 2021, and I decided to treat ourselves to a nice meal.  We are still banned by the government from dining in past 6 p.m., so it's gotta be lunch.  I felt very bad about cancelling my dinner at MONO at the last minute a few weeks ago, so I figured it was only right that I go back for my first fine dining meal of the year.

Ricardo obviously was eager for me to try out the whole shebang, so we were put through the entire 8-course tasting menu for lunch.  Unfortunately, Hello Kitty would have to leave in the middle for a meeting, leaving me powering through it all on my own...

We were treated to a nice glass of bubbly at the start of our meal:

Charles Dufour Bulles de Comptoir #8 Stilllebenm, dégorgée mars 2020 - interesting nose with honey, apricot, flint... pretty toasty and lean.  More intense on the palate.

Normandy sea urchin / saffron vichysoisse / parsley - hidden underneath the layer of parsley emulsion and warm vichyssoise (BUT WHY?!) flavored with saffron were really huge tongues of sea urchin from Normandy.  Little grains of crispy buckwheat were pretty interesting, and the texture kinda reminds me of crunchy Cantonese roast pork crackling that has been braised.

On a cold winter's day, it's nice to start with something that warms the stomach and gives you that comforting feeling.

Octopus causa / chayote - this was, of course, Ricardo's interpretation of the Peruvian causa, with some mashed potatoes with aji amarillo holding down slices of Galician octopus - which were steamed before being grilled - on the plate.  Leche de tigre made with aji amarillo delivered a nice dose of acidity.  Strips of raw chayote added some crunchy texture.  Very nice.

The Imperial caviar farmed in China was reasonably tasty, but I honestly didn't think it was necessary to add it to the dish, especially since the acidity from the leche de tigre practically neutralized the rich and unctuous flavors from the eggs.

Quinoa sourdough - the signature bread here is made with a starter that's as old as the restaurant.  Served with a delicious Arbequina olive oil from Eva Aguilera.

Blue lobster / Caribbean curry / Imperial caviar - the homard bleu from Brittany came with some white pepper, which was a surprise.  This was served with two sauces: the reddish Kari Gosse, a classic curry from Brittany often paired with lobster; and the "Carribean curry" made with tamarind, lemongrass and ginger - which I first tasted last year at this eye-opening 8-hands dinner.  Both were delicious, although they were very different.

We also had a quenelle of the Imperial caviar, and below that a thin wafer of raw jicama.  There were also a few small, round balls of sautéed jicama.

Brittany turbot / onion / tendons - the line-caught turbot from Brittany came topped with some lime zest and olive oil, along with an emulsion of onions, black truffle shavings, and white mushrooms both as raw slices and roasted brunoise.

The ragout at the bottom of the dish was made with yam propagules (零余子) and tendons.  Really, really delicious.  

Traditional Venezuelan bollo / morcilla / salsa verde - unwrapping the banana leaves revealed with bollo seasoned from sofrito, capers, and morcilla.  The guasacaca on the side made with tomatillo, avocado, cilantro, and grilled jalapeños was really nice.  The powder of crispy corn on top made the dish even better.  I was so, so happy to be eating this, because... c'mon!  Where the hell do I find a decent tamale in this town?  And made with morcilla?!

Spanish corvina / black sesame / radicchio di Treviso - the corvina was pretty succulent with crispy skin, so the execution was really on point.  The sauce was made with black sesame, soy sauce, Sicilian olive oil, and balsamico.  The radicchio di Treviso on the side came fresh, braised, and puréed - with the purée being really beautiful. 

Tuscany veal rack / yuca / mole - the veal was very tender and nicely done.  So delicious.  The veal jus was flavored with chile ancho.

On the side we have steamed yuca with chimicchuri, and also some deep-fried yuca.  We also have little strips of grilled nopal, which was kinda interesting.

Next Ricardo made his delicious mole in front of me.  I was already licking my lips in anticipation.

The bone from the veal rack.  Glazed with the jus from the tendons, and covered with chives, lime, and tarragon powder.  Of course, it is best lathered with plenty of mole...

AND IT WAS GLORIOUS! Crispy on the outside, with tons of flavors.  Just look at it... and at that fat.  FUCKING GOOD on its own even without any mole, but why would you even think about chomping down without the heavenly nectar? 

Epoisse / cumin / Jurançon lavender honey - I love Époisses, and this came with a disc of sugar flavored with cumin, along with a dab of beautiful lavender honey.  The combination just clicked.

I was first given a raw seed with the pulp intact, coming from Ecuador. It's not often one gets to eat this raw.  Mono makes its own chocolate in-house.

Our chocolate 70% / rosemary / Sicilian olive oil - the chocolate mousse came with a rosemary ice cream, with some olive oil.  This was very nice with floral aspects, and I didn't even mind the rosemary.

Mate cocido - very happy to be able to have this at the end of a very big lunch.

Alfajores - always happy to have this, and thankful that it was on the "skinny" side.

2006 Chacra Pinot Noir Treinta y Dos - some black prunes, smoky, leather notes.  More mellow and elegant now, but lost a lot of the fresh and intense fruit it possessed when young.

Very, very happy to have come back - after almost an entire year! - to finally go through an entire menu with only dishes from MONO.  I do see that Ricardo's cuisine is still continuing to develop, and love that he's made it a point to educate us on ingredients and flavors from Latin America.  Really looking forward to coming back with friends for more interesting experiences.

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