November 1, 2021

Latin evening

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Despite what Ms. French Rocket may believe, I have been a long-time fan of Ricardo Chaneton's. I love that he cooks up dishes where humble ingredients get to shine, and my dining experiences at MONO have introduced to many ingredients which are new to me. I was a little bummed to have missed the first edition of MONO Unplugged due to a conflict, so I was pretty happy to be invited to the second round.

I figured I would run into friends tonight, but it turns out I was practically surrounded by them. Ricardo chose to seat me next to Ms. French Rocket who, upon seeing me, recounted the first time she encountered me. Naturally, it was an episode where I was being the Arrogant Prick, so she told me something along the lines of "I will always remember you". Well... I could have told her that... Everyone knows that I AM UNFORGETTABLE!

The menu tonight was meant to be different from the restaurant's usual offerings - hence the term "unplugged". It would be an education (for those of us who aren't already familiar) into the varied cuisines across the Latin American world.

Avocado and erizo infladita - this was very creamy, of course, since both ingredients of the filling inside - avocado and sea urchin - have creamy textures. A little acidity in the "guacamole".

Blue lobster empanada and guasacaca sauce - the empanadas from Ricardo are always tasty, and these were filled with a homard bleu stew. The guasacaca on the side was made with avocado, onion, vinegar, coriander, and oil... soooo tasty and perfect with the fried pockets.

Prawn ceviche, sweet potato and XO sauce - the ceviche was made with mi-cuit black prawns, leche de tigre, chayote, and some X.O. sauce from Parkview... and there sure were big chunks of conpoy from the X.O. sauce! A nice bit of fragrance from baby coriander leaves, and otherwise the twist to the usual flavors was pretty interesting. Very tasty.

Sweet corn cachapa, queso fresco and Nomad ossetra caviar - this was very, very good. I loved the combination of queso fresco and corn kernels as the sweetness of the corn worked with the lightly salty cheese. The addition of a big dollop of salted sturgeon caviar then tipped the whole balance to salty. Perhaps a lighter touch with the caviar would have been better.

Duck carnitas taco - with frijoles, salsa verde made with tomatillos, and a few drops of lime juice. Nice sweetness here.

El taco de Daniel - "Daniel" refers to Danny Yip of The Chairman (大班樓), as the main ingredients here are char siu (叉燒) and pickled young ginger from the Chinese restaurant. The barbecued pork was very, very, very smoky, and worked well with the pickled ginger to provide lots of depth in flavor. The frijoles provided a grainy texture to the mix, and perhaps also some smoky flavors as well.

One by one, the ducks were placed in front of a group of diners, and Mauricio took care to carve up the bird for the next taco dish. The ducks were cooked barbacoa-style.

Taco Pekin - OK, so not exactly Peking duck taco, but we have thick cuts of duck breast with pico de gallo. These were served with blue corn tortilla. Very satisfying.

Second serving came with diced and shredded duck, with fatty and springy skin. Wonderful.

Cruzado beef and chicken - this chicken and beef soup was cooked over charcoal, with carrots, corn... etc. It certainly tasted like the comfort food that Ricardo claimed it is, and I was pretty happy with it.

Hallaca with xnipec - these babies were wrapped in banana leaves, tied with string, and steamed - much like a Chinese zongzi (粽子). It is traditional served during Christmas.

The xnipec on the side was made by pickling purple onions to give it acidity and spicy kick. Thankfully this version wasn't made with habaneros... otherwise it would have been more than my nose that would sweat like a dog's!

You can find chicken and pork inside the corn dough. Pretty nice.

Quesillo de coco - flan/crème caramel is one of my favorite desserts, and this one was nice and big! A recipe from Ricardo's grandma, with desiccated coconut inside.

The texture was definitely more dense. Of course I loved it! If only they weren't so stingy on the portions... I could have taken down at least triple this size.

Arroz con leche y canela - with cinnamon, vanilla, and shaved orange zest on top.

The lineup of alcohol tonight was all-Latin America, which made total sense.

Miolo Cuvée Tradition Brut - good depth on the palate, pretty floral and elegant nose.

2018 Otronia Rugiente 45 Corte de Blancas - tropical, almost lychee notes. Ripe on the palate.

2018 Intipalka Malbec - minty, lots of ripe and sweet fruit, very vanilla.

Los 7 Ángeles Tequila

Another awesome and fun evening with Ricardo, who I must thank for the very kind invitation. Kudos to the entire team for putting it all together, and special thanks to Mauricio for spinning the discs he knows I love some much. You just can't beat 70s disco!

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