Last week, after interviewing La Bodeguita Del Medio’s executive chef Danny Parreno, he introduced me to head chef Nelson Burgos and they kindly prepared a few dishes for me to sample.
Completely immerse in the Latin vibe as I had never been before in Sydney, I sat down and got into the vibe. The salsa music coming out of the speakers didn’t feel unnatural at all, and if it wasn’t for the English-speaking waitresses I would have sworn I was somewhere closer to home.
To start the meal, I was offered a bread roll. Olive and quinoa were the options; not surprisingly I chose the latter. The roll was warm and I couldn’t resist smearing it with the provided butter, but I did have a few bites without it to appreciate the naked flavour of the bread. White and red quinoa, as well as other seeds (not sure if poppy or chia), had been generously incorporated in the dough, giving the roll the nutty taste I’m so used to.
The first course was Tiradito de vieiras (sliced sea scallops, yellow chilli with prawn dressing). Tiradito is a Peruvian dish similar to cebiche, but in this case the raw seafood that is marinated in lime juice is sliced sashimi-style, and often covered with a chilli sauce. The sauce in this dish had Peruvian yellow chilli and prawns. An additional and unexpected ingredient was sesame oil, which worked extremely well with the sweetness of the scallop meat. The sauce was silky and delicious, although I suspect some people may find it a bit too hot.
Tiradito de vieiras ($16)
A few minutes later my drink arrived. I’m not a big fan of Mojito and I’m certainly not a fan of cocktails in Australia (which tend to be very weak in alcohol content and expensive for what you get) but this drink changed my mind. With the strength of a proper cocktail and a perfect sweetness-bitterness balance, it showed why La Bodeguita is the home of Mojito.
Next to arrive was a dish that will be introduced in the winter menu and that was, hands down, my favourite of the night: Sopa de yuca con tierra de aceitunas y tamal dumplings (cassava soup with olive “earth” and tamales dumplings). The presentation was beautiful, the olive “earth” decorated with micro herbs reminded of a piece of land entering the soup as if it was an enormous lake. Texture-wise, the dish met perfection, too: the velvety soup didn’t become boring thanks to the crunchiness of the olive “earth” and the softness of the tamal pillows. Last but not least, the flavour was incredible. I’ve eaten yuca all my life but never pureed as the main character of a soup. It was starchy and slightly sweet. It screamed “comfort food”. The olives were salty enough to provide contrast and the little tamales had that South American corn taste that is impossible to get here. Truly, a magical moment.
Sopa de yuca con tierra de aceitunas y tamal dumplings
The next dish is, according to Danny, one of the best sellers in the bar. The croquetas de malanga (taro croquettes served with ají de gallina sauce) came with a side of pickled strips of cucumber, with a sweet and sour freshness to keep things interesting. The croquettes were very starchy as expected, perhaps a tad underseasoned, but I can imagine they work perfect as morsels to have with drinks. The ají de gallina sauce was tasty and worked very well with the croquettes.
Croquetas de malanga – Taro croquettes served with ají de gallina sauce ($15)
The croquettes were followed by the most popular dish of the restaurant (they sell between 45 and 50 units per night). Inspired by the Mexican mole sauce, Danny decided to search for the best tasting chocolate he could find, loaded with spices, and use it in combination of a different bird (mole is usually paired with turkey or chicken). This is how Pato con chocolate (duck breast, sweet potato & spinach croquants with chocolate sauce) was born. Having eaten mole and some other savoury dishes with chocolate it was not a big shock for me. The meat was perfectly cooked and the flavours of both the chocolate sauce and the sweet potato puree complimented it well, thanks to the sweetness of both, but also of the spices used. I can see why so many people return to the restaurant to order this particular dish.
Pato con chocolate ($36)
This impromptu degustation was coming to an end and I was falling short of stomach room. Fortunately, dessert was frozen, and as my granny used to say about ice cream: “it slips down the sides”. The waitress arrived at the table with the most spectacular dish of the night. A round glass contained the dessert and was covered by a conical glass lid that had a mint leaf in the middle along with that familiar whitish smoke coming out of it. Yes, liquid nitrogen. I was instructed to grab the leave and bite it. It was chilled and incredibly crunchy, but retained its characteristic flavour. Then the waitress poured the liquid nitrogen in the glass and told me to wait until the smoke vanished to start eating. Once it did, what resembled a beautiful Japanese garden or the bottom of the ocean appeared. It was almost too pretty to eat but I had to try it. The dessert is called Mojito… una vez más (which means “mojito… once again”, and consisted in lime granita, mint, rum & sherbet). With the fresh, distinctive flavour of the mint still in my mouth I proceeded to try the different components of this sweet end of the meal for adults. There was bitterness, moderate sweetness, crunchiness and silkiness all working together in perfect balance. Genius dessert.
Mojito… una vez más Lime granita, mint, rum & sherbet ($13)
Even when I normally avoid drinking coffee after lunch I felt I needed an alcohol-free drink to settle things down. An excellent macchiato closed this wonderful dinner.
Gaby @ lateraleating dined in La Bodeguita Del Medio as a guest of executive chef Danny Parreno.
La Bodeguita del Medio
125 York Street
Sydney, NSW, 2000
(02) 9264 4224