The latest chef to pop up as part of the Cocina sin Fronteras sequence had naturally packed some ingredients typical of his native Peru with him. Tumbo fruit and chonta palm shoots as well as some silvery arcilla chaco clay made the cut, before he flew to Buenos Aires to cook a one-off dinner.
In the eighth part of this monthly series, El Baqueano’s Fernando Rivarola, the mastermind behind the culinary project that has seen D.O.M.’s Alex Atala and Epicee’s Alberto Landgraf fly in from Sao Paulo to date, invited Central’s Virgilio Martínez to co-pilot a four-course tasting menu, accompanied of course by the latter’s sous chef and wife Pía León.
Given that both restaurants – El Baqueano in Buenos Aires and Central in Peru’s capital both ranked on the Latin America 50 Best list in September, while London’s Lima where Virgilio is executive chef took home a Michelin star that same month – this eating experience had “unmissable gastronomic extravaganza” written all over it.
By bringing together these two chefs, whose respective specialties are alternative indigenous meats (think llama carpaccio and yacaré alligator gyoza) and native Peruvian ingredients that become the highlight of haute cuisine, Fernando and Virgilio created a tasting menu that would reflect their strengths and their countries’ native ingredients.
While north-western Argentina holds a fairly strong hand in the humble spud, Peru has it in spades with 3,800 varieties. So in a tribute to both nations, Fernando’s Declinación de papas andinas aperitif showed off several techniques including paper, chipped, flaked and creamed potato; a mouth-watering interpretation in textures.
One of the Virgilio highlights, meanwhile, was a remarkable gastronomic tribute to Jackson Pollock; paiche Amazonian river fish atop a tumbo banana passion fruit salsa, splattered with vibrant pink juice from airampo cactus seeds, a true work of art.
Onto the mains, and ribboned palm shoots (chonta), Patagonian algae and crudo de res perfectly represented Central in Peruvian flavors and textures, while a grilled rhea (ñandú) steak, elaborately encased then released from a smoking bowl, was the ideal statement from El Baqueano.
Although this particular dinner with Virgilio was a one-off experience, Fernando is set to continue with the intimate sequence for 40. In 2014, Proyecto Cocina sin Fronteras will also host, besides various Argentine chefs such as Darío Gualtieri from BA’s Casa Umare, Rodolfo Guzmán from Chile’s Boragó; Gerard Bellver from México’s Biko; and the godfather of Latin American cuisine himself, Gastón Acurio from Peru’s Astrid y Gastón.
Currently studying to be a sommelier in Buenos Aires, British journalist and editor Sorrel Moseley-Williams squeezes in copy for Wallpaper*, Departures, The Independent, The Real Argentina, Time Out and Fodor's between tastings. She also writes two weekly columns for the Buenos Aires Herald – Wining On and The Expat. www.sorrelmw.com.