Being a food blogger for over 2 years, I never expect that I would be a part of a food blogging community where I receive numerous invitations to foodie events. Last Tuesday, I received an invitation for a private cooking class from the chef himself, Mario Navarette Jr. who EnRoute magazine voted him as one of the top 10 new Canadian Chefs in November 2005. The cooking class occurs at his restaurant Raza where he offers a gastronomic experience in which he blends his Peruvian roots into Quebec products in a modern interpretation. Modern also means that a bit of molecular gastronomy is involved with fancy machines such as an anti-griddle, sous-vide and smoking guns. The evening was full of amazement. All the dishes were a work of art: simple, colourful and each ingredient is carefully placed with a tweezer onto the plate. I can tell you that I have an amazing experience and learn a lot about Nuevo Latino cuisine.
This evening was a 6-course meal with wine pairing. The meal started with a cream of mushroom soup, not any mushroom soup. The soup is made first in a pot, then poured into a carafe and applewood smoke is added with a smoking gun. The idea of this soup is to bring the smoke to your table. A plate of mushrooms is placed in front of me, and the waitress poured the liquid into the bowl. The smoky flavours give an interesting taste to the soup. Here are some quick clips:
The second dish is a take of the Peruvian classic ceviche. Ceviche is basically fresh fish cooked in lemon or lime juice, no heat required. This ceviche was fluke fish cooked in lime juice, with garlic, jalapeno and serrano chlorophyll, served on a bed of sweet potato purée with a few drops of squid ink.
The next dish is a modern interpretation of a Peruvian classic: Papas à la Huancaína. My Peruvian friend Jorge made this dish two years ago, click here for the recipe. Chef Navarette called his modern version: The Garden. A rich, creamy and spicy huancaína sauce is covered inside a pile of mashed potatoes, sprinkled with lots of dried mushrooms and topped with baby carrots and asparagus.
The last savory dish was shrimp poached with butter in a sous-vide machine cooked at a temperature for about 45 mins. This was served with blue potatoes, pickled onions and radishes.
Now, onto the dessert... The first was a Jamaican flower jello topped with spinach, kiwi and avocado (green) caps and mango (yellow) caps. These caps are made on a anti-griddle which freezes the surface of liquid instantly.
Finally, the last dessert was a tres leches cake made with condensed, evaporated and coconut milk. This pound cake is cooked in a microwave for 30 seconds from its batter form. This is served with a sugar cane ice cream and Nutella reduced in a powder from the tapioca maltodextrin. This powdered Nutella simply melt in your mouth. This is a great dessert to end the evening.
I have to admit that this is the first time that I have been to his restaurant and enjoy my first dining experience at Raza in the company of other MTL food bloggers. I also went to his other restaurant last Sunday for brunch with 5 co-workers at Madre and I can tell you that the brunch (only available on Sunday) was well worth the money and the portions were very generous.