We had been looking forward to this event since we read about it on Instagram. A collaborative cooking event with two chefs is rare enough in Cuenca, but when it involves one of our favorite local restaurants and a chef from Quito we had not yet met, it was an event not to be missed.
The dinner was hosted this past November 3rd by Cuenca’s Dos Sucres restaurant and was a combined effort of chef Daniel Contreras from Dos Sucres and Noma-trained chef Alejandro Chamorro from Nuema restaurant in Quito. The meal consisted of nine courses (including an initial amuse bouche) which were paired with two types of beer and three types of wine (a white and two reds).
Our amuse, the first course if you will, consisted of three items. The first was a small crisp coated with dark, rich chocolate. It was barely big enough to be a bite, but was full of rich chocolate flavor. A good wake up call to the taste buds to get things started. The second bite was milder and was a small “bolon” of mashed potato surrounding a mild (pork?) filling and covered with grated egg yolk. Finally, we had an olive partially filled with foam. The multitude of flavors, olive, lemon, sweet grass and several others, played on the tongue as we tried to guess what all was in it. Really first rate.
A ceviche was the next course and was one of the stars of the evening. The fish had been rendered soft and silky from the acid “curing”. The acidity was well balanced by the fruit added. The dish was topped with mashua chips with a hint of kimchee seasoning, which gave it an added layer of piquancy and flavor. This dish was one of my favorites.
A little bit of pickled vegetable accented the mild flavor of the pork-filled bao, which was served cold. The steamed bun was satisfyingly chewy, giving the dish a textural quality that I enjoyed.
Albacore on mashed broccoli and topped with two spices, up next, was another one of the evening’s stars. The components were a bit meh when tasted individually, but created a harmonious whole when combined with the spices giving, for me, just the right amount of kick to the tuna.
Our next dish was barley with goat cheese that had been macerated with oil. This continued the pattern of alternating mild dishes with those containing more spice. The added oxalis leaves gave a mildly acidic, somewhat lemony accent. The visual appeal of the dish was enhanced by the green emulsion of nettle, which also imparted a slight onion flavor. The presentation was visually striking.
The next dish, pork colorado, hailed from Dos Sucres’ roots preparing traditional Ecuadoran food of very high quality. The rich, flavorful pork was paired with creamy whipped potatoes and a small, cheesy crisp that added the perfect final touch. This was another one of my favorites.
Shrimp is normally the star in shrimp dishes, but our next plate was a case of role reversal. The shrimp, prepared with two different shrimp shell reductions, took a back seat to the delicious pureed corn below it with the corn flavor being more pronounced. Topped with corn tassel.
Bridging the savory and sweet courses was itself a “paired” dish with a mild cheese beside a crunchy sweet element. The two components provided a suitable bridge from the main courses to dessert and gave an additional, textural contrast with one component being smooth and creamy and the other crunchy.
Finally, dessert was banana ice cream (intensely banana) in a light cream sauce with crispy pastry shells containing a mix of cream and sugar and topped with martiños, or Andean blueberries. The sugar and cream really brought out the flavor of the martiños. A very satisfying conclusion to the meal.
The collaborative dinner was a success and seemed to be well attended. We both enjoyed ourselves and the food and I very much hope that Cuenca will see more events like this.