by Luis A. Ponce
Appoint Magazine (April '07)
Last year, on November 30th, Basíliko took over what until then was Kudetá’s restaurant, in SOFO, Old San Juan. That same day, chef Emil Rivera, with 9 years in the culinary business under his belt, took control of the kitchen and started to offer his Mediterranean-inspired menu, “founded on tradition, but open to modern styles”.
He uses the latest techniques in haute cuisine, like incorporating natural proteins such as lectins in his dishes, working with nitrogen (dry ice) and a variety of emulsifications and foams. Don’t get thrown off by reading this. Expect a clear description of the dishes, a satisfied palate, and a relaxed and intimate atmosphere.
Begin with a not-so-common cocktail, the Basíliko Martini. This Stoli, Blue Curação, guava and pear juice concoction is as interesting as it is delicious. From the soup selection, we opted for the Cream of Cauliflower. The foam-topped cream has minced escargots, shrimp and lardons (French-style bacon) and proved to be a nice marriage of flavors with the Umani e Ronchi Sangiovese recommended by Darío Iovannone, the restaurant’ sommelier and manager.
If the cream hints the chef’s style, the Tartare de Poisson, encapsulates his creativity. The presentation was dazzling, and the components of the dish echoed the most fashionable tendencies in today’s modern cuisine: in this case, emulsifying liquids. The tartare laid on top a bed of mango, and surrounding this generous portion was a path of cantaloupe, mango and pomegranate “caviar”. Well, not real caviar, but an ingenious way of using fruit juice and lectin to create tiny pellets that actually resemble caviar. We liked to eat the tartare by placing a little of it on the rice crackers that accompanied the dish, and then adding some of the fruit caviar and hot sauce on top. The sommelier’s recommendation was the Babich Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, NZ (2005).
Next came the more traditional Rabbit Rilletes, a pâté-style dish. Crumbled goat cheese on top pan tostado perfectly accents the rabbit’s subtle yet gamy flavor. Other interesting options in the Mesa Fría section are the Milo Salad (field greens, sautéed beef tips, wild mushrooms, roasted soy nuts, Roquefort and mustard vinaigrette) and the Rock Shrimp Ceviche with an avocado mousse and corn tortillas.
It was time to try the Mesa Caliente, and the not-to-miss Arroz Negro. This is the emblematic dish of Basíliko: a squid-ink risotto with creamy and garlicky calamari and chorizo, a combination of ingredients that resembles, in flavor, a hearty paella. The modern touch in this dish was the savory chorizo foam that topped the risotto. The intense black color of the rice may intrigue you, but do dig in and enjoy it with the juicy and slightly dry Albariño Martín Codax (2005).
The Cinnamon Dusted Duck Breast was the only dish that represented the vast North African portion of the
What are a Mesa Fría and a Mesa Caliente without a Mesa Dulce? In Pompas, Fresas y Arenas, Chef Rivera uses strawberry-infused dry ice; the ice is in a shot glace into which a server pours cream. This bubbly eruption bathes the sugar crumble, graham crackers and oreo cookies “sands” that revolve around the dry ice. It is a good –and light– way to end your meal. Other Mesa Dulce items include a brie cheese crème brûlée and a chocolate truffle tart.
Be on the lookout for upcoming changes in Basíliko. The sharing concept that has dominated Basíliko since its inception is about to change for an individualized approach. However, you will still see favorite dishes like the Arroz Negro, the Cinnamon Dusted Duck and the eye-catching Boneless Kurobuta Pork Chop. Korubuta is one of, if not the world’s highest-prized pork, and as the name suggests, it is due to Japanese breeding techniques (in other words, it is the
Owner Hugo Cervantes told us that starting in April they will be open for lunch, that on Thursdays they will showcase live music and on Sundays Basíliko will be offering brunch. Chef Rivera also intends to slightly change the menu during the summer and autumn seasons. We’re especially excited for the summer, as he is proposing a refreshing menu to “handle the heat of the Caribbean” which includes fruits, salads and cold soups.
Basíliko is located at 314 Calle Fortaleza in Old San Juan. It opens daily for dinner at 6:00 PM. During weekends it stays open until 2:00 AM. Starting in April, they will open for lunch. Reservations are recommended if you intend to go on a Friday or Saturday (787) 724-5277.
sábado, 12 de mayo de 2007
Basíliko: The fine line between tradition and modernity