Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Viajante - Have Blind Faith

Amaranth with sorrel
When deciding on restaurants to dine at in London, I chose Viajante Restaurant on a whim after reading a review in the Edmonton Journal about a restaurant that does blind tastings. Unlike many other restaurants in London, Viajante doesn’t provide you with the menu prior to the meal, the only decisions you get to make are how many courses you want and if you want the wine pairings. The servers say it takes the stress out of eating, allowing the chef to take you on a relaxing, culinary journey. They do of course make accommodations for food allergies and any food you are really adverse to, otherwise, they hope that you will eat whatever they put in front of you, as it was meant to be served. The dining room is divided into two areas, the one we were in which was more secluded with a fireplace without a fire, and the other right by the open kitchen. That evening we chose the 6-course meal and I opted to have it with the wine pairings. In reality, it wound up being more than 6 courses once you add in all the amuse bouches.
Gordal olive soup 
We started with Thai Explosion III, which consisted of chicken with five spice, coconut tuile, and crispy chicken skin. A beautifully crafted one bite of soft, sweet, and smooth chicken contrasted perfectly by a crispy tuile, a great way to start a meal and a hint of what was to come.

A second amuse bouche arrived, this time amaranth with sorrel, topped with popcorn dust. The amaranth is a grain, reminiscent of popcorn, extremely crunchy and slightly sweet. A third amuse bouche appeared, cep with spruce bark, which was a play on textures. The cep mushroom was moist and juicy, accompanied by toasted flour which was grainy from having it’s moisture removed, it had no discernable flavor and turned into an undesirable gooey clump in your mouth once it came into contact with saliva. This was my least favorite dish of the evening.
Celeriac and burrata

We continued with more appetizers, a gordal olive soup complete with duck egg white. There was a strong olive flavor but the egg white mellowed out the strong flavor and brought balance to the dish. Next was a potato with yeast dish. A mildly salty potato sat atop a yeast puree and was accompanied by a lightly salty pancetta. The potato was almost paper thin and melted in my mouth, while the yeast taste lingered long after, yet all the components seemed to work together in a cohesive manner. 

Next they brought a variety of breads including a potato bacon bread which was easily my favorite with salty chunks of bacon baked into it, adding pops of flavor and texture. The bread itself was light and airy, and the accompanying butter with pancetta added an additional layer of flavor to what would normally be a very boring part of the meal.

Charred presa with tomatoes and adobo
Next up was the entrees, first a cured mackerel with blackberries and coffee crumbs with sorrel and horseradish puree. The mackerel itself was very soft and came apart easily with a fork. Topped with crunchy and slightly bitter coffee crumbs, the bitterness was off set by the slight heat of the horseradish puree and the accompanying slightly sweeter white wine, Domain Causse Marines Zacmau, 2010, Gailac.

Soon after we were served brown crab, which had an interesting gelee on it. There was unfortunately very little crab, and what little was there was a bit dry. There was also very little broth to accompany it so that it would perhaps have been more moist. This course was accompanied by a small glass of Paul Janin 'Vingnes des Jumeaux' 2009, Beaujalais-Villages.

Cucumber with reduced milk sorbet
The halibut with seaweed sofrito and seafood rice broth was a far cry from the last course as the fish melted in my mouth without chewing. The seaweed complimented the halibut well as it was soft and slightly salty, while the seafood rice broth was extremely light, allowing the halibut to be the star of the dish. This dish was paired with Filipa Pato 'Nossa Calcario' 211, Bairrada.

The celeriac and burrata course was a bit of an exercise in excess. They cooked a whole celeriac per table and served 2 spoonful per person tableside, although moolicious felt wasteful. The burrata cheese was made in house and was a very light cheese. The accompanying wine was Terruzi & Puthold 'Carmen Puthold' 2009, Toscana

Milk
We move onto the charred presa with tomatoes and adobo. Presa is a type of pork, and in this case, cooked medium rare. Served personally by the Sous Chef as the Chef doesn’t work on Sundays, the pork was very juicy and tender. The sauce was sweet and a glass of Domaine de l'Horizon 'L’Esprit de L’Horizon' 2010, Roussillon was the perfect companion.

We finally got to the desserts, yes plural. First the cucumber and reduced milk sorbet consisted of cured and smoked cucumber, reduced milk ice cream and sesame. The cucumber was extremely refreshing, the ice cream was very light and had a creamy and flavorful aftertaste. Next was a course with different textures of milk for dessert. Some were super stiff and crunchy, falling to pieces after the first bite and reminded me of astronaut ice cream in texture, a very dry product that dissolves instantly in your mouth. Other textures included milk that was creamy, some that resembled ice cream, while others resembled a thick pudding.  This was accompanied by a glass of F. Haag Brauneberger Juffer Sonneunuhr Rieseling Spatlese 2010, Masel, which turned out to be my favorite wine of the night. It was sweet, but not too sweet, the perfect pairing for dessert.

Petits Fours
Lastly we finished with petit fours, one frozen olive oil and vanilla that had a very strong olive oil taste and coated your mouth. The other was a chocolate and mushroom that had a very subtle mushroom taste and the chocolate balanced it out perfectly as it was not too sweet that it overpowered the mushroom.

We left satisfied and comfortably full, paying a very reasonable amount for a tasting menu at approximately 60 British Pounds per person, plus an additional 50 British Pounds for the wine pairings (The exchange rate was about 1.5 Canadian Dollars per British Pound, so overall, no more expensive than the most expensive restaurants in Edmonton). Viajante would be a challenge for picky eaters, but a delight for foodies. Although night all the dishes were winners, it certainly was interesting to see what a Chef comes up with when they have free reign. Definitely worth a visit if you are ever in London.

More photos at PhotoBucket!

Viajante Restaurant
Town Hall Hotel
Patriot Square
Bethnal Green
London, UK  E2 9NF
011 44 020 7871 0461
Twitter: @ViajanteE2

Viajante on Urbanspoon

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