Re-Opening and Tasting Session at the Culantro Peruvian Cookery
Culantro | Hamilton, Ontario
Culantro invited all food related media for a tasting menu last week. They offered two possible evenings: Wednesday or Friday. Urbanicity was represented on Wednesday by their regular food columnist.
Culantro is an authentic Peruvian restaurant. It was located on King William Street for about three years and moved recently to the new location on 537 Main Street East… No liquor license as of yet but is expected before the end of April, therefore the tasting did not include any wine.
Chef Juan Castillo came out to greet his guests one by one. He was very intense and understandably so. When I asked at what time did he start his prepping he replied before 7 AM… The time was about 7 PM when the question was put to him…!!Chef Juan worked for ten years in San Francisco in five restaurants in total. All of the places he laboured in were classic French or Italian. He comes from strong culinary roots, given his Peruvian background but also from his parents. His mother is still a working chef in Fresno, California and his late father taught him much about cooking and flavours.
Peru is truly renowned for its food culture and Lima is easily the culinary capital of South America.
After a very short wait time, we were given roasted corn as an “amuse bouche” almost, they looked like small golden nuggets.
Then began the tasting menu in earnest and here is the sequence with notes and pix:
- Ceviche of flounder: For those who are not familiar with the word “Ceviche” it is simply raw fish cured in citrus. In this case the Chef filleted a whole flounder and added ingredients in very small quantities achieving a wonderful balance between heat and citrus. Small pieces of yellow peppers and tiny celery bits show technique and know how.
- Shrimp Ceviche: this not your traditional shrimp ceviche, almost creamy sauce and a great balance of flavours.
- Causa de Pollo: “Causa” in Peruvian street language means close buddy hence this little dish made of chicken pieces “hugging” a mashed potato with hockey puck look.
- Another Shrimp Ceviche: this is the traditional one with a strong citrus flavour
- Salchi Pollo: deep fried chicken with fries and a pink aoli. Very tasty.
- Jaleo de pescado: fried whole red snapper with two filets of tilapia. Great presentation and taste.
- Pollo a Brasa: rotisserie chicken but with a twist. The chicken was seasoned with soya sauce among other things. It reminded me of my days in Hong Kong and Macau where similar seasonings would be applied to poultry and birds. The flavours once again are balanced and delicate.
- Finally desserts were served consisting of small size pastries called “Alfajores”.
The whole experience was an absolute pleasure as the dishes showed mastery of seasoning, balancing difficult and hard to marry favours but Chef Juan showed his talent and hard work by orchestrating a symphony for the palate.