My second week in Caracas had more pork than anyone can handle, and it was all very, very good. Many changes have occurred in Venezuela over that last 12 years, most of them unfortunately for the worse, and one of them was the change in the country’s name, to Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (BROV). Fortunately, most of the restaurants that were in place before the current regime remain solidly good, and new additions are not bad either. Considering the difficulty of finding sometimes basic ingredients such as cooking oil and milk at times, restaurants down there are indeed performing a Herculian task by maintaining quality.
The first pork dish I had was by recommendation from a friend and it was the “cochinillo” or suckling pig at Antigua. Antigua is a nicely decorated restaurant in the popular neighborhood of Las Mercedes, and it is owned by the same group that owns Mokambo (where I had brunch last week). The piece was very tender and juicy, and had a crunchy skin bit to go with it. It’s own jus was perfectly seasoned and had a sweet peppery flavor that paired it of magnificently.
My second pork dish of the week came from the hands of Astrid & Gaston, the by now popular chain of Peruvian restaurants from the Godfather of peruvian cuisine, Gaston Acurio. Caracas is lucky to have one of the 8 that exist, and although of course the first courses were all ceviches and tiraditos that night, I couldn’t pass on the suckling pig offering from the mains. This one had less meat that the one from Antigua but more crispy skin, which made it even better. There were also a few mini chops along with the main piece, but they didn’t carry much meat. A few pumpkin raviolis made for a great combination. I had added a cross cut picture so you can see the amazing texture of the piece. Delicious.
The third pork dish and perhaps my favorite was at the best italian in town, Montanara. I have tweeted already that these guys are opening a branch in Miami, specifically in Aventura, and I do pray that they do everything exactly as in Caracas because boy these people can cook. The “lechon” piece I got was crispy, juicy, tender, moist and flavorful all at the same time. Gordon Ramsay says that sprinkled parsley on a dish is a terrible sign, but with these guys I would let them sprinkle as much parsley as they wish. I do hope they add this dish to the Miami menu because it will blow you away. It comes with a few slices of grilled polenta.
Finally, we paid a visit to who I believe is the Michelle Bernstein of Caracas, Helena Ibarra. She took over the kitchen of the Altamira Suites hotel several years ago under the name Palm’s, where she offers her much lauded Venezuelan dishes with french tecqnique. Here you will find classics such as Tequeños, Empanadas and Asado Negro done her way, a Grouper dish with “Carupanero” chorizo, a chicken breast smeared with cane sugar tea, to name a few. To carry on with the pork tradition I went with the “Cerdo y Reposo del Guerrero” dish, which consisted of a few pork loin cubed wrapped in banana leaf, two succulent caramelized ribs and a few delicate, crispy, thin slices of bacon sitting on top of a potato puree. It was pork heaven.
That’s it for this week and I am back in Miami now, so let’s see what I have been missing and what Great New things I end up eating this week. A few Miami Spices are in order I believe?