I’ve met some pretty awesome and talented people in BsAs thus far – among them, chefs, my favorite breed of people. In a city that can’t exactly brag about its culinary diversity, a small core community of creative, out-of-the-box-thinking food-makers are united in their shared mission to bring some flavor and complexity onto the Buenos Aires food scene. Some of them pop-up weekly as guest chefs at restaurants, reminding their unfortunately still mostly non-local clientele that spice does exist in this world. Some of them boldly open up shop, even letting customers and fans into their own homes, despite being surrounded by a declining economy and the general lack of willingness to try something new. And then there are caterers who, like guerrilla soldiers, sneak up at Argie dinner parties and other weekly celebrations (people sure do enjoy their celebrations in this town) and drop bombs of flavor and creativity in finger-food form. Like a mom tricking her disgruntled, stubborn kid into eating his veggies by getting them crinkle-cut, caterers pack hidden chiles, curry and fish a la raw into bite-sized, jewelry-like party snacks, and subtly push them to try things that are delicious and unique.
The other night I got to try some things off the menu of Banquet Bespoke Event Catering, a business run by a young Venezuelan fellow named Victor Duran Khon with a highly diverse gastro-perspective. Inspired by his travels around the globe and having received formal culinary training at Mariano Moreno after a brief venture into medicine (:-/), Victor has crafted a highly versatile catering menu which combines classical favorites like savory tartlets and mini-cheesecakes with a few very creative, unique items of his own. While he may not always act as the tricky culinary guerrilla I described above (he negotiates menu items thoroughly with his clients and makes sure to personalize them to their various palates), none of his creations are boring nor without some surprise. These are the pieces I tried.
Bite-sized, savory tartlets consisting of a creamy, slimy leek or chunky, slightly peppery mushroom mixture stuffed inside a deliciously flaky and buttery, quiche-like pie crust. Pretty, easy to eat and simple.
Up next came these – fluffy, eggy yorkshire pudding bowls filled with still-pink slices of juicy roast beef and topped off with slick caramelized onions. Texturally interesting and delicious, I would not let a tray of these pass me by without grabbing one…or two…or a handful.
This one truly showcased Victor’s talent with presentation (something I noticed at the very beginning of this tour through his menu). Panko tempura-ed prawns pinned on bamboo skewer sails, hovering high above a pineapple boat filled with warm pineapple risotto. The prawns were delightfully crispy on the outside (the Panko crumbs fried until a perfect golden brown with no excess grease) but super moist and almost creamy on the inside (but still maintaining a crunch and thus not overcooked). The risotto down below was gooey and soft and my initial aversion to the pineapple (I usually don’t like pineapple on savory things, e.g.: Hawaiian pizza) was quickly scrubbed away by the freshness and tang which the fruit added to the warm rice.
Yet another adorable and decorative bite-sized creation – little flower-shaped pockets of ravioli dough filled with a ham-and-cheese or creamy leek mixture. Kind of like taking a ravioli and opening it up to allow one to see what’s inside. This dish of minis was very visually appealing, with the crinkle-cut edges of the pasta casting a dramatic shadow across the plate and the glossy glow of each numnum ushering me to pop one in my mouth. I liked the idea of these and can imagine they are usually fantastic but this time the ratio of pasta to filling was a bit too high, making them a tad too dry for me.
Oh gosh, these were definitely a treat! Tender, perfectly cooked prawns slightly tempura-d and coated with a fantastic home-made chili mayonnaise. The sauce was creamy and spicy and complex and I very much appreciated the level of crunch added to the shrimp by the thin tempura (instead of leaving it just plain soft and tender by peeling it or a bit too hard to bite through by not peeling it). I would be parked out unsocially next to this bowl all night long if they were ever at the same party as I.
A little something brought back from a visit to Peru – no not a tapeworm, something way more delicious. A cebiche recipe – a bit of lenguado (still don’t know what that translates to – whitefish?) “cooked” in the citussy acid (well I mean if denaturing protein not necessarily with heat is your definition of “cooking”), mixed in with a bit of red onion, Peruvian aji (or some other chili?) and cilantro, left to chill in its tart juice (tiger milk) and topped off with a few corn kernels. I liked this dish, although I think the fish was left to marinate in the lime juice too long because the flesh was a bit too soft for me, lacking a firm bite which a cebiche-d fish should still maintain. I’m also into the idea of having the cebiche-side corn kernels toasted to add a contrast in flavor (smokey charred vs tart and fresh) and temperature (hot vs cool cebiche) but it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing to leave them like this either.
This was by far my favorite and seemed to be Victor’s own brainchild, no doubt inspired by his experience working the hot foods section of Irifune Restaurant Japones. Panko-seared slabs or fresh salmon topped with spring-onion cream cheese and a bit of vibrant green chive for color. I love salmon when its like this – almost in the nude, showing a whole lot of flesh popping out of a vert thin garment of char. In this case, around 95% of the thing was cool and raw, sliding around my tongue as if still alive, eventually falling apart at the grain into tender pieces almost unnecessary to chew. The thin outside layer, was seared brown but only briefly, for color and warmth. The Panko coating added a sensational crunch which contrasted the slippery freshness of the fish inside. The cream cheese on top was a clever shout-out to Philly Roll way too popular in this country and the spring onion/chive lifted up the heaviness of the cream cheese so that it didn’t way down the fish. If a tray of THESE passed by me, I’d run after it to get a whole sleeve of them.
The journey came to a dramatic end with these bad boyz – heavenly home-made mini-cheesecakes. “Mini” meaning “personal” meaning you don’t have to feel bad after eating the entire thing which is an afterthought I have associated with far too many cheesecakes in my life. Deliciously smooth, cool body of sweet yolky-cheesy goodness, held together in body by stiff marscapone. Freshly whipped cream with a few tart raspberries on top, bleeding bright red juice down the side. Creativity points for the deliciously buttery Frutigran crust (no Honey Maid in BsAs).
So don’t be weird…for your next party, definitely consider Banquet Bespoke Catering. Victor will not let you down.