PMY: The Best of Latin America in Copenhagen

What better possible way to spend two months off work than to reconnect with folks and hang out in places you never have the time to visit? That was the idea behind planning my trip to Copenhagen. Three friends flew in from their three adopted homes: a Hungarian from Jönköping in Sweden, an Argentine from the Priorat in Spain and whatever-the-hell-I-am-at-this-point from Budapest, by ways of Bordeaux. While there, we spent time catching up and taking selfies in a city, a new destination for 2 out of 3 of us. We also visited a talented chef friend names Karlos Ponte, whom 2 out of 3 of us had met back in 2014 during his pop-up in rural Priorat. Since then, Karlos and his mate Luis Moreno have risen to culinary fame in Copenhagen through their Venezuelan/Nouveau-Nordic fine dining restaurant Tallers near Kongens Nytorv.

A few years back, Karlos and Luis (both native Venezuelans) closed that down (from what I’ve heard, temporarily) and teamed up with Mexican chef Emilio Macías and Peruvian chef Diego Muñoz to create PMY in its place. The name is short for Papa (potato), Maiz (corn) and Yuca (yucca/cassava) – the three cardinal ingredients from the chefs’ native cuisines. The idea was to bring a taste of Latin American to Copenhagen, to be enjoyed in a casual, fun and very much un-stuffy atmosphere.

After a short wait, we took the 3 seats by the bar with a direct view into the kitchen, where Karlos was busy adding final touches to dish after colorful dish. The menu is delightfully short with much love and attention paid to just five main dishes. Try three of these or all five if you’re hungry, or pick and choose from among them a la carte. To drink, there are “funky” wines and more classic ones, mostly from Argentina and Chile but with lots of whites from Germany and some random regions mixed in. I imagine these rotate with the menu. There are also three house cocktails, one each from Peru, Mexico and Venezuela. We started with a round of pisco sours made with 100% Quebranta grape pisco. The gorgeous egg white foam came drizzled with some kind of bright red bitters or syrup.

Then came these gorgeous arepas, deep-friend to golden-brown perfection. They were smooth and flaky on the exterior, with the grainy corn mash forming a moist, dense interior. This would be the second time I would eat Karlos’s arepas. The first time was around 2 in the morning in the very rustic kitchen of our masia, somewhere between the villages of Cornudella de Montsant and Poboleda. This version was served with a fermented chili sauce, with deep umami flavors and a kind of nostril-clearing dry heat that went nicely with the arepa’s blank, steaming canvas.

I was crazy about the warm potato bread, which was served with a side of cool sour cream. The bread resembled a kind of pop-over, and was hauntingly buttery, soft and rich on the inside, while a nice golden crust graced the exterior. More of a cake than a bread, really, I couldn’t help eating the entire thing, despite the large meal that I already knew was coming. Spreading that sour cream generously on each bite and watching it drip down my hands as it melted against the heat of the dough… a sensual experience.

The first course was the Peruvian “Tiradito Tusan” of thinly sliced cod fish “cooked” ceviche-style in a lime juice and Ají Limo chili marinade, which was then left in the bowl as a delicious juice to hydrate the dish throughout (and used to dunk the aforementioned potato bread into). The fish was topped with a mound of thinly sliced daikon radish with just enough bounce to offset the tenderness of the fish. Roasted peanuts came crumbled over the surface, adding the necessary crunch to the dish.

Next was something super special, the “Caribbean mojo.” Ruling over the dish in terms of flavor was a very serious Venezuelan sofrito, which seems kind of like the mirepoix of Latin American cuisines. Very deep and layered in flavor, this bright orange stew is made from a basis of patiently sautéed vegetables and maybe spiked with some kind of sweet pepper too. The sofrito was rubbed all over the tender, slimy chunks of okra and cherry tomatoes, as well as puffed up, crunchy hominy, “nixtamalization” not in ash, as was once traditional, but in some sort of calque mixture. Over the top were a few layers of crunchy, thinly sliced and marinated layers of celery root. A great combination of textures here with the sauce binding everything together.

A Mexican tostada came next. A very thin and brittle corn tortilla was deep-fried until crispy and smeared with a green mole of guajillo chili and seeds. The heat of this paste, which had a grainy texture similar to a kind of nut butter, was offset by a cool dash of liquid sour cream and chunks of pumpkin gracing the surface. The pumpkin was wonderful, resembling a juicy, ripe cantaloupe in its consistency, but still keeping that natural root-sweetness of the seasonal squash. Toasted pumpkin seeds rounded out the experience, adding a crunch and serving as a kind of natural link between the chili-nut spread and pumpkin. A sprig of cilantro for decoration and soapy freshness.

The meat dish at the end was pork neck braised to perfection, the kind of juicy, jiggly, fall-apart fork-tender that I believe only braised meat can achieve. It was covered in a thick and satisfying sauce of its own cooking liquid and maybe some wine, topped with some diced shallots. On the side was a pile of fried cassava root pieces, with this kind of sandy, crunchy texture on the golden exterior, while smooth and starchy and steaming on the inside. It was topped with a sweet and sour chutney of bell pepper, which had its own great little personality, but didn’t really vibe with the sauce on the pork, which continued to steal the show on the plate. Each part separately was fantastic; I just wish there had been more cohesion between the meat and cassava sides of the dish.

And finally, the PMY dessert, made with ingredients from each of the three featured cuisines. At the base, a canelle of Mexican lime and ancho chili ice cream. Coating that was a gorgeous, fluffy cream flavored with Venezuelan rum and caramel made from unrefined cane sugar (panela). And over the top, crispy grains of amaranth from Peru, slightly toasted to bring a charred, nutty flavor to the dish, along with excellent textural contrast. Having recently grown quite intolerant of sweets, for whatever reason, this is the kind of dessert I still very much appreciate. Sharp, exciting and frosty chili + lime, soothed by a nutty, savory rum and caramel cream, topped with a smoky, earthy touch and crunch. Clever and perfectly executed.

We also ended up trying quite a few wines at PMY, including a tiny-production natural 100% Vespaiola called 121 B.C. (Time Flows) from volcanic soils in Bassano del Grappa, north of Veneto, and the Chateau de Fesles La Chappelle Chenin from Anjou, perfectly paired with the Mexican tostada. These two were my favorites. We also tasted some Malbecs: a Finca Sophenia and biodynamic Esperando a los Barbaros from the Michelini brothers.

A cool, dynamic experience in a lively spot where an Argentine, a Hungarian and a Hungaro-American got to enjoy Venezuelan, Peruvian and Mexican food in the heart of the Danish capital.

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