17 February 2013


Viajante is now closed.

Viajante is the restaurant of Nuno Mendes, a Portuguese chef with an impressive CV, having worked at some of the best restaurants around the world and previously providing Hoxton with Bacchus and a supper club based out his apartment. The dining room is quite small, seating I guess about 30 or so diners. The front of the room is the kitchen and plating area, with Nuno Mendes and a host of chefs quietly preparing the food. Lunch is a choice of 3 or 6 courses, or like us, you can arrange 9 courses when booking in advance. The menu involved choosing the number of courses and from then on it would be a surprise  Dietary requirements are catered for without fuss, and a vegetarian meal was prepared for my wife and an 'anything goes' selection for myself. Whilst briefly waiting in the bar for the staff briefing to finish, we ordered some non-alcoholic cocktails, and these arrived at the table shortly after we sat down. I had a rather delicious marmalade, apple and honey concoction, my wife something pink involving hibiscus, including a beautiful hibiscus flower held in place with the straw. We decided on a few glasses of wine and left it to the sommelier to bring out something for us during the amuse bouches.

The first of many amuse bouches was Thai Explosion III, for me a crispy base, chicken mousse and quails egg topped with chicken skin. Redolent with Thai flavours, this was a fantastic start, especially the use of chicken skin, for they had captured the taste of the perfect moment of chicken skin; stolen whilst carving the roast and no one is watching.  My wife's was very similar, except chicken mousse replaced with cauliflower and the crispy bit doubled up. Following this was an unusual dish, Amaranth, a grain from South America, topped with sweet popcorn and on a base of sorrel puree. This was a sweet crunchy bite, and much like a posh crispy bar, well matched with the earthy sorrel. Next up, an incredible smelling and tasting, almost raw  Palamos prawn in oil for me, and smoky enoki mushrooms for my wife. After this Gordal Olive Soup, an intense olive puree matched with a pile of garlic with something I couldn't identify providing a sweet note and crunchy texture. This was a delicious few spoonfuls we both enjoyed, the taste of olives being perfectly captured. Next up was an unusual combination of potato and yeast. On a soft black bread, a puree of yeast was topped with potato and a potato crisp, and for me an additional sliver of lardo. This was a great combination of potato, paprika, melting fat and the hint of marmite from the yeast. Finally, the crowning glory of a winning combination of amuse bouches, the bread was presented.  We both had a baguette, and I had a bread with Iberico ham, and my wife a sourdough. A brown whipped butter was generously topped with Iberico ham and crispy chicken skin for me, and crushed sunflower seeds and for my wife, we also both had a butter topped with ash and nuts. The warm bread was of very high quality, some of the finest I've had, and the baguette with the whipped butter, chicken skin and ham was simply divine, a plate of sublime genius.

Our first glass of wine came during the amuse bouches, a Josmeyer Riesling "Le Kottabe" 2010, and a Domaine Weinbach "Close des Capucins" Sylvaner 2010, both from Alsace. We tried both, and I took the Domaine Weinbach, a fruity, fresh white.

Thai Explosion III.

Thai Explosion vegetarian.

Amaranth with Sorrel.

Palamos Prawn.

Enoki Mushrooms.

Gordal Olive Soup.

Potato with Yeast.

Bread and butter.

After an hour of amuse bouches and bread the first of our nine courses were bought to the table by Chef Mendes himself, he described the dishes; for my wife a gorgeous selection of daikon, radishes, herbs and flavoured with liquorice on to which a parsley sauce was poured. For me 2 scallops, sat in their own cooking juices, on to which he added frozen beach herbs from a pan. This was an interesting dish, providing a new sensation as the herbs were incredibly cold, I suspect they might have been frozen using nitrogen. These, in particular the samphire added a salty note to the scallop, with the juices providing a taste of the sea. 

Our next course was Brussels sprouts and rye, with a plump langoustine for me. Brussels sprouts are a much maligned vegetable, as they can be the stuff of nightmares when overcooked, but here, barely blanched and almost raw they were fantastic dish, especially paired with two fantastic creamy puree's. My wife in particular loved hers, being a huge fan of sprouts. For me, the langoustine was the star of the dish, perfectly cooked, its flavour matched the slight bitterness of the sprouts and creaminess of the puree's perfectly but by no means did my wife's dish lose out by not having the langoustine, the sprouts certainly shone in their own right and made her dish one of her favourites of the day.

Scallop with frozen beach herbs.

Daikon with liquorice and parsley.

Langoustine with Brussels sprouts and rye.

Brussels sprouts and rye.

I had a really fantastic dish next, a gorgeous plate of pike on a base of egg yolk, topped with pike caviar and sea bass roe. I haven't had pike since my childhood holidays in Brittany, and the meaty fish went beautifully with the sweet, somewhat salty caviar and roe. The flavours were quite subtle, pike isn't really like other freshwater fish normally found on menus, and its caviar were noticeably sweet and salty, the taste of the roe was there without overpowering, and these all went really well with the custardy egg yolk base. My wife's course was also equally delicious, a milk skin topped charred leeks in an leek ash emulsion. Milk skin is quite unusual, almost like a pasta, it has a bit of a bite to it, held the flavour of the leek emulsion very well. The leeks were particularly fine examples of their kind and this was a very well crafted dish. 

Next up was a bowl with a barely cooked almost raw belly of sea bass, crispy skinned yet with flesh soft as can be, flavoured with a light sauce with a subtle vanilla it was presented with a really exceptional piece of spring onion and strip of daikon. My wife had a very interesting dish of carrot, this was cooked with molasses, slightly charred yet still crunchy on the inside, it came with a carrot crisp. Whilst still savoury, this featured some sweet flavours highlighting the natural sweetness of carrot. It looked pretty as a picture too. 

We both then had a really good salsify dish. Poached in milk and butter, the salsify lay on a thick potato broth and came with a chanterelle mushroom, sesame seeds. spruce bark and a generous shaving of black truffle. All matched well to to make a really well tasting vegetable dish, the aromas of truffle, the sweetness of salsify, the nutty tang from the sesame all underlined by an intense, thick potato broth. Definitely an example of how very high quality dishes don't need meat or fish.
We also had another glass of wine, I had a particular aromatic Portuguese white, a blend of two grapes which alas I did not record the name of. 

Pike with roe and egg yolk.

Charred leek with milk skin and leek ash emulsion.

Sea bass with vanilla and daikon.

Carrot with molasses and buttermilk.

Salsify with spruce bark and black truffle.

My first meat course was somewhat unusual, a presa, the cut between the top of the shoulder and the beginning of the loin of iberico pork came with a pork jus, and some really unusually flavoured strips of fermented chesnut squash. On their own the fermented squash pieces were a really odd flavour, hard to describe and I wasn't even sure if I liked them at first, but when a few slivers were paired with pork it worked really well. The iberico presa was marvelous, intense in pork flavour, cooked almost rare it still showed the marbling iberico pork is famous for and it left me with a lasting impression of how good pork can be, and just how well it could taste. My wifes dish was similar, except the fermented squash were paired with some gorgeous hunks of roasted pumpkin. Again the fermented squash went with the pumpkin really well, and like me she found it too intense on it on its own. The bold and different ingredient made both dishes an unusual yet enjoyable experience.

The last main course was for me, one of the best of them all. Chef Mendes and another of the chefs brought the dish to table and explain and to spoon the sauce onto the plate. For my wife, jerusalem artichoke with picada and moss, the artichoke being cooked several ways, accompanied with an unusual earthy moss, the picada being a Catalan sauce made with nuts and garlic similar to a pesto.  For me, 2 pieces of iberico tail, cooked la plancha, Jerusalem artichoke, picada, and
if i remember rightly, a pork and chicken jus. The tail was basically, the finest, most flavourful, crispy and simply awesome pieces of pork crackling ever to grace a plate, an absolute delight and worked incredibly well with the jus, a gorgeous sweet piece of artichoke and the nutty picada. 

Iberico presa with fermented squash.

Pumpkin with fermented squash.

Iberico tail with Jerusalem artichoke.

Jerusalem artichoke with picada and moss.

Dessert was started with a highly unusual dish, Cucumber with reduced milk and lemon. This refreshing palate cleanser was a combination of sweet with some savoury elements, the granita and ice cream slightly sweet, the cucumber incredibly flavourful, some pieces plain and others smoked and intense, with an aromatic jelly adding another element. The next dessert was one of the most unusual I've had, a piece of black carrot, prepared so it was sweet and fruity yet barely a hint of carrot flavour provided a crunchy texture, this was accompanied with a vibrant purple toasted caraway ice cream. The flavours and textures worked really well, not too sweet, yet definitely not savoury, this was a work of genius and highly memorable dessert. Following this was Milk, a milk ice cream, some sort of dry frozen milk, a crispy milk wafer and powdered milk. This again worked really well, a light refreshing end to the meal, the flavours of milk well defined, with a hint of curd, yet nothing too sweet. The wafer and dry frozen almost meringue like pieces providing some unusual textures. 

Finally coffee came with petit fours, the first an incredible nitrogen frozen olive oil and lemon morsel, with a texture somewhat like toffee yet a really light olive oil and lemon flavour. The second was a white chocolate centred truffle flavoured with the highly unusual addition of porcini mushroom. The mushroom flavour was quite intense yet worked with white chocolate and the fact it worked was a really pleasant surprise. We were also presented with a menu showing what we had enjoyed over the previous four hours.

Cucumber, reduced milk and lemon.

Black carrot with toasted caraway ice cream.


White chocolate and porcini mushroom truffle.

Over the four hours we spent in Viajante we enjoyed an epic cornucopia of dishes providing a host of new experiences and flavours. I love the format of a surprise tasting menu, each course an unknown factor but arrive to your delight and eagerness to indulge in the gorgeous food presented. Nuno Mendes and his kitchen deliver each time without disappointment, each dish was innovative, unusual, technically perfect and fantastic in execution, you can see and taste the passion which drives the chef and his staff. It must be mentioned that my vegetarian wife was catered for just as well as myself, with all dishes having a vegetarian alternative or replacement that were equally innovative and exciting.

Service and surroundings were equally pleasing, my wife in particular enjoyed the music being played, someone obviously had similar tastes!

Viajante on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

No comments:

Post a Comment