Our second night in San Miguel took us to Aperi where Italian-Mexican Chef Matteo Salas serves up some of the best food in town. The small dining area is indoors in an almost homey living room setting with Modern Mexican décor and dark woods which is open to a beautiful garden full of trees and plants AND SMOKE. We learned that many dining spots allow smoking in the outdoor areas, which are often connected to the indoor ones. This can be a problem for those of us who like to enjoy our food without inhaling tons of nicotine. Luckily, it was not continuous.
An amuse arrived of Rice Chicharron with leek ash and avocado gel; this was a good clue that the food here was going to be different. The drinks here were novel as well and while Will went for a more traditional Grand Marnier Margarita with agave, tajin, polvo de chipotle, Tequila Reposado, Grand Marnier, lime and a chile jalapeno rojo rim, I opted for KALE: a mix of Mezcal, nectar de agave, lime, ginger and kale shrub pulverized with grated kale leaves and a salt rim. It tasted very much like jugo de verde, which I always drink for breakfast in Mexico and adore, but here with an alcoholic twist.
Will and I decided to split the Beet Salad to start which was brought to the table under a large glass dome full of smoke and was released in front of us with great dramatic flair (check out my FB page). The dish was composed of pickled and grilled beets, goat cheese, horseradish cream, balsamic & beet juice gel (this was really like a rich jello), pecans and baby spinach; Mexican salad making at its best. Samuel chose the Artichokes & Fennel which was a combination of both veggies grilled (although he chose to omit the smoked provolone cream) with breadcrumbs, Kalamata olives, fennel oil and lemon juice. While not a big fennel fan, these were the mildest versions I have ever tasted and the dish was indeed impressive.
Our wine arrived and somehow the bottle of Quinta Monasterio 2013, Sinfonio de Tintos from Valle de Guadelupe was ice cold; somebody had screwed up. We later learned it came from the cellar a bit warm, and the manager went to chill it quickly, but forgot it! OOPS! We really could not appreciate the wine for almost 20-30 minutes until it came back to room termperature.
We has tasted ESQUITE in Mexico City and it is a new favorite, so Will tried this version of Roasted Corn in corn broth with fresh chickpeas, fava beans, smoked Cotija cheese, lemon mayo and chile powder which was a new top choice for this dish!
I started with the baby Squid which was flash cooked in brown butter and lime and served with a gigantic charred Oyster Mushroom and confit of Leeks (spelled leaks on the menu!) as well as sea beans, which are a salty miniature bean that resembles seaweed. I loved the way the salt worked with the squid, which was cooked perfectly and so tender. I love calamari, but try to avoid the fried version; this was a great take and won my prize.
Since an Italian was in the kitchen, pastas were on the menu, and Sam could not resist the Tagliatelle with tomato, parmesan, olive oil, and basel, which was as simple as pasta can be and gone in a matter of seconds.
Will went for the Suckling Pig, cooked at low temperature which had soft juicy meat and an amazingly crunchy crispy skin with potato puree (spelled pure on the menu) as well as leaks (sp!) and lemon vinaigrette.
I loved my Seared Duck Breast with spices and a huge slab of seared foie gras, sweet potato pure (sp!), butternut squash, seasonal chutney and wine reduction with balsamic and spices. The sauce was very Mexican, but the preparation was the finest duck I had had in some time.
Desserts could not be resisted here and Will tried the Arroz Con Leche, a rice pudding with cajeta, the amazing goat's milk caramel that we have come to love (we brought a container home and it is best on churros!), caramelized rice chicarron, caramel popcorn, dehydrated yoghurt and goat yoghurt ice cream; need I say more.
I could not resist the Artisanal Cheeses as in Mexico the cheeses tend to be simple. These were all locally made in San Miguel, Jalisco and Michoacán regions and obviously catering to Chef Matteo and his tradition.
Alpenzeller was a stinky version of parmesan, crumbly and yummy
Goat Camembert was gooey and creamy and probably my favorite
Crottin was a traditional creamy goat
and Smoked Provolone was a treat as in Mexico hard cheeses are rare.
The next day we actually visited a cheese farm and I think the provolone may have come from here as it tasted similar. The cheeses were served with toasted Italian/French bread and such, but the big treat was the xoconostle (cactus) jelly; a true local take on our quince or guava, which I always do not care for.
We had the pleasure of meeting Chef Matteo after dinner and he announced that he is appearing on the soon to air Top Chef Mexico on Telemundo/NBC Universo. I have emailed their HQ asking if we can see it on USA cable, so if anyone out there hears about it, please let us know!!