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CALLAO POP-UP
chez Bistro Nolah

Last night, January 20th 2015, I was taken on a Peruvian adventure in the heart of the West Island of Montreal. Local restaurant Bistro Nolah (run by Chef Richard Taitt, Chef Isabelle Plourde and Chef Chris Eamer), which serves up southern comfort food in D.D.O., invited Chef Mario Navarrete Jr. and his team from CALLAO (on Laurier west) to cook up a Peruvian feast in their New Orleans kitchen. The event: Callao POP-UP at Nolah. Today, I share with you my experience.

If you only have a few minutes to read this post, allow me to describe my experience in one word: WOWZA. Now before you take off and lose yourself in the wonders of the Internet, take a look at the pictures below and simply imagine the explosion of flavours, the delightful textures and the artistic stimulation you would have experience last night, had you been there with me.
It was PHENOMENAL.

Now, if you’re sticking around for the good stuff, let’s get right into it!

On the menu:
1. Ceviche
2. Papa Rellena
3. Octopus
4. Escabeche
5. Ribs
6. Dulche de Leche

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So the first thing I started with, was a classic Peruvian Cocktail called the “Pisco Sour” or simply put “Peruvian Cocktail” (hehe). It’s made with Pisco (which is a Peruvian brandy), lime, sugar AND the interesting one… egg whites. YEAH! that’s what you see in the picture below. The egg whites were also topped with cinnamon. One sip of this cocktail and you’d think you were on the beach somewhere, enjoying a liquid dessert. Until you’re snapped back to reality and remember it’s -20 outside. Regardless…just the perfect amount of sweetness, which was balanced out nicely by the lime and fluffy texture of the whites. MIAM!

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Next, the surprise amuse-bouche: fish broth. Though all you non-fish-lovers out there may cringe, fish-lover over here loved it. But I’m glad it was a tiny espresso cup, just a small sip, because though it was delicious, it had somewhat of an overpowering aroma, even for a fish lover.

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Now the first course: Fluke (type of fish) ceviche served with lime, salt, onion, sweet potato puree and bites of crunchy roasted corn. The fish was so tender and the sweet potato was a genius pairing with the lime fluke, though I wish there had been more of it as the lime overpowered the dish a little too much for my palate. The roasted corn was an interesting touch and provided depth of texture to the dish.

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Second course: Papa Rellena. Since I’ve never had a Papa Rellena before, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this dish. The description stated that it was a stuffed potato, hanger steak, salsa criolla and avocado. Little did I know, it would be potato dough, stuffed WITH hanger steak and creamy potato mash…and then…fried. Holy cow. I loved it. I also loved the avocado sauce that was beautifully splattered across the plate, one of Chef Navarette’s staple plating techniques. Sweet, creamy, crunchy, salty, so many flavours and textures in just a couple bites. Oh and it was also accompanied by a few cute dollops of Peruvian aïoli, which I was informed is cheese based, unlike the traditional French kind. Cool!

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Número tres: Octopus served with black bean puree, solid olive oil, beef emulsion and panca. Wait… what?? SOLID olive oil!? Have you ever heard of that? I hadn’t! This was for me, the most interesting culinary discover of the night, simply because I found the concept AND texture so spectacular. It literally melts in your mouth, like cotton candy. As for the octopus, I’m a HUGE fan of octopus, and having had my fair share of… octopi (?)…I know that it takes talent to properly prepare the beast without it being too chewy, overcooked, undercooked, under-seasoned, over-seasoned… sigh. This one was perfect, period.

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Next was the Tuna Escabeche, served with Peruvian peppers, green beans and pralined almonds. I’m a huge fan of sweet and salty mixtures, so when the surprise pralined almonds hit my palate, I was delighted.

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the fifth course was the Ribs with purple corn, black trumpets and a potato ball (unclear of the proper culinary term for that one hehe). Since I am not a big fan of meat anymore (I don’t know, since sushi was introduced to my life years ago, my carnivorism has been slightly altered…and I say slightly because I still love chicken wings and pork ribs), this was my least favourite dish. That being said, I can still attest to how tender and full of flavours and aroma these ribs were. I barely needed to use my knife to cut through it, it was that fall-off-the-“bone” (which it had clearly already done, since there was no bone on my plate lol). A true carnivore’s dream.

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Finally, the pièce de résistance, the cream of the crop, the cherry on top, the highlight of my evening: the Dulche de Leche mousse. I’m sorry, but I now need to use caplocks for a bit, not because I’m shouting at you, but because I was JUST SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS DISH!!!! IT BLEW ME AWAY! IT MADE ME HAPPY, IT MADE ME WANT TO LICK THE BOWL (but I didn’t do that, don’t worry, I do know how to behave in public…somewhat). I love Dulche de Leche to begin with, I mean, don’t get me started on the Dulche de Leche Häagen Daz ice cream (if I could eat that daily without repercussion to my health…I would). This mousse was perfectly creamy, the roasted quinoa was an original touch, the few bites of meringue were exciting and the hint of refreshment from the few petals were appreciated. I beg you to try this dessert. Even if it’s just so we can chat about it together and reminisce about how it made us feel.

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Last night’s meal was spectacular. If you were lucky enough to experience it too, I’m so, so, SO, happy for you. If not, please don’t wait until the next event… GO to CALLAO, GO to Bistro Nolah, both of these restaurants are run by truly amazing and talented Chefs. You can see some of Bistro Nolah’s delicious creations on our site and on our Instagram feed (@inmanybites), as well as on theirs! So don’t wait any longer!

Oh and when you do go, let us know what you think and share your photos with us on Instagram and/or Facebook, #inmanybites.

Taking you Around the World in Many (delicious) Bites,
Your Trusted Foodies