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Latin Inspirations at FRANK

2009/09/29

Throughout the month of September, there has been a series of dinners and workshops involving Latin-inspired cuisine. Chef Pilar Cabrera visited Toronto from Oaxaca, Mexico to take part in several of these events. This past Monday, she prepared a six-course tasting menu at FRANK at the Art Gallery of Ontario. I was looking forward to this meal as it’s rare (virtually impossible?) to get true Mexican cuisine in this city. Furthermore, Rick Bayless’ comments toward Chef Cabrera were very complimentary as she has taught him many things about the food of Oaxaca over the years. Things like making mole. Like the mole I had at Topolobampo that I can still taste. A mole that you can read about here. I was really hoping for mole on this evening but it wasn’t to be. That said, the food was quite good for the most part, especially the last half of the meal.

Guacamole, scallop ceviche, salsa de mango

Guacamole, scallop ceviche, salsa de mango

Shortly after sitting down, a plate of amuse were set before us. The guacamole was excellent and I really enjoyed the textural contrast of the pomegranate seeds. The ceviche of scallop was good. The house-made chips were very tasty. I could have eaten an entire bowl of the guacamole!

Cocktail Botana

Cocktail Botana

A cocktail of mezcal and orange was served with the amuse. The glass was rimmed with chile and sal de gusano, a salt that includes dehydrated and ground larvae that grow in agave plants. The quantity of salt severely overwhelmed the cocktail. I had to wipe the salt off the rim and then finish the drink. Once the salt was removed it was much more enjoyable.

Brochetitas de Camaron con Aceite de Chile Pasilla

Brochetitas de Camaron con Aceite de Chile Pasilla

A grilled shrimp marinated in mezcal was served with grilled pineapple and peppers, served alongside a mango salsa. The shrimp was okay. It was cooked well but needed something to punch up the flavour. The mango salsa also included red onion, red and green peppers, jalapeno, cilantro, and lime juice. It was almost identical to a salsa I make at home to serve with grilled fish, scallops, etc.

Ensalata Oaxaca

Ensalata Oaxaca

The salad course consisted of mixed organic lettuces, green and purple tomatillos, Woolwich Dairy goat cheese, tortilla strips and slivers of chile pasilla with a tamarind dressing. I couldn’t find the purple tomatillos for the life of me. The best part was the slivers of chile pasilla as there was a slight chew to them. The dish was alright. Ultimately, it’s salad. I don’t know how vegetarians do it.

Crema de Elote

Crema de Elote

This was hands down the best course of the evening. A soup made from fresh Ontario corn with just a touch of butternut squash for texture was pureed and passed through a sieve before being thinned out to the desired consistency by a corn stock. Yes, corn stock! Chef Cabrera explained later in the evening when she passed by our table that the stock was made from the husks and cobs. Nose-to-tail on the vegetable front? No cream in the dish. The only dairy added was a few cubes of Oaxacan cheese to provide a textural contrast (think cheese curd) to the soup. A sprinkling of pomegranate seeds, sliced poblano chiles, and cilantro rounded out the dish. Absolutely fantastic! I would be pleased to eat this dish again and again.

Pechuga Rellena de Chile Poblano

Pechuga Rellena de Chile Poblano

The last savory course of the meal was a pan-seared chicken breast stuffed with mushrooms and poblano chiles served atop a tomatillo salsa. The chicken was well cooked and there was just enough filling to compliment it. The tomatillo salsa was good but it seemed just a little too stewed. It would have been nice for the salsa to be just a little more “fresh” in taste.

Flan de Vainilla

Flan de Vainilla

Dinner closed with a sublime vanilla flan served with blackberry and raspberry coulis’. The texture of the flan was phenomenal. Perfectly silky and set just enough. I was very happy with this dish.

While the meal wasn’t as mind-blowing as what I had at Topolobampo, it was still very good not to mention that the set menu was a steal at $50 (exclusive of drinks and all the other stuff that goes with dinner). The dining room at FRANK is pretty slick as well, so it will be interesting to see what results from the renovations that started yesterday. I expect that it will still be well designed considering the restaurant is located in an art gallery. I think I’ll have to check it out again at some point after they re-open.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Emma permalink
    2009/09/29 7:34 PM

    I like that you complain about vegetarians during the description of the salad course, but the fantastic corn soup was totally veggie.

  2. futronic permalink*
    2009/09/29 11:23 PM

    It was a shot more at vegetarians who eat salad meal after meal. Apparently they didn’t read Jeffrey Steingarten’s article entitled “Salad, The Silent Killer.” Moreover, most salads are boring and that corn soup was anything but. Adding bacon to the salad would have made it better, adding to the soup probably not.

  3. JimmyBean permalink
    2009/10/01 6:01 AM

    I don’t know If I said it already but …Great site…keep up the good work. 🙂 I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read..Jim Bean

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