Thursday, May 2, 2013
Introducing Javier's Nuevo Latino Cuisine
Let's set the scene shall we....The night was November 12, 2012 at Yono's. Dominick Purnomo had assembled a star studded cast of chefs, guest sommeliers and maitre d' Javier Rodriguez for a benefit for those in NYC affected by Superstorm Sandy. The first time I noticed Javier was just about 3rd course when as he was zipping through the dining room, he saw out of the corner of his eye that I hadn't been served, and did a 180 with the speed of Balanchine ballerina. Now in all fairness to the staff, I did have a special and no one dropped the ball, mine just hadn't arrived yet. But I thought to myself how remarkable it was that he noticed...huh...who was this guy in a full-on tux, that knew proper service. I was curious, I may have even raised an eyebrow. I wouldn't be left to wonder long though because shortly after that he was on the microphone talking about his experience with Sandy. Now that was November and this is May; the one thing I distinctly remember him saying was how good it felt to put his tux back on, after all the weeks they had been closed. Javier talked with a love of the business, of his restaurant and his craft.....there is a reason this guy is Maitre d' of the Year, his passion for hospitality is unparalleled.
That night Javier and I got to talking, and he told me that he was thinking about opening a restaurant locally. It sounded like a fantastic idea to me, but where would it be, who would be the chef. Well I guess we were all supposed to meet that night. I was surprised to see Brian Bowden who had just left Creo, at the dinner as Chef sightings at events are pretty rare, though not unheard of. The match was made though, Javier had his Chef.
Fast forward to April...I had seen the renovation in progress, had attended a few small private events, had watched it evolve; it was evident that each element was thought about, selected with care and was finally ready to be revealed. I think what's remarkable in the transformation is that the restaurant is now infused with Javier's style, warmth of personality and understated elegance. The energy has changed as much as the decor; it is welcoming yet sophisticated, and the formality is not an overdone pretense...it's simply a natural way of being.
Chef Brian Bowden could not have been a better pick. Chef Brian is all about quality, he is a all about super fresh..and yes I'm going to make some sweeping assumptions...but it seems to me like he's about pushing the envelope, not for the sake of being cutting edge but for the love of the craft. Chef Brian was foraging before it was a buzz word and using ingredients that no one except a select few were using in this area. He's a pretty stellar guy in his own right too. So you know I was beyond excited to see what this pair would create. Then add the research trips to NYC, Maimi and Costa Rica into the mix and well did they ever deliver.
I had been waiting for the ceviche, knew it was going to be on the menu. I love ceviche but I'm spoiled because I grew up eating it in the Caribbean, which has it's own distinct style similar to Costa Rican. Chef Brian's was spot on, exactly the memory I had on my palate. It was fresh & vibrant, bright clear flavors of lime, cilantro and cucumber each standing on their own. Served with the crispy tortilla chip with just the right amount of salt, can I just give a nod to the balance of this dish. It was literally perfect.
Then it was time for one of my other favorites....the fish taco. It was definitely as it should be, the tempura cod has a crisp exterior, the salsa verde contrasted nicely with the creaminess of the chipotle ranch. It was very nice done and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
My companions had the heirloom tomato salad and both had the turkey burger. Interestingly the turkey burger was served with strawberries on the side and topped with avocado. Both of my friends (gentlemen mind you) raved about it, they said it was a fantastic pairing of the fruit with the burger.
We finished off with a bite of tres leches cake drizzled in salted caramel. The sweetness against the salted caramel was just right. Such a nice end to wonderful lunch...and of course no detail overlooked, s tiny plate of chocolate covered Costa Rican espresso beans landed on our table.
I'm making a prediction, and you
heard it here first, Javier's is going to become a Saratoga institution. Best of luck to Javier Rodriguez & Chef Brian Bowden!
Javier's Nuevo Latino Cuisine is located at 17 Maple Street in Saratoga Springs