Victor Parra Gonzalez previewed his upcoming creative Mexican menu at at Bourbon & Butter on Monday night.
The Acapulco-born chef, who opened Jaguar at the Bistro in Youngstown in 2013, is working on a West Side restaurant called Las Puertas, 385 Rhode Island St. He hopes to open it this summer. In the meantime, his sister Diana Parra will be running the Youngstown operation.
[Read News review of Jaguar at the Bistro here]
With the help of a team of servers and cooks, Gonzalez offered five savory courses and two desserts to a full house in the Hotel @ the Lafayette dining room. David McMurray of Bourbon & Butter offered drink pairings.
First, a reminder of the sea, with a shrimp broth with a background hum of chile heat, a shrimp tail and a bit of sugar snap pea. Poured tableside, the warm broth melted a dab of citrus creme fraiche in the bowl.
My surprise favorite of the night was a crispy character called "flour chicharron tostada" on the menu. (See image at top.) It was a preposterously delicate handheld seafood nacho, with dabs of fresh seafood, chile heat and rich aioli, arranged on a chip that was as crackling as deep-fried pork skin.
Next was Gonzalez's rethinking of the ubiquitous beans and cheese that are an afterthought on standard gringo Mex platters. He presented bean tortillas and requeson, fresh cheese, in a swirl of more frijoles. Pickled nopales, or cactus paddles, added a tangy note.
Gonzalez's spin on steak tartare brought rare chopped beef chopped seasoned with achiote and chiles, as in carne asada, and enriched with aioli. Chia seed chips and pickled vegetables offered crunch. The generous helping of tartare left me jonesing for some bread (or tortillas?) to scoop up more.
A crispy-edged square of fork-tender pork belly arrived in a sauce of pumpkin seeds and herbs, alongside more meatiness in the form of sauteed Flat 12 oyster mushrooms. I enjoyed the nutty sauce and a few pistachios offered crunch, but the dish left me wanting more contrasting sensations.
From pastry chef Jennifer Batt, a vibrant tropical assortment of passionfruit semifreddo, hibiscus sorbet and fresh mango, with chocolate dirt. Those curlicues are made from chocolate too.
The second dessert was a faintly sweet steamed corn lozenge with a refreshing granita made with tepache, a drink made from fermented pineapple skins. Compressed melon was by turns sweet and funky, reminding me of blue cheese at moments.
After the dinner, Gonzalez went back to work on turning a former single-family house into Las Puertas. He has important permits yet to secure, and hopes to open this summer. He's come a long way from his first menu in Youngstown, and is finding more ways to let his roots show. Soon enough, Buffalo can see what he has to offer.
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