Sunday, 4 October 2009
Autumn/Winter Flavours at Wahaca
Last Thursday, Kelsie and I along with 28 other luck Qypers, decended on the Westfield outpost of Wahaca. I've been to the Covent Garden one once, and rated it then though at the time it was a 'team lunch' with my new teamates, at my then new job, and I had to keep my focus on the team and not the food.
Always the eager beavers that we are, we were the first to arrive and were expertly guided to the mezzanine seating area which was still being set up for the evening feast. A couple of cold Modelo's soon arrived and then we met charming and enthusiastic Cecilia who runs the Wahaca blog. She recognised us from our twitter postings about Pozole making and my other comments in the blog. It was definitely cool to match an online entity with a name. Soon after that we met Tomasina and had a fabulous conversation about Mexican food, chiles, posole, one of my food idols Diane Kennedy (who btw is coming to London soon!), Tommi's recent recipe competition for creative chilli recipes and more. Alas, duty called and she had to get back to the prep as more guests arrived.
Creamy guacamole and zesty salsa were passed around with proper tortilla chips and fantastically light chicharones. Our server recommended a squeeze of lime on the crackling which made all the difference. Su-lin and I honed in on that and nearly finished a bowl ourselves.
Finally we were seated and Tommi and her business partner Mark welcomed all the guests. We got the run down on what we'd be served this night, and to my delight Mark also told us about a trio of tequilas that would be served alongside the dishes.
And then the food started arriving. The menu is split between Street Food; Soups and Salads; and Platos Fuertes.
We started with a selection of some of the new street food dishes. First up was a tostada with MSC smoked herring topping. The oiliness of the fish beautifully complemented by a sharp Veracruz style tomato sauce with flavours of olives and capers. This dish is definitely one to come back for.
Next, a taco filled with Pork Pibil. Succulent shreds of slow cooked pork, with an altogether different sauce.
And last from the Street Food section a Huitalcoche Quesadilla. I was really excited about this one as huitalcoche is a peculiar fungus that grows in between corn kernels, and not easy to come by here. As a result, for this recipe the corn fungus was mixed with sweetcorn and british mushrooms to round out the filling. I have to say I couldn't really make out a distinctive huitalcoche flavour but it was a good quesadilla nonetheless.
The next set of dishes were centered around the Soups and Salads section. First up was earthy black bean soup. I missed the assembling of it but enjoyed the texture and flavour layers in it. This could easily be a meal unto itself.
The Winter Fuerza salad was one of the evening's highlights for me. Frisee, avocado, crispy fried ancho chilies, queso fresco (or was it feta?), locally grown spelt, roasted squash all festivally presented in a big bowl to share. The vinaigrette tasted of lime but didn't overpower the ingredients.
Without missing a beat, the main dishes started arriving.
There was a pollock cooked Veracruz style, which arrived in a foil packet. I loved the big hits of cinnamon flavour coming through in the sauce, but was a bit underwhelmed by the fish. Not sure why, but it didn't seem to carry the sauce as a complete unit it felt like fish + sauce rather than fish in sauce. If that makes sense.
The absolute hit of the evening was next: a classic Baja-California Fish Taco -- crispy fried fish with just the right kick of chipotle mayonaise served in a soft taco. I could have eaten a whole tray of these alone and am now contemplating throwing a fish taco party in the near future. High marks for this one.
Next up was chicken enchiladas served with Oaxacan (wahacan) mole sauce. Think rich, chile/chocolate/spicy sauce. A perfect foil for the shredded chicken and tortillas.
The last main was a vegetable burrito. By this time we were glassy eyed and really struggling to find room for this. I powered on, heard snippets of conversation about cabbage not belonging in the burrito (i wholeheartedly disagree btw), and managed to finish my 1/4 burrtito.
Miraculously we all found room for the dessert which was a platter of light crispy churros served with a bowl of hot chocolate. Another inspiration i am going to try making these at home.
Add to the wonderful food an absolutely exhuberant group of people to share the love of good food and drink and it was an evening to remember for a long time. I had great conversations with http://tikichris.wordpress.com/, sulin, and made a new friend of thelondonfoodie.
Thanks again Qype and Wahaca for putting on this event!