Preludio’s Latest Menu Is A Well-Timed Celebration of Crafty Contemplations
A year has passed since chef-owner Fernando Arévalo’s first solo adventure, Preludio, debuted with its defiantly progressive approach to creating memorable dining experiences, via a changing and visually intriguing menu of monochrome-themed dishes and wines. In contrast, the second chapter that was revealed only a few weeks ago—and which essentially defines the direction of the food and drinks menus over the next four seasons—embraces a wider range of inspirations.
There are undoubtedly many ways to illustrate the idea of “time”, be it an ode to a memory of a dish or the lineage of a key ingredient, or simply the length of time it takes to prime an ingredient, by ageing or fermenting it. The challenge it appears lies in expressing these creatively and with dishes that are not only delicious but also tell a unique story. “We [had decided to work with] chapters because constant change for us helps encourage creativity, improvements and growth,” Arévalo explains, pointing out that the difficulties are not with the individual theme. He adds that the aim of changing everything from the cuisine to the wines and the decor, not to mention the timely changes to reflect the seasons, is to push the team beyond its boundaries.
It remains an audacious undertaking but the dishes for this chapter, while distinctive, are less provocative and more approachable. The team seems to have chosen a more playful and sometimes wistful approach. The former is immediately evident in the five petit appetisers, presented in a platter aptly dubbed the Time Machine. The oyster dish, for instance, is a nod the freshness of the star ingredient from Brittany, France—and it was delicious, served dressed in a pairing of citric granita (made with tomato water, cayenne pepper and a touch of white wine vinegar) and popping candy. In contrast, the scallop, while also refreshing, was marinated for an hour in a light leche de tigre and water that was used to simmer corn for about 45 minutes.
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Back to the future
One of the best things about modern gastronomy is its innate embrace of the past, even in its unavoidable celebration of the present. Change is after all the only constant, and Arévalo’s beloved dish starring the pata negra has, not surprisingly, evolved quite a bit in the last six years. Just as there are several ways to retell a good story, here, the Iberico pork shoulder—sourced from a family-run farmer in the Spanish province of Salamanca—is first rubbed with garlic and a special spice mix that includes a touch of cumin, cayenne and paprika, and left to marinate for a good 12 hours before its wrapped and slow-roasted for at least three hours.
Unlike its previous manifestation as a main dish in last year’s “monochrome” eight-course feast, the dish makes an appearance in the third course of the dinner menu, wrapped in a fine sheet of sweet Obsiblue prawn, thinly-sliced, layered and pressed then sous vide. It’s served with a flavourful yet refine reduction of tomato water piqued with a little vinegar and mustard seeds, a side of white carrot puree and finished with a modest drizzle of basil oil.
Following this are pasta parcels filled with aged, confit duck and dressed in a agradolce sauce, served with a particularly moreish puree of Jerusalem artichoke—if there’s one thing that’s consistent with Arévalo’s food it’s that they are nuanced and always unabashedly flavourful.
The next dish, a deceptively simple pairing of fish and rice, is also a study in fermentation and ageing. It features unhusked Acquerello rice that's aged for seven years before its refined and reintegrated with its own germ to restore valuable nutrients. It’s served as a risotto topped with the fish in season, the Patagonian toothfish, that's been poached in shrimp stock.
Memories on a plate
The most memorable course, though, was the Australian Wagyu short rib paired with piquillo peppers, a deconstructed chimichurri sauce and egg yolk emulsion. It is a nod to a style of beef Arévalo enjoyed growing up in his native Columbia. Unaffected as the dish is, it was the mushroom rub that was left to marinate for 12 hours that elevated the dish, adding delicious depth and intensity to the heavily marbled beef.
Admittedly, the duo of desserts could have been more uniquely captivating, if only to lend the meal a lighter and brighter finish. Still, it does include an elegant twist on a nostalgic snack of bread slathered with chocolate and olive oil that pastry chef Elena’s grandmother used to make for her upon her return from school.
For this salute, she sandwiches layers of hazelnut dacquoise between layers of chocolate feuilletine (made with 40 per cent Valrhona Jivara and 70 per cent Valrhona Guanaja), and pastry cream made with olive oil. This she serves with olive oil caviar, smoked olive oil powder, hazelnut streusel and house-made fougasse bread ice cream. The dish does, nonetheless, affirm the menu’s distinctive charm, not to mention its articulate exposition of familiar flavours, and inevitably puts the spotlight where it counts the most—on technique and taste.