Sunday, 28 April 2013

L’Atelier d’Argentine


 

An exciting menu and with music to match
 
by Nancy Snipper
  

Chef Natalia Machado
                                       
Chef Natalia Machado is Argentina’s ‘preciosa’. She’s a VIP cuisine wiz who’s snagged top honours in two international TV reality chef shows, has dazzled diners in Industria Argentina Restaurant in New York for over twelve years, which resulted in a big beyond-the border buzz – so much so that Montreal’s trendiest,  L’Atelier d’Argentine convinced her to head its kitchen in Old Montreal. Since January, she’s been cooking up exciting dishes whose delicious tastes put the accent in contemporary Argentine cuisine.  
“Give me great ingredients and great food comes out of it,” says this talented chef whose ease and confidence is as refreshing as her philosophy: “I use simple ingredients, fresh produce and seasoning, slow cook them in a certain way to bring them back to life.”              
I had the great pleasure to enjoy several of her dishes while soaking up the incredible atmosphere that is totally exciting and warm. The interior is like a prism of space-age elegance with atrium glass wall curves, marble counters, leather chairs a stone fireplace, super cool ceiling lighting with sensuous-shaped bulbs hanging from cork and steel round bases, and  floor to ceiling glass which brought before you the beauty of Old Montreal. 
 I have to admit the fun evening was enhanced by the live music of Drum Addiction - a unique ensemble of talents who will be playing on weekends so, do check them out. The group features singer, Leticia Manfil and DJ - Pablo Guadalupe.

 
Both are drummers, but at L’Atelier they are going for the smooth international style. Leticia’s voice is a mix of Sade (whom she sung), Roberta Flack (whom she also sung), and Alicia Keys. She’s stunning to watch and hugs anyone in sight. Pablo spinned out eclectic easy-on-the nerves- music that included tango electric vibes, the Bossa nova beats of Gilberto Gil, and the crooning voice of American jazz vocalist, Kevin Mahogany. On keyboard was Ignacio Villaverde who just happens to be married to ‘la Preciosa Natalia’. If music be the food of love, play on!   
My companion and I ordered a six-course meal that started with three different appetizers. I fell head over heels in love with the buñelo de espinaca – spinach and fontina cheese fritters with roasted garlic mustard. The soft texture and taste were heavenly.
Then sitting on a long white plate I spied a series of mini empanadas; each offered a different filling:  first, there was cheese, then came a corn goodie; another tasty delight consisted of hand carved beef with spring onion and smoked paprika; and finally, smoked ham with bacon and provolone ended my affair with empanadas.   
The tatin de tomates which featured fresh beef tomato, mozzarella, black olive, and basil oil was not my favourite, but my companion adored it. Maybe it was that big juicy tomato sitting sensually over a perfectly shaped roundel of cheese that excited his taste buds.
For the main course, he ordered the brotola – roasted garlic hake with purple potatoes and bell pepper escabeche. It was so tender and juicy (I had a piece). Did I mention that colour seems to really dazzle the senses too, as each plate served to us featured a great dish with colour being in the presentation from green to white to red and now purple. It was a sensuous feed indeed. While my companion was feasting on eh fish, I was yumming it up over my incredibly perfect grilled rib eye steak. I dipped it in the two sauces on the side: chimichurri and salsa corolla. Wow! That chimichurri is to Argentina what ketchup is to North Americans, but the latter is a taste of fresh heaven. It consists of parsley, garlic, red bell peppers and red wine vinegar mixed with the Machado magic.  
We ended our feast with the dessert: pamquques - dulce de leche with a delicate small oozing caramel and cooked banana.  
It must be mentioned that the sommelier, Alexandre Rioux paired every one of our dishes with wines that from the first sip thrilled us: I adored the 2011 Chardonnay, Vida Organica from Mendoza (west of Buenos Aires bordering Chili). It was so light and perfect, as was the 2012 Fabre Montmayou made from Torrontes, the most popular white grape grown in Argentina. The wine kept coming, including a 2012 Malbec from San Juan from the Graffign Winery. It was the most perfect gentle red wine I had ever tasted. Alexandre sure knows what to serve, and happily each wine poured was light and devoid of dryness or heaviness. I went ecstatic over an incredible wine served at dessert, but I’ll keep that one a secret. Just ask Alexandre for that nutty flavoured white wine that comes in a slim bottle. It offered the nicest taste I had ever savoured, similar to the dessert wine of Samos Greece, but far superior - exquisiteness like liquid silk falling on your tongue.

 

If you think that Argentine food is about roasting meat in the campo, you seriously need to go to L’Atelier d’Argentine. The whole evening was a sensual dream that transported me to the country itself. Make your reservation by calling (514) 2873362. The location is 355 Marguerite-d’Youville, Vieux-Montreal. The website is www.atelierargentine.com