Thursday, 19 March 2015

Āperi Restaurant

An Edible Eden inside Dos Casas Boutique Hotel

by Nancy Snipper

The promise of pure produce as protagonist

Chef Matteo Salas Bassani Antivari recently joined the exclusively lovely Dos Casas Boutique Hotel, and within six months this intimate place with its rapturous spa has been called San Miguel’s greatest spot to eat. Not only do guests from the hotel’s 12 rooms come to enjoy the meals created by Chef Matteo, but people from all over Mexico are stepping into this oasis to meet Matteo himself as they gather around his nightly chef table to share each of his creations with him.   Indeed, this genius serves the most rarefied dishes – each one prepared on the basis of a single principle: The produce comes first; I respect what is growing at the time, the month, even the week. I will only cook with this”.

Chef Matteo’s commitment to using fresh organic produce as the major determinant maker – he is “merely the maker” of the dish creates a unique symbiotic relationship. His spontaneity and reverence for quality produce he selects from San Miguel’s surrounding areas comprises a kind of culinary marriage the ingredient is the boss; he follows in step.
But how can this daring way of working always yield such exquisite dishes of fantastic freshness and flavour melodies? Bear in mind that he is at the mercy of that which is locally grown and freshly available: he doesn’t have a preconceived menu; he doesn’t impose himself on producers. You won’t hear him say, “I need that product now so that I can make this dish that I have in mind.”  
Chef Matteo’s easy-going manner, winsome smile and empathy for what the earth yields makes him a kind of Zen cuisine master; and like a little Buddha himself, he began eating quality fresh gourmet food from the time he was very young, sharing great meals with his parents. His love for quality in everything, not quantity applies to his passion for cooking.   
After attending the Paul Bucuse Institute in Paris for four years, he honed his skills working alongside such iconic master chefs as Pascal Barbot, Bricourt, Quique and Carlo Gracco – all Michelin-star chefs. Like a gourmet groupie, Chef Matteo spent years, rubbing shoulders prestigious kitchens with these stellar chefs in several countries, including France, Spain, Mexico City and Milan. He garnered charismatic confidence and techniques that has inspired him to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.
Āperi has an à la carte menu that offers Matteo’s unique food offerings – beet and duck, octopus, squid, pasta with delicate sauces, suckling g pig and more. But I was served the chef table dishes. To enjoy these, you must book a month in advance for this is the dining experience at the marble table inside the kitchen where Matteo joins you.
My first surprise was a taco made of jimaica and inside was a salad of burned kale, toasted pumpkin seeds, raspberry vinegar and lemon rind. It held a sweet and sour taste delicacy. Crunchy on the outside with some juice on the inside, it was a textural contrast that thrilled me.
My ceviche sea bass and smoked salmon coloured trout was accompanied by āacitrus/chili granite. Basil, cilantro, radish, arugula and flowers including Nasturtium slipped into my mouth as easily as a silver spoon. The textures and combinations of flavours were heaven. 
Next  came roasted and boiled cabbage, a carrot, orange and grapefruit jell with hazelnut oil, toasted pumpkin seeds, arugula and lemon. EXCEPTIONAL! 

I dislike squid, but the way Chef Matteo made this baby squid number was golden. It arrived covered by a huge margarita glass to create a smoky flavor for scent and taste.   It was so tender. Brown butter, leeks, lemon pork belly and smoke of rosemary created an impeccably pleasurable taste. AWSOME!
Risotto with Huanzontle (a blossom of a plant here) and aged goat cheese also featured smoked chili powder and chicken breast. WOW!

My dessert was in a shape of a small chili.  This alarmed me, but Chef Matteo told me to give it a try. I noted the smile on his face. 

The bright red “chili” was no chili at all, but a red pepper gelita filled with stunning chocolate. Chocolate brownie crumbs nested as yet another sweet treat to end my final bite into āperi’s awesome dishes. “Matteo the Magnificent” is a gourmet god!

Oh did I forget to mention that each plate looked like an edible painting? 
Āperi is located inside Dos Casas Hotel & Spa at Quebrada 101.
Their web site is . Call (415) 1544073. Contact: