While temperatures took a dive below 20 degrees F on Monday night, the feeling inside Louro at their weekly Nossa Mesa was warm and cozy, as diners gathered together this time for an edible history of rum. Chef David Santos found inspiration for his Mid-Winter Tropical Rum-ble in a variety of cultures and stories involving the spirit, and invited guests to warm up with a 7-course tasting menu, each dish paired up with a rum-based drink.
Santos began by pairing a transportive Mai Tai with a pork pot sticker and a samosa, a nod to rum’s origins in China and India. The standout here was the samosa: with one bite – tasting the flaky, buttery dough, the creamy potato filling, flavored with coriander and black sesame – my imagination immediately sent me to a heaven where Santos opened a specialty samosa shop, a la Empire Biscuit in the East Village.
His red snapper crudo was a great composition of textures, with cashews, puffed rice and creamy lime surrounding the raw fish – this was paired with a Caipirissima, the Caipirinha’s rummy cousin. Perfectly cooked mahi mahi went with a kicky, pineapple martini that sent us straight to the tropics. Bold cilantro livened up a sweet potato pudding that tasted good even to a cilantro-hater like myself.
The Portuguese Navy Grog and New England Rum Punch: these were really cocktails that you want to be drinking right now. Even though we were supposed to be in the tropics, those two cocktails made me awfully glad to be sitting in a cozy banquette in NYC on a chilly mid-winter Monday evening.
And you could hate the idea of pairing a creamy New England-style clam chowder (or savory rabbit pie) with rum, on principle. But you’d be silly and stubborn to do so, as both hearty, homey dishes were complimented immensely by their refreshing counterparts: the punch, infused with cranberry, and the grog, full of winter spices.
Each dish demonstrated a variety of flavors and showed off a wide range of culinary techniques, a testament to Santos’s background, growing up immersed in food and honing his skills in the kitchens of Per Se and Bouley. What diners may or may not have realized through all this, though, is that with each bite they were being taken on a journey through rum’s complex and fascinating history. Santos is a story-teller; he does his research, and considers each menu component carefully – though never so seriously that the experience seems pretentious. At the end of the day, it’s all about having fun. If you’re curious about what else this creative chef has to share, check out the upcoming Nossa Mesa menus on the Louro website. And a head’s up: the restaurant’s Valentine’s Day celebrations include a tasting menu based on “Tragic Love Stories.” If you can snag a reservation, I have a feeling your night will be anything but ill-fated.
Louro is located at 142 W. 10th Street, NY, NY (212-206-0606). Nossa Mesa tasting dinners are scheduled weekly on Monday nights, and are BYOB – email firstname.lastname@example.org for reservations. The Valentine’s celebrations are Feb. 13 – 15 and unlike the Nossa Mesa dinners, are not BYOB. Reservations can be made via phone or at Open Table. Contact and inquiries send to email@example.com.