Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Grexico at Committee: Fusion Cuisine At Its Best

Fusion cuisine can get a bad rap, albeit with some justification based on some very poor examples of fusion. However, most international cuisines are actually fusions, using and adapting various ingredients, techniques and recipes from different cultures. For example, Japanese tempura has its roots in Portugal and in Peru, Japanese immigrants helped to create Nikkei cuisine, a fusion of Japanese and Peruvian cuisines. In Boston, Taranta is a restaurant that serves a superb fusion of Peruvian and Italian cuisines. And recently, I enjoyed a new fusion cuisine, one which is worthy of its own restaurant.

To honor Cinco de MayoCommittee created a special "Grexico" menu, fusing Greek and Mexican cuisines. They stated part of the inspiration, "Fusing the two cuisines is a new trend that is starting to pop up around the country, most recently with fast casual Souvla and Tacolicious in San Francisco teaming up to create Souvalicious Lam mole tacos earlier this month." The menu was only available for five days but I fervently hope it returns, or they decide to open a new restaurant dedicated to this fusion, as the food was absolutely delicious and the fusion worked so very well.

Much of this special menu was created by Sous Chef Luis Figueroa, with assistance from Chef Theo Tsilpanos, as many of these dishes are recipes Figueroa grew up eating. Figueroa has over a decade of culinary expertise, garnering experience as a chef and kitchen manager, with a pedigree including Grill 23 & Bar and Mistral. With Mexican roots and expertise in Mediterranean cooking, Sous Chef Luis Figueroa combines Latin flair with modern Greek cuisine.

About this menu, Figueroa stated, "Mexican and Greek flavors work well together because there is a big focus on freshness and working with what’s around you in both cultures. Mexicans eat like Greeks! Our feasts are similar, the tables are always full. They have pita, we have tortillas. They have tzatziki, we have guacamole. We are also surrounded by sea and we have a lot of dishes that involve seafood. Like the Greeks the grilling and seasoning of whole fish is similar. Mexican grandmas are very similar to Greek grandmas as recipes are passed down from generation to generation."

The full Grexico menu included 3 Drinks, 6 Antijitos ("little cravings"), 3 Tacos, 1 Dish for the Table, and 2 Desserts. I was invited as a media guest to sample the menu and I was impressed with the intriguing balance of Greek and Mexican ingredients in each dish. These were well-crafted recipes, executed well and made me crave more.

During our dinner, we sampled several different cocktails. The Baecation ($14) is made with Wray & Nephew overproof rum, Cynar, Licor 43, banana syrup, coconut, and lime. It certainly would be a fine summer-time cocktail, though it was a bit too sweet for my own preferences.

The Piscoteca ($14) was more to my preferences, made with Pisco Barsol Verde, house-made tropical fassionola syrup, and lime. It was more dry, with intriguing tropical fruit flavors and a delightful vein of the Pisco. Very refreshing, it would also be a nice summer cocktail.

The Holy Smokes ($14), made with Del Magüey Vida mezcal, Lillet Blanc, lemon, cinnamon, and tepache, comes in a tall, fun glass. The smoky agave spirit is prominent, enhanced by the spice and citrus, making it complex, refreshing and delicious. A third excellent choice for a summer cocktail.

We didn't sample the entire menu, though what we missed sounded intriguing as well, such as the Mexican Street Corn ($8), with a spicy jalapeno mayo and crumbled feta. The Pickled Octopus Tostada ($16) is made with chipotle aioli, Florina pepper, yellow pepper, Greek olive oil, vinegar, and lemon. Figueroa had this o say about the tostada, "The dish came from the idea that Greeks love octopus and some of the best comes from the Mediterranean. Tostada means toasted with the main ingredient being the toasted tortilla. We added the Greek octopus and peppers on top to give It the combined Mexican and Greek flavor." The Whole Red Snapper ($32) is prepared with adobe marinated red snapper, achiote onions, rigani, & Mexico City salad, and is served with corn and grape leaf tortillas, Greek olive salsa and a homemade hot sauce. Hopefully another time I'll get to enjoy these dishes.

We began our dinner with the Grecomole ($12), mashed avocados and herbs, feta, grated cotija, and fried pita. Though I'm not usually a guacamole fan, I enjoyed this dish, savoring the salty and creamy kick from the feta and cotija. An excellent opening to our meal, setting the stage for the rest of the fusion cuisine.

All the guests received a complimentary dish of Guajillo Hummus, with a stack of warm pita slices. The hummus was delicious, with a mild spiciness, and I slathered plenty of it on the pita. Committee does a great job with their various spreads and this was no exception.

The Greek Ceviche ($18), made with white fish, tsipoura, lime juice, red onion, Greek yogurt, aji amarillo, sweet potato, cilantro, and fried calamari, was a complex melange of flavors. The fried calamari were tender and lightly sweet, and the white fish was meaty, tender and flavorful. It was a well balanced dish, each bite bringing plenty to your mouth.

The Grilled Halloumi ($12) was topped by guajillo vinaigrette, watercress, and mezcal infused oranges. As usual, their grilled halloumi was quite tasty, a firm cheese with a nice sear to it, while the vinaigrette added a pleasant, light spiciness. The oranges contributed a subtle smokiness and a nice burst of acid.

The Beef Keftedakia ($14), basically Greek meatballs, were topped by a tomato-chipotle sauce and Mexican crema. They were meaty and moist, with a slight crunchy sear, and enhanced by the sauce and crema, which brought to mind the flavors of Mexico.

The menu had three different Tacos (3 tacos for $14), including the Pork Gyro Tacos (which we didn't eat), with avocado tzatziki, salsa verde, queso fresco, atop a corn tortilla. However, we did enjoy the Pescado Tacos, overflowing with fried smelts, skordalia, and Greek olive salsa, atop a house-made corn tortilla. A take on a fish taco, the addition of the fried smelts was a tasty option, adding a nice texture to the dish, and the skordali and salsa brought additional complexity and flavor. The tortillas were light, with a nice corn flavor, and were as good as any I've had in the local area.

My favorite dish of the evening were the Lamb Barbacoa Tacos, made with braised lamb, tzatziki, and Fix beer (a Greek beer) guajillo, atop grape leaf-corn tortillas. Grapeleafs were crumbled into the mixture of the corn tortillas, providing its different color and texture. They were unique and delicious, such a delightful fusion of cuisines. Who would have thought such a combination could be so tasty? The lamb was moist and tender, just perfectly prepared, and the entirety of the taco worked so well. I could easily see a Greek-Mexican Taco joint doing very well in the Boston area.

For Dessert, one of the options was the Churros ($10) with merenda. These hot, donut-like sticks were scrumptious, with a nice blend of sweetness atop them. They possessed an excellent crunchy exterior with a softer, fluffier interior. I've always loved churros and Committee did well by this traditional dish.

To put a Greek spin on the Churros, they added a dish of Merenda, which is kind of the Greek version of Nutella, except there is less hazelnut and more chocolate flavor. An excellent dish for dipping the churros, and I think I prefer this to the strong hazelnut of the Nutella.

There was also Dulce de Leche Ice Cream ($8), with Baklava crumble, another winner dessert. The creamy ice cream had rich flavors, enhanced by the crunchy texture of the baklava. The dish wasn't too sweet or heavy, and it will make you wonder by baklava crumble isn't more of a thing.

Committee's Grexico menu worked well on a number of levels, cleverly fusing the two cuisines and creating flavorful and interesting dishes. The more that you think about the combinations, the more that they make culinary sense. I was thoroughly impressed with the menu and I'd order any of these dishes again, especially those Lamb Barbacoa Tacos with the grape leaf-corn tortillas. If Greek-Mexican fusion is a burgeoning new trend, then let Boston be one of those trend setters. I sincerely hope that Committee brings back the Grexico menu, or even that they decide to open a restaurant specializing in this cuisine. Big kudos to Sous Chef Luis Figueroa and Chef Theo Tsilpanos for making this superb menu.  

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