A few local hounds and friends gathered a couple weeks ago to dine at Jibarra in Raleigh. I was supposed to post on our behalf some time ago, but time slipped away from me. I would like to apologize up front for the Spanglish that follows. I learned to speak Spanish in Spain, but my Mexican-Culinary Spanish is very weak to say the least. Regardless, I have used a mix of terms that I hope describes the basic nature of the dishes. Some are typical Mexican dishes you can look up. Anyway, here goes:
Upon arrival, I let the hostess know that our party was composed of food geeks, some of which are from Mexico, and if the chef cared to do something other than off the menu we would not shy away.
We started with a mix of cocktails in the bar area, (blackberry caipirinha, mojito, pear/cilantro margarita, and margarita a la jibarra) all of which were very delicious – especially the caiprinha. Despite the elegant setting of the restaurant/lounge, the bartender was very reluctant to transfer our check to the table. I understand as a past bartender that she must have done this fearing a loss of tip on the service she had provided, but splitting our check 7 ways was going to be bad enough at the end of the meal – twice seemed unnecessary.
Once we were seated, our server explained that he and the chef had been made aware of our adventurous nature, and suggest that the chef prepare a tasting menu for us. We explained that we wanted to taste as much as possible, and he thought that would be our best option. I think the 6 courses were around $65 pre-tax/booze. We went this route, and they even accommodated our one less adventurous diner while serving 7 of us the tasting menu. In order to offer us even more choices, the chef split each course so we could share two dishes between each couple, etc. This was greatly appreciated.
Amuse Bouche - Black bean gordita & carrot / tamarind / jicama skewer – both were tasty starts.
First Course - Duck salpicon on tortilla chips & seviches of octopus, grouper, and scallop – both good, but I loved the duck. The seviche was prepared with some gelatin or something to cause the juice to congeal, and I did not love that texture, despite the delicious flavor.
Second Course – Tacos - cochinita pibil garnished with pickled onions & braised veal cheeks garnished w/ guacamole and onion/cilantro salad – these were served with tiny tortillas and both were outstanding, especially the veal with the garnish.
Third Course – Broth?(someone fill in the blank here) over crab rolled in butter cannelloni (very cold butter shaved and rolled) & tortilla soup garnished with chicharrones and chile ancho – the soups were fine, but probably my least favorite course.
Fourth Course - Snapper a la Veracruzana & salmon w/ succotash, polenta, and a soft cheese herbed with hierba santa – table consensus was that the snapper was very delicious.
Fifth - Lamb with leek wrapped tamales, chichilo mole & huitlacoche-stuffed chicken breast on potato puree w/ chicken demi glace – although we were starting to be stuffed beyond reason here, these were both awesome. Why don’t we eat huitlacoche here?
Dessert - egg nog three ways (flan, shot, and pan perdido?) & avocado ice cream with
tomato marmalade and cilantro pancake – I adored the richness of the egg nog plate, and the avocado ice cream.
With much wine, tax and tip, we each payed $125. Not something I would do every night, but I can’t wait to get back here and eat a standard meal straight off the new menu (He said several of our dishes were hitting the menu soon.
Those who joined me fill in some blanks.
Those who have not been – GO EAT AT THIS PLACE. This is no El Rodeo!