In my almost blind search for Colombian restaurants around Bogotá, I ran into what it could be one of the few innovative patriotic bets: Nueve (nine). Nine what though? It could be nine pregnant months, nine knights at the table or nine apostles in a reduced version of the Testament. Well no, Nueve makes reference to the nine months of gestation, but the grape ones. We interviewed chef Pedro Escobar to clear our doubts and get some guidance around the almost virgin Colombian restaurant scene:
Interview with Pedro Escobar
Nora - Tell us a bit more about this organic concept of Nueve:
Pedro Escobar - Sure, Nueve makes reference to the wine's world, and first of all it aims to rescue the great effort the vine grower makes for us to taste his work turned into wine filling us with pleasure. For this reason, in Nueve it's all about making this soil the most favored with our work.
N - Let's talk about Nueve's menu: a lot of Spanish elements! We asked the waiter if you went to school in Spain, but he said it's because you travel a lot. In which way and how often these trips influence your your menu?
PE - To travel awakes your senses and makes me have the ingredients very present, so when I go back to Colombia I have better ideas to use these new products. I try to travel many times a year to be able to catch up on what's going on in the gastronomic world, and I bring memories of ingredients that were lost in my mind from each Country to restore them and make them part of my cuisine.
N - Wine is obviously a key element in the restaurant, you only have to go into the main room to realize. However, have you ever thought of trying some local pairings, for example with Colombian aguardientes or other local products?
PE - Wine is the restaurant's core idea indeed, to bring the customer the possibility of trying the highest number of wines, concept that doesn't exist anywhere else in Colombia. It's an education process, so when the public is ready we'll take the leap into new pairings, we'll do it someday.
N - When you enter the restaurant it gives the impression of a home, it seems that we are eating in someone's living room rather than in a restaurant. Is this notion of closed home intentional?
PE - Our intention is to have only two main characters: the food and the wine, so everything else needs to be accessory. In the exercise called enjoyment it's necessary to feel like at home and be as relaxed as possible, exempt of any distraction, that's why our style is exclusive and seclusive.
N - How did the Colombian public receive Nueve's proposal? How well accepted is contemporary cuisine like Nueve's?
PE - When we started with the tapas themes and small plates, many people wanted to see Spanish tortilla and jamón (Spanish ham) in the menu. The hardest part was to convince the customer that the cuisines are universal and that the tapas transcended to the point that they became a common way of eating. Not because they are tapas they necessarily have to be Spanish. The main thing was to have people constructing their own tasting menus without realizing, getting to change from one flavor to another. Even though our gastronomic culture might not be ready for this kind of menus, what seemed important was to prove to the client the advantages of trying new flavors and letting go in a real experience.
N - If you could eat tonight anywhere in the world, where would you go?
PE - I'd love to go to Osteria Francescana, of chef Massimo Botura.
N - Finally, how do you see yourself in 10 years?
PE - I see myself in charge of creating a space for leisure, it doesn't mind if they are culinary, oenological or alcoholic, getting to mix different flavors and working on a cuisine based on the quality of the product and a bit of imagination.
WE EAT AT... Nueve
- Fierce fried plantain: filled with aioli and homemade brava sauce. If fried plantain can be thin, this is the way to do it, no doubt. Dry first, rich after, a fight in the mouth.
- Cartagenean posta little empanadas and coastal serum: completely filled with meat, you get to be grateful for these empanadas in this half empty empanadas world. However, I find the meat a bit dry and lonely. Then there it comes the coastal serum, a typical sour cream, which balances it a bit.
- Vacuum cooked skirt steak, barley risotto and black truffle butter: although the presentation is not perfect - too brown and homogeneous - the flavors more than make it up for you. It's like bringing a field to the tongue, a plate that, if could have a profession, would be a huntsman.