Soon after we were seated, our server Nicole dropped by our table with castelvetrano olives on the house. The firm, green olives were basted in none other than olive oil. They were sweet at first, slightly salty yet savory olives were a welcoming start to our meal.
The first item on the menu we ordered was the cheese & charcuterie board. The assortment of meats and cheeses was a playground of jamon, salchichon, chorizo, and Felino sausage. There was also mahon, a semi-firm, cow's milk cheese and caprichevere, a soft cheese made from goat's milk. The caprichevere was smooth and easy to spread over the crostini. Although it was made from goat's milk, it was surprisingly milder than the mahon.
Spread around the playful platter were Bow & Truss' house made jams. The first was a pineapple banana jam with serrano and chili pepper flakes, and the other was a pumpkin peach jam with vanilla bean, all spice, and cinnamon. Two house mustards complemented the duo of jams (the grain mustard was a favorite), and the remaining cherry tomatoes, carrots, caramelized onions, and spicy sunflower seeds dotted the charcuteriescape. This charcuterie board was an absolute delight. It was the one that we continued to pick at throughout the meal of inventive dishes.
We followed the charcuterie with the highly recommended empanadas. The petite pastries were packed with button mushrooms, red peppers, and cotija cheese. A tamarind crema and tamarind soy sauce were served alongside the empanadas. While Angela and I tried one dip at a time, the server suggested that we taste the two sauces together at the same time. Mushrooms, peppers, cheese. Savory, sweet, salty. Crema, tamarind, soy. Savory, sweet, and salty again. Smart suggestion, Nicole.
Our third dish was the highly anticipated pork belly tacos. The tacos were fresh and vibrant in color... and they were stacked high with toppings like Mexican sopes. The pork belly was shredded, a eyebrow raising change from the typical square cut. It was a good eyebrow raising change, for the meat was tender and succulent... although I am not quite sure if using shredded pork increased the difficulty of eating the taco or not. Atop the pork belly were shreds of carrots, cilantro, pickled jicama slaw, all of which helped give the taco a refreshing, citrus taste. The avocado sauce was a perfect substitute for salsa, which might have overpowered the fresh feel of the tacos. Oh, and by the way, the pork belly is really good. Really, really good.
As we were ready to close the meal with some paella, the manager brought out some chicken confit tacos, with handmade tortillas, arugula, anchiote paste, and pickled shallots. Dennis Christensen, one of the managers of Bow & Truss, warned us that the chicken tasted like pork. The chicken tasted like pork? It didn't make sense. But I took one bite, and well, yes, the chicken tasted like pork. This extremely flavorful chicken was very substantial... like if the chicken, before it was sacrificed for our glee, was a bad ass alpha male chicken that ruled the hen house. That was the kind of breast pounding poultry that died for these chicken confit tacos... the delicious oxymoron kind.
Next to the pair of chicken confit tacos were two mixed mushrooms tacos (the head chef must really hate odd numbers) piled with cotija cheese, pickled jalapeños, and chives. They were very juicy. In fact, the mushroom blood that dripped all over almost made the taco slurpable. We really enjoyed the tickle of spiciness from the jalapeño and the hint of saltiness from the cotija. The use of mushrooms in both the tacos and the empanadas were smart meat substitutes. I didn't even realize the dishes were carne less.
Stuffed to the brim already, Angela and I attempted to dig into a beautiful cast iron dish of seafood paella. Of the four choices of paella on the menu, the shelled option is cooked with clams, shrimp, mussels, scallops, chorizo, and chicken. The shrimp was highlight of paella because it was cooked just barely through... still tender and translucent, not tough and overly white. The clams and mussels pointed skyward so that the freshness of the shellfish was apparent on first glance. The rice itself was flavorful from absorbing all of its surrounding tastes. Ah, this dish was beautiful in both taste and appearance.
Finally, the last course of the night was a tequila lime tart that was so, so good. The texture of the tart itself was more like a buttery, holiday shortbread cookie. The pool of honey on the side helped the dessert be naturally sweet, and the lime helped cut the sweetness in a balance check. The honey and lime combination just added to the perfection of the tart. I almost lost consciousness watching the honey drizzle each time I dripped the tart into it. It was so good that we took two extra tarts home for our friends. And each of them agreed that the tequila lime tart was simply delicious... a great way to end the meal.
Thank you to charismatic Dennis and congenial Nicole for taking the time to explain each dish and list each ingredient and method of preparation. Thanks also to Angela your adept services in lighting and photography. Of course, a big thank you to Erinn of Platform Media Group for setting me up with Bow & Truss and helping me discover a new way of having pork belly. It was an awesome from beginning to end. The charcuterie, tacos and the tequila lime tart really sealed the deal for me. We are definitely returning in the near future. Until the next pork belly craving, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.
ML - 20121020