I Latina with Chef Mun: Fusion of Fusion
I was wearing four inch heels but Mun insisted we take the bus. We must have looked odd to the other passengers; a very tall American in a loud, red skirt, trying to keep her balance as the bus careened through rush hour traffic, and Mun, in his blue t-shirt, smiling, and the both speaking English.
It was convenient for us to travel together, since we lived on the same block. Having a neighbor is like reliving the joys of convenient college-campus friendships. Being neighbors with a chef is delightful. It involves taste testing newly invented ice cream flavors, or being called to duty when the electricity in Casa Mun went out, and Mun was stuck with tons of sushi to consume.
Since he had closed the doors of his own closed door, he was now available for Friday night excursions to other closed door restaurants. Normally we would go to the movies, always staying current on 3D action films, so dining at a new restaurant seemed like a big upgrade from popcorn. We set out to try i-Latina; the highly anticipated new restaurant.
It’s fun going to a closed door restaurant with a closed door chef. We were warmly received by the gracious owners and by scrumptious homemade bread. The banana bread was amazing.
The five course pairing menu debuted inventive Caribbean-Colombian inspired dishes, paired with wines from Bodega Vistalba. The first course was a perfect picada of shrimp and spicy pineapple satay.
The second course was my favorite: a quinoa salad served with a huancaina peanut sauce.
The restaurant is located in a beautiful old house in Almagro. The old mansions in this neighborhood are an architectural feast of neoclassical facades from Buenos Aires’ Belle Epoque and Art Deco stained glass. The city is full of beautiful old mansions, many of which have been re-appropriated into spaces for restaurants or businesses, like i Latina.
The next course was a Cartagena style cazuela de mariscos, which appealed to my eyes and my palate.
Over spoonfuls of this rich and colorful stew, I asked Mun about his new restaurant. Mun would soon be headed to Mendoza, to open a new restaurant; Mun at Casarena. As excited as I was for him expand his Korean-fusion cuisine into the bountiful wine region of Argentina, I was quite sad to lose my neighbor. He was my reliable companion for action movies, and now I was preoccupied about who I would take to see the new James Bond film. I was also slightly concerned about the absence that would be left in the international food scene in Buenos Aires, but i-Latina’s exotic menu assured me that I’d be fine. The Macias brothers of i-Latina had closed the doors of their restaurant in Bariloche, to bring their Caribbean-Colombian flavors to Buenos Aires, just in time.
Dessert was a coffee flavored flan. It wouldn’t be real Colombian food, after all, if they didn’t incorporate coffee.
We finished our desserts, lingered and chatted over a small cup of real Colombian coffee, before calling it a night.
“Alright,” Mun smiled, “I’ll pay for a cab ride home. We don’t have to take the bus.”
Thanks Mun, it was so nice being your neighbor.