This article is part of the Kitchen Talk – Conversations with Chefs series of this blog.
What I’d heard about Restaurante Nueve sounded good to me. I’d been told that this small restaurant in Bogota not only has 150 different wines on the wine list, but that the menu is basically designed around getting people to experience how wonderful wine can be.
That’s right up my alley. I had to visit.
I arrive at the two story building and can’t find the entrance. How do I get into this restaurant? I ask at a boutique clothing store, and am ushered through the door. I am assured that yes, this is the restaurant entrance. Yes, through the boutique clothing store. After I get passed the clothing, handbags and shoes, jewelry, I do arrive at the restaurant.
And on thinking about it, I realize that’s not such a bad idea, to combine several passions in one. Dining, wining, and shopping. Convenient.
But although I was there to eat and drink, I had another purpose; to talk with the chef, sommelier and owner, Pedro Escobar. So, to the soft voice of Norah Jones crooning in the background, Pedro and I sat in the lounge area of the restaurant to chat about food, passions, and travels.
Pedro, who hails from Manizales, Colombia, first studied to be a lawyer. Then he decided cooking would be a less dangerous option for him, so he studied in Gato Dumas, and learned about wine in the Escuela Argentina de Sommeliers.
“Trips change us, because we learn about different flavors.”
Pedro begins to tell his Colombian story… in Spain. While travelling through Europe, he was thrilled by what he tasted. As he says, “Trips change us, because we learn about different flavors.” And he wanted to bring those flavors home to Colombia.
He also spoke of an advantage cooks have in Colombia. In Europe, there´s a lot of talk about eating vegetables in season. But in Colombia…What seasons? Here, harvest season is all year round, which is a huge advantage for a chef.
Wine and food
The full wine list at Nueve is set out on 3 slabs of wood; Argentina, Chile, U.S., Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal. Recommended wines are written on a blackboard, with their shockingly good prices. Pedro recommends a wine pairing for each course, and to go “in order”, starting with a sparkling wine, then onto a sherry, followed by rosé, then onto a red.
The menu, composed entirely of Pedro’s creations, is changed every four months. The tapas-style menu focuses on small dishes that allows diners to ask for exactly what they want, rather than just accepting the side dishes determined by the restaurant. That way people can try lots of flavors, creating a chain of flavors to go with wine pairings.
Some of the usual dishes expected of a Mediterranean-inspired kitchen are present, like risotto and ravioli. But there were unusual ones, like the rice cake made of arroz con coco (delicious coconut rice) with grilled prawns in a lemon sauce with pink pepper. The gnocchi served here have a Colombian twist: they’re made with Criolla potatos and costeño cheese served with a bacon sauce. Pedro recommends a rosé wine pairing.
Pedro loves to meet the people that come to his restaurant, and that’s why he’s kept the restaurant small: 32 seats. That way he can personally talk with the diners. To take the Spanish word that never seems to have an adequate equivalent in English, he likes to “atenderlos,” meaning attend to their every need. Not a bad philosophy for a restaurant.
Calle 70 A # 10 A – 18, Bogota
To find out more about the restaurant in Spanish, check out Nueve’s website.