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By Heather• 3 Dec 2015
Edit: Pan de Muerto has now closed.
Loved Pan de Muerto before? There’s more to love now. Much more.
Executive Chef Jiwon Do has finally unleashed the first of his Mexican/European fusion dishes to introduce more sharing plates (Bocados Peuenos), while keeping some of the larger favourites like tacos, burritos, enchiladas and fajitas.
I was a little skeptical at first as many of the dishes sounded a long wander from anything Mexican (tortellini, risotto, salmon, seared duck breast, chargrilled beef sirloin) and I wondered if Pan de Muerto might be in danger of losing its identity. However, I was progressively surprised and then delighted at the quality, execution and elevation of these dishes by their Mexican twists. Each was light, well balanced, beautifully plated and something more than the sum of its parts.
The thread that ran through them was the clever use of Mexican flavourings, mostly in the sauces, but sometimes in the dish components as well. For example chipotle cream or mash, cochinita pibil pork belly, tajin marinade, achiote braise, tequila in the sorbet or chilli butter jus (note the pictures below are smaller tasters rather than the normal sizes).
So Jiwon just needs to get his story out there and maybe add a bit more at the top of the menu to explain the 'Mexican-ising' of these dishes. His background through places such as The Hilton, Icon (Te Papa), Martin Bosleys and Hippopotamus is definitely showing.
Even my starter cocktail – Pedro’s Pera Old Fashioned – of spice rum, pear liqueur, egg white, bitters and cinnamon honey syrup on the rocks accompanied by candied bacon strips was something quite memorable (and prompted an entertaining conversation with our bar lass about who locks and keys for the candied bacon, it was so good).
And the crowning glory of the night...
A Mexican tiramisu. What the menu didn’t tell you was that there would be meringue cacti sprouting from edible ‘soil’ of chilli chocolate crumble to make a rather fabulous dish. With a rich dense creamy mouthfeel, well balanced flavours, and satisfying crunch from the crumble, I’d go back for this dish alone (with a side of lychee and hibiscus sorbet – silky and refreshing).
I'm trying to entice Jiwon into doing a degustation of his new plates, to showcase what he's up to. He's also introduced a ‘Sunday Fiesta Mexicana seleccion especial suprema del Chef' (ergo he cooks whatever takes his fancy) for $30 per person, and $5 additional for kids. And a $50 platter for the more casual bar drink and nibble. I’m told it's double the normal size you’d expect to get.
If you keep your eyes peeled over time, you just might see some Mexican/Asian fusion dishes creeping in, given Jiwon’s origins in Asia, and the gathering momentum for it overseas. And maybe a few more specialty Pan de Muerto events throughout the year.