Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cayena Redux

About a year ago, I wrote about Cayena Latin Fusion in Nicosia. My initial review of the restaurant was average and somehow elicited an onslaught of comments from various readers on both the strengths and weaknesses of the place. Since the review steered so many people towards my blog, part of me felt indebted to the restaurant. Another part of me—that one enamored with Latin American food—wanted to give Cayena a second chance, hoping this time around I would fully indulge in the flavors of my childhood. Upon hearing from acquaintances that the chef had changed and the operation had improved, I booked a table for myself, The Wife, Ph.D., and My Zolpidem Supplier, soon to be re-baptized as The Third Wheel or Our Violinist.

It's impressive what Chef Malcolm Emmanueil, who gained invaluable experience working under Brazilian chef Alex Atala at D.O.M. and Gordon Ramsey's protege Angela Hartnett at The Connaught in London, has accomplished in little less than a year. That night, the service was practically flawless—dishes were brought out at a good pace and the waitstaff was extremely attentive, even offering to decant our bottle of 2009 Marques de Griñon Rioja, a first for me here on The Rock. The food was also excellent and adapted well to Cypriot palates, appetites (large portions!) and pricing preferences. It's still not 100% Latino but I do believe Malcom's creative interpretations of the different dishes are quite faithful to our cuisine.

As appetizers, we shared the fried cod cakes, stuffed with cheese and served with chimichurri, and a Peruvian-style ceviche (for safety reasons, the fish was poached for thirty seconds and then tossed with the lemon juice, onions and spice) that was refreshing, full of briny, tangy flavors and matched with sweet potatoes, corn and avocado wedges. I then had the feijoada, essentially a deconstructed version of the original with a heavy focus on the meats, food of choice for 87.34% of The Rock's population according to statistics I unearthed from the clutter at the Ministry of Meze. It's served as a mixed grill (spare ribs, chicken breast, pork chop, pork loin and a delectable homemade linguica, all perfectly grilled) on a mattress of sauteed cabbage with a night-table of stewed black beans, white rice and a yummy farofa including coconut flakes that gave it a unique flavor. The Wife, Ph.D., faithful to her (yaaawn!) pescetarianism, ordered the moqueca, which was far superior to its previous incarnation. Again deconstructed, the crispy salmon, white fish, mussels and prawns, laid out on a long plate, were topped with a tomato, fresh herbs and coconut milk sauce that was lighter yet tastier than what I recall. My Zolpidem Supplier, reveling in her new role, had medium-rare Peruvian beef anticuchos that were juicy and only a bit spicy. Overall, a vast improvement from our first experience at Cayena.

Yes, dear readers, I know I promised you a fajitas showdown between Cayena and Los Bandidos in Agia Napa. Don't worry, it will eventually come. Then again, why focus on Tex-Mex when I can go really south of the border?

Whine On The Rocks' (Revised) Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Sparkling Spatulas

Monday, December 5, 2011

On Conviviality And Its Exception

I've decided to every so often host simple island wine taste-offs for my fancy friends. No detailed scoring sheets. No spit buckets. No glass switching between wines, maybe just a light rinse and a quick dry if you are anal-retentive like me. No concern for how well the menu matches the evening's selection. The mission is to pick a winning wine based solely on the level of enjoyment it offers you. Fact is, part of wine's magnificence lies in its ability to bring people together for a laugh and color life at least for a few hours brimful of conviviality.

In this spirit, we invited Mo Money, Mo Problems—The Wife, Ph.D.'s childhood friend and her husband—for a battle between one of The Rock's finest Maratheftiko's and a recommended Cretan Cabernet Sauvignon. By the end of the night, we declared The Rock the winner and celebrated our precious island's victory by polishing off a bottle of Santa Teresa Rhum Orange Liqueur, a fantastic Venezuelan rum that tickles your insides and makes you want to excitedly scream like a horny stalker who's just stolen his celebrity victim's sheer pink negligee. 

Now I hope this blog eventually rakes in enough cash to cover the purchase of a bottle of Domaine de la Romanée Conti and a First Growth Bordeaux to host the ultimate battle for wine supremacy. Sorry to say but, if that ever happens, screw conviviality. Alone, I will drink away my profits and wake up the next morning—hungover but happy to know I partook in the selfish consumption of "greatness"—to deal with the usual doctoral problem.

2008 Zambartas Maratheftiko (Cyprus) - Fresh-cut flowers, some funky earth, dark forest berries on the nose. Vanilla, licorice and a sour cherries finish on a medium-bodied wine that has good grip and is drinking quite nicely. 88/100.

2007 Douloufakis Aspros Lagos Cabernet Sauvignon (Crete, Greece) - Aromas of cinnamon, celery, green vegetables, dark fruit, baked apples, dry apricots and loads of wood. Smooth yet kind of flabby and empty. Some caramel and a very sour finish. Too much new oak for my palate. 85/100.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


Cousin #2 and The Wife, Ph.D., after a bottle or two of 2010 Vlassides Shiraz + some Greek tsipouro. Happy times!