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 Gri├▒on 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


malina said...

I remember that review of Cayena, it was how I found and started reading your blog, and it was also the time of my first visit to Cayena, not bad, not very impressive. Later I heard that they have a new chef and I became a regular client there. The same as you I was very impressed with how much it changed, both for the food and service. Unfortunately, I’ve just heard that Malcolm stopped working for Cayena, so unless I’ll hear something good about the place form someone I can trust I’m not planning to visit the restaurant again.

Mateo Jarrin Cuvi said...

Hi Malina,

Yes, Malcolm informed me that he left Cayena. That's really unfortunate but I sure hope he's helping other places in Cyprus become great. And I guess I now have to go a 3rd time to write a follow-up review!

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