Ad for Taller on Tour
Make sure not to miss the special event Venezuelan Night by Taller at restaurant Smalhans in Oslo this week. Taller on Tour will be a worldwide happening and Oslo is the first stop! Head chef Karlos Ponte and sous chef Luis Moreno has flown in from Copenhagen to showcase the unique flavors of their home country Venezuela. I visited Taller in 2015 and was blown away by this Nordic-Venezuelan fine dining restaurant. Both the flavors and expression were unlike anything else I had seen. Unfortunately, Taller was shut down last year. Karlos and his team re-opened the more casual eatery PMY in the same venue – which also introduced Mexican and Peruvian street food. The longterm plan, however, is to re-open Taller at a better location. Meanwhile, this pop-up event is probably your best shot right now to taste weird but wonderful ingredients like olluco root, yare (sour cassava root), and soursop (aka guanábana).
Karlos and RSVP Yes asked if I would help arrange their pop-up in Oslo, and I connected them with the restaurant group Lava. Smalhans was chosen as the event space, which made sense for a six-course tasting menu which is partly served in a family-style sharing fashion. Later on, we got the SantArepa guys involved to help make arepas. If you follow my Instagram and/or Facebook page, you might have seen my giveaway of a dinner for two at this event. Erlend Lehland won that prize, but make sure to follow me for similar opportunities in the future.
This Tuesday, I had reserved a four-top for the very first seating of the pop-up and invited my friends Aleksander, Kristin (who had picked all the wild herbs and plants for the dinner), and Manuela from SantArepa. We were stoked about a whole evening of Venezuelan taste explosions! First course out did not set the bar low. Mini-arepas filled with chicken stock, lardo, and Rossini Gold Selection caviar. Warm, salty, fatty, and delicious. Please note, they might run out of caviar this week, in which case they will replace it with løyrom instead. Not a bad substitute at all!
Karlos came out from the kitchen between servings to explain the next dish and talk about the Venezuelan cuisine. He and Luis were the only chefs from Taller to attend the pop-up. Thus, a big credit for the lovely food we got this evening also goes to Smalhans’ kitchen team who managed to transform the ideas of Ponte and Moreno onto the plate with great success. I know how little preparation time they had.
The dinner continued with olluco root from the Andes mountains, which is a potato-like root vegetable with a red skin and yellow meat. Texture-wise, it is more firm than a potato. Taller paired it with smoked and dried ox heart and a deliciously creamy hollandaise sauce made with yare – sour cassava root from Amazonia. On top were some acidic forest ants!
Following was a dish of Norwegian langoustine with Venezuelan blood sausage purée and crisps made from tomato. This dish may also be served in two varieties during the event. At least, I noticed some tables got a more sharing-style presentation. When I first saw the menu, I was afraid that the rich and pungent blood sausage would overpower the mild, sweet flavor of the langoustine, but I think it worked extremely well together. Even with a crustacean which had hardly touched the frying pan. However, it wasn’t raw, just perfectly cooked.
Next, we got the main course, which I believe everyone got family-style – a braised and grilled leg of lamb in the middle of the table. On the plate were all the grilled herbs and flowers picked by Kristin, including mugwort, yarrow, orpine, and nettle. Together with a cassava root sauce with brown butter and chili, and pieces of crispy cassava root, it was, perhaps the highlight of the meal.
Our table could not agree on which dessert was the best. I think I was alone in defending my favorite of rosehip sorbet and sweet potato purée, while the others preferred the soursop sorbet and avocado cream with matcha snow and cocoa crumble. Maybe it was the nostalgia of seeing the classic Taller dessert again, or perhaps I have this weird thing with flavors that collide. On its own, the rosehip sorbet is too strong and perfumy, with a bitter, almost tannic aftertaste. The trick is to immediately mix in a scoop of the caramelized cream of sweet potato to balance everything and turn it into pure deliciousness. I remember I had the same experience with a dessert of salted wasabi cream toffee at Geist.
Thanks to Karlos, Luis and the team at Smalhans for transporting me back to Taller – if only for a brief moment. Now, let’s make this place happen again in Copenhagen! My rumors site will follow the development …
Have you tried Venezuelan food before? Please share in a comment below.
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