3 Best Things We Ate Last Week

Nikki BuchananSeptember 13, 2021
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Photo by Nikki Buchanan

 

Chaufa Combo at Taste of Peru
If you’re thinking this Peruvian dish looks remarkably like good old fashioned Chinese fried rice — but with more meat — bingo! That’s exactly what it is. “Chaufa” is a loanword from Cantonese that means “fried rice.” The Peruvians co-opted this dish from the Chinese laborers who worked on plantations and built railroads in Peru in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century. Now it’s a comforting Peruvian staple. Taste of Peru, which offers the dish with your choice of beef, chicken or shrimp, obliged our request to combine all three proteins with the usual chaufa ingredients: rice, onion, red bell pepper, eggs, soy sauce, ginger and sesame oil. The result? A rich, variously textured platter that offers up a juicy hunk of beef, chicken or sweet shrimp in just about every bite. This one’s a salty, nutty flavor bomb, nicely offset by mild, springy egg and pungent green onion.
Taste of Peru, 1245 W. Guadalupe, Mesa, 480-935-0924, mytasteofperu.com

 


Photo by Nikki Buchanan

 

Horchata Tres Leches at Pane Bianco
For months now, I’ve been drooling over the desserts that pastry chef Mark Chacón makes for Chris Bianco’s restaurants and posts on Instagram. As a B Patisserie and Chez Panisse alum who also staged at Tartine, this guy knows his way around pastries and desserts. On the day I had this tres leches cake, I had popped into Pane Bianco for a jewel-like fruit tart that beckoned from my phone, but I wound up loving this ethereal spin on tres leches even more. Tres Leches gets its name from being soaked in three milks — whole, evaporated and condensed — but Chacón makes use of four: whole milk, cream, condensed milk and house-made horchata, which lends even more silky, cinnamon-y goodness to a light, bouncy sponge cake that is sweet but not cloying in the way tres leches cake can sometimes be. Chacon’s ultra-moist version is slightly firmer too, a layer cake, ribboned with luscious horchata Bavarian Cream frosting and topped with a fluffy drift of cinnamon-speckled whipped cream. A swirl of dulce de leche brings a final hit of buttery, caramel-y sweetness to this elevated version of tres leches, more aptly named cuatro leches, I suppose.

As Bianco’s pastry chef, Chacón operates just as Bianco does, responsive to the seasons and changing the lineup constantly, so you’ll have to keep an eye out for this one. And just so you know, Chacón’s creations are also available at Bones Bodega on Grand Avenue and Futuro Coffee in the Roosevelt Row Arts District.
Pane Bianco, 4404 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-234-2100, pizzeriabianco.com

 


Photo by Nikki Buchanan

 

A5 Wagyu Beef at Roka Akor
We had dish after fabulous dish for a recent birthday celebration at Roka: silken slips of glistening sushi; crispy planks of eggplant, stacked like a Jenga game; tuna tartare spooned atop crunchy disks of sticky rice; char-blackened lamb cutlets, ruddy with Korean spices; and A5 Wagyu beef sizzling on a brazier with nothing but salt for accompaniment. I could get all geeky and talk about the area from which this beef comes (Miyazaki Prefecture, considered a step above the beef from Kobe), the superiority of Japanese black cattle (called Kuroge Washu) and the A5 designation, which represents the highest grade of beef in Japan, based on marbling, meat color, firmness and texture, and the color, luster and quality of the fat itself. But I doubt you care about all that. All you need to know is that the term “melts in your mouth” has never been more accurate than it is here. The Wagyu’s texture is smooth, almost velvety, its taste rich but strangely delicate. The fat spreads over your tongue like an umami balm. So good is this beef that it requires nothing but a little finishing salt — maybe chunky, golden crystals of smoked salt, earthy black salt from Hawaii or intensely aromatic truffle salt — each offered in dainty portions because you only need a pinch. At $50 an ounce, the Wagyu is a splurge, no question, but worth every penny for a special night.

Here are two other pictures of our meal for drooling purposes.

 


Photo by Nikki Buchanan

 


Photo by Nikki Buchanan

 

Roka Akor, 7299 N. Scottsdale Rd., 480-306-8800, rokaakor.com

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