Ask any foodie returning from an overseas vacation what one of their travel highlights were, and, it is more than likely that high on their list was experiencing new cuisines. Now, thanks to Ortanique, gourmands can enjoy sampling a variety of worldwide delicacies without having to leave Cayman.
The Camana Bay restaurant is hosting a series of monthly dinners, each highlighting cuisine from their staff’s home country. Food from the Philippines, India, Jamaica, Portugal, Italy and Southern U.S are all scheduled to be highlighted. The three-course set dinners include wine pairings, featuring traditional or popular wines or spirits from the highlighted country.
“When we came up with the idea to have our cooks work on menus from their home countries, it just so happened that they were all from tropical or Mediterranean locales, which fit in perfectly with the style of cuisine at Ortanique,” said Kelly Banks, Ortanique’s maitre de partie. “We wanted to give our hard working line cooks a chance to do their own menu creation and really take charge of a full dinner. It’s been great to see their creativity and passion come out.”
The first dinner, at the end of last month, was led by line cook Santiago Mancini from Argentina.
“We had a few diners from Argentina who really appreciated the attention to detail from our team,” Banks said.
“Santiago had a hand in the menu creation, purchasing of the ingredients, prepping and cooking of the dinner. He even had a chance to come off the line and greet the guests at the end of the evening, which is not something many line cooks get to do after service.”
On the menu were chicken empanadas prepared in the traditional Argentinian style, with stewed chicken and vegetables, followed by a 10-ounce Certified Angus rib eye steak, with chimichurri, a classic Argentinian sauce.
“Many of the recipes our team used were from Santiago’s grandmother, so there was a strong traditional element,” Banks said. “We finished off with alfajores, cookies filled with dulce de leche and dipped in chocolate. They are popular all over the Spanish speaking world but have a special place in the Argentine people’s hearts.”
The next dinner will be held on Aug. 28 and will feature food from the Philippines. Natives Dennise Marcilla and Carlo Ajoc will be working on the dinner with Ortanique’s chef de cuisine, Mike Fischetti, creating traditional Filipino dishes with Ortanique’s fine-dining twist.
The meal will start with three street-food inspired dishes: dynamite lumpia – jalepenos stuffed with cheddar, wrapped in a spring roll and flash-fried; mini siopao – steamed buns stuffed with stewed beef; and lugaw – lemongrass scented rice pudding served with quail egg, ginger, saffron and garlic chips. The entree is crispy pork humba, pork belly with Visayan-inspired adobo sauce, coconut shrimp and braised callaloo, followed by “halo halo” – a popular Filipino dessert, featuring sweetened garbanzo beans, candied coconut gelee, tapioca pearls and purple yam ice cream.
Marcilla is originally from Manila, while Ajoc comes from a province in the south.
“Both of these regional influences will be running through the meal,” Banks said. “The first course is a play on three types of common street food dishes, with the lugaw influenced by a similar dish that Dennise’s family used to make when he was growing up. The main course of crispy pork humba is a family recipe from Carlo. Not only is pork belly an incredibly popular dish in the Philippines, but it’s always a top seller here at Ortanique and is often featured on our specials list and event menus. It was a natural choice for an entree.”
The other dinner dates are Sept. 25, Oct. 30 and Nov. 27. The dinner is priced at $65, including wine pairings. Menu details are released about two weeks before each dinner. For more details, call 640-7710.