Spanish flavors on one hand. Spicy paprika on meat and seafood, floury tarts and bread, vegetables and sausages combined in a single cooking method. On the other hand, Mexican cuisine is present through peppers, and sweet fruits in mole, vibrant colors all throughout, fresh veggie mixes in hojasanta and tamales wrapped in totomoxtle and plantain leaves.
Chefs Sandra Fortes and Miguel Hidalgo mix both traditions in this authentic dining room. In Noso, the chefs bring forth a singular and characteristic flavor product of their author cuisine. Molecular cooking influences both chefs acquired in El Bulli, in Spain, shine in each and all plates, despite both chefs assuring it is not their main focus while cooking. They masterfully combine these influences, Spanish flavors and Mexican techniques.
First thing a diner notices when setting foot in the place is the minimalist style prevalent in the entrance hallway, dark tones and natural light prime over the space. The architecture offers a melodic encounter between the open kitchen and the service room. Few tables are scattered around the space, creating an intimate and personal relationship between guests and the kitchen.
During our visit, both chefs promptly introduced themselves and offered an in-depth tour of the kitchen and the service area. Both of them shone for their humbleness and their disposition. A youthful Miguel Hidalgo agreed to a quick interview, in which his words demonstrated his status as a connoisseur.
Sandra Fortes and Miguel Hidalgo.
One of the first phrases particularly stuck with me, and its impact is obvious in the whole restaurant. “My mind was blown the first few times I traveled. I realized I knew virtually nothing back in Spain.” This was the moment when I noticed the whole menu was not the standard Hispanic cuisine. Miguel then commented on their techniques, which combine the Mexican knowledge of Sandra and his own Spanish expertise.
The restaurant works with exclusively Mexican ingredients. Both chefs seek to teach their guests the value of local produce, showing it is not necessary to travel great distances to enjoy quality dinner. It is mandatory for them to begin with high-end raw materials. This is, according to Chef Miguel, over half of the quality of the final product. To achieve the one hundred percent in each dish, chefs must pour all their talent in their cooking and pairing.
Scallops, dashi. wasabi and miso.
With the interview over, Miguel and Sandra invited me to try their menu. While their a-la-carte options are varied, this time I went for their degustation menu. Starting with a small snack, the feast started promptly.
Each plate is named arbitrarily and tell much about themselves. While the most prevalent influences are obviously Mexican and Spanish, the chefs don’t shy away from eclectic ingredients and cooking methods. First, the callo de hacha, ponzu, miso, & shrimp dashi. Without much pretense, it offers exactly what it brings. A fresh appetizer to whet the appetite.
Warm tart of seasonal vegetables and romescu sauce.
One can perceive each ingredient based off its aroma, taste and texture. The best example in the whole menu to exemplify these characteristics is the vegetable tart with romesco, tomato sauce which preparation originates in Tarragona and is mainly used in seafood. While neutral flavors are usually what comes to mind when thinking about vegetables. However, sour flavors from pickled veggies and the special tomato sauce combine into a perfect harmony in this dish. Crunchy textures in the tart and the veggies and bittersweet highlights made this the best dish in the menu in my opinion.
Third course consists of confit envidia, mushroom Danish & pecan. This dish reminds of traditional techniques, ancient traditions ever-present in homemade dishes. The best restaurants of course pick up on this feeling, and Noso does it masterfully, particularly in this tangy concoction.
Confit endive, mushroom hollandaise sauce and pecan nuts.
Both chefs have a lengthy trajectory, as mentioned before. Both of them value their time in El Bulli in Spain, in charge of Chef Ferran Adrià. This influence is especially noticeable in the next plate, pork & rice, topped with cheese foam. Unctuous flavors and persistent texture carry over from Adrià’s style and benefit from Miguel Hidalgo and Sandra’s new vision.
“Our style matured in Spain, this is how we treat the product. Sandra helped us to understand how to properly integrate the Mexican element.”
Miguel speaks fondly of Mexico, and how his travels have gifted him with new opportunities to cook and innovate his craft. The fifth course, tikin xic fish, beans & onion ash illustrates his ability to experiment with varied nuances on the tongue. Chilli and spicy dressing, creamy textures, a dynamic relation reminiscent of seafood preparations of southern Mexico.
Vegetables seem to be the forte for the chefs. Desserts are the last thing that comes to mind when thinking of greens, but Noso pulls it off with grandiose results. Soursop, celery & lime offers soursop pops and small caramelized celery and green pea. Flavors balanced a crunchy texture and sweet fruit flavors. Finding a sweet side to vegetables often consumed in savory dishes is a new and pleasing experience.
Catch of the day, Tikin Xic, pinto beans, habanero and onion ash.
The degustation menu finished with bread, chocolate & olive oil. Honestly, it does not catch the attention until one hears the story behind it. Miguel speaks fondly of his memories from his natal Spain, when his grandmother would grab leftover bread and spread it with nocilla, a traditional chocolate and hazelnut cream, and top it off with an olive oil drizzle. Miguel takes these flavors of his early childhood to create this dish, easily one of the most memorable dishes, which combined three ice cream pieces, dark chocolate, vanilla sponge bread and a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. A true homage to Spanish culture, it shines bright right after the first taste.
Noso offers mainly a-la-carte options, with each plate shining for its entrancing simplicity. However, the degustation menu, which changes each month, offers a special freshness with its new ingredients and the raw creativity from the pair of chefs. For them, the most important quality in a plate is taste and the satisfaction of each dinner. The degustation menu exists in perfect harmony in the palette of the costumer.
Soursop pop corn, celery, lime and pea caramel.
Noso is a concept, not just a restaurant. It is a culture, unity, family. So far, Miguel has been constantly mentioned. Sandra was unable to join us for the interview, being a mother, she had to tend for her children. That was the moment I remembered the meaning of Noso. “Ours” in Galician. This simple act exemplified what Miguel and Sandra have built together in this space, a beautiful show of union and diversity through creative dishes.
“My mind was blown the first few times I traveled. I realized I knew virtually nothing back in Spain.”
Sourdough, chocolate, extra virgin olive oil.
Masaryk 11, 3rd Floor