Da Terra. London. 19th August 2021

Rafael Cagali left his home country Brazil at the age of 21 to work under the orders of great Chefs such as Heston Blumenthal at ‘The Fat Duck’, Martín Berasategui and Quique Dacosta. In January 2019 he opened, together with Paulo Airaudo, the chef patron of the restaurant Amelia in San Sebastian, restaurant Da Terra in London’s Bethnal Green, a very unusual location for a restaurant which gained its second Michelin star already two years after the opening. I have eaten there at the soft opening and it was delicious, but it’s enough to compare the photos from then (here) and the ones from now (below) to understand the huge steps Rafael made in this short time.

This time I was at Da Terra for the Anaori kakugama dinner. Rafael was one of the seventeen chefs from around the world invited by me (nine additional were invited by Anaori) to explore the possibilities of the new cooking tool from Japan, the carbon graphite made Anaori kakugama.

When creating kakugama, the idea was to inflict the least possible stress on each ingredient, so as to heighten their essence, and to preserve their nutrients. For this, you need the appropriate material and the right design. Drawing on the wisdom of Japanese cuisine and its own technological expertise, ANAORI has created an unprecedented multifunctional cooking tool, updating the efficient design of a historic cooking pot (hagama) in a high-performance material: carbon graphite. This is how ANAORI kakugama was born.

 

Rafael Cagali

Rafael’s cuisine is very technical and yet very personal. Rafael is Brazilian but with Italian ancestry. He beautifully incorporates his roots into the wonderful menu he serves – there is a raviolo and his interpretation of caprese, there is taleggio and in strawberries there is balsamic vinegar and then there is baba (it may originate in the Eastern Europe, but it became also a Neapolitan as well as French tradition already in the 18th and 19th century) to celebrate his Italian roots, and there are caipirinha, moqueca, cassava, guava and Cachaça (used for baba insted of rum!) as a homage to his home country .

Everything starts with a welcome with his lovely interpretation of caipirinha.

 

Caipirinha

The delicious appetisers had beautifully intense flavours captured within super delicate crispy shells …

Buckwheat cup, stout vinegar, mackerel and peas | Soft nori tacos, aged ribeye, anchovies

… or in soft melting dough like the one of these super delicios doughnuts below.

Cod head croquettes, potato tapioca , burnt chives emulsion | Taleggio doughnuts, oyster mushrooms

The scallop which followed was served in two parts. On the plate there was the scallop with a touch of freshness, while on the other plate were pillows filled with scallop roe mousse. This dish is actually an amazing upgrade of the 2019 scallop dish you can see here.

Isle of Mull scallop, fennel, Granny Smith | Black pillows filled with scallop roe mouse

This was followed by the most delicious interpretation of Caprese that I ever had. It was the essence of the caprese bursting with intense flavour enriched with also some olives.

Caprese – datterini, basil, stracciatella, black olives

I loved the chicken course already in the 2019, now that course (see the 2019 version here)  got deconstructed and reinterpreted. The best of chicken (shame only that skin, that was part of it in 2019, was missing this time) – from the egg yolk itself (with Australian truffles and the juices from the roast) to the best parts like the juicy chicken wings and delicious chicken livers. And there was a soft and warm brioche to end the dish with “scarpetta” – to mop up all the deliciousness at the end.

The chicken: wings, liver, feet, yolk, onion (complete serving)
The chicken: wings, liver, feet, yolk, onion (detail 1)
The chicken: wings, liver, feet, yolk, onion (detail 2)

The freshly baked bread was the one to follow.

Sourdough, bone marrow, cultured butter, olive oil

And here it comes – her majesty kakugama, carrying the moqueca, Rafael’s love song to Brazil. Moqueca is the very famous Brazilian fish stew. Moqueca baiana was developed in the state of Bahia using the freshest fish caught on the day. It was further influenced by Africans and Portuguese by adding dendê palm oil and coconut milk, respectively. Traditional ingredients remain the same with the dish typically garnished with chopped coriander, then served with rice and farofa. The word “moqueca” comes from the native expression “moquem”  which means “a stick for grilling or roasting on hot coals”.  The word was born from the native habit of cooking fish and meat wrapped in (often banana) leaves over fire.

Moqueca (made with Anaori kakugama)

Rafael has grilled the fish on the carbon graphite cover of the kakugama, which functions also as a grill and finished the stew in the kakugama “pot”. The serving:

Moqueca (made with Anaori kakugama) Monkfish, palm heart, farofa

It was a really delicious dish with lots of freshness and deep flavour.

Next up was Rafael’s version of raviolo, in this case it was a duck raviolo, served with amazing cured duck breast.

Raviolo – Duck, whey, watercress

I find the mains often disappointing. But the lamb below was so good! Cooked to perfection it was then served with its gravy and in a small bowl (which I forgot to take a photo of) was served beside it kale with, super crispy outside and wonderfully melty inside, lamb’s sweetbreads – one of my favourite delicacies! I would eat well prepared sweetbreads at anytime (one of my absolute favourites) and these were really amazing (now you know why the photo is missing)!

 

Cornish lamb – sirloin, kale, cassava, sweetbreads (sorry the serving of sweetbreads with kale is not photographed)

A bit different, delicious cheese course – Two goat cheeses – St Tola and Dorstone – in a perfect harmony with guava. Such a delight! In Brazil, the combination of cheese and guava paste (used as an appetiser or dessert) is called Romeo & Julietta (Romeu e Julieta) and this is its wonderful interpretation by Rafael.

 

Romeo & Juliette. Cheese & guava

As a pre-dessert has Rafael prepared something special.

Rafael Cagali preparing the predessert

And what predessert it was! Baba is a relatively simple dessert but so good, when made well. This sponge was amazingly delicate and with a Brazilian touch, by using the cachaça instead of rum, it got even better. It was lighter and fresher than the rum version. And the flavour of pistachio (the pistachio ice cream), topped with the Kaluga Hybrid caviar made it irresistible. One of the most delicious, beautifully balanced desserts lately.

Baba, Cachaça, pistachio, Kaluga Hybrid

The meal ended with British strawberries with sheep’s yogurt and accents of balsamic vinegar (like Italians like to do).

English strawberries, sheep’s yogurt, 40 years old balsamic vinegar

It was an amazing meal from a young but well trained highly passionate team under direction of a young chef who is definitely between the best in London.

Da Terra

8 Patriot Square

London E2 9NF

Phone: 020 7062 2052

Petit fours

 

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