Pan Zur, a gem in Tivoli
Last night we had dinner at a fairly new restaurant in a small village called Tivoli (10 minutes drive to north from Rhinebeck, Duchess County, New York). We had no particular restaurant in mind but we know that there is couple of restaurants which were pretty packed when we drove through the town this summer. We parked our car and stopped at each restaurant to study their menu. One place was pretty packed, but nothing on the menu was intriguing. The other place had items such as Thai Tofu Curry and Wonton….a bit confused menu for me. Then, we came to the third place where the menu, including tapas, suggests that it is a Spanish restaurant….a big alert! My frequent trips to Spain in the past nurtured my love and deep understanding of Spanish foods. Do I trust the chef at this restaurant? Is this place an Americanized Spanish restaurant? After a brief chat with a bartender who gave us a short description of the chef [his father is Spanish; his ground father owned a restaurant in Barcelona (I did not confirm this with the chef, though); he is from Argentine] I was convinced that we should stay. Among many choices on the menu we ordered house-cured pork belly, fried squid with squid ink sauce, vinegar cured green chile and mushroom paella (caldoso-type) using locally foraged mushrooms. First came the pork belly and green chile dish. Pork belly was paper-thin sliced and almost all fatty part. It looked like Italian lardo. Oh, boy…it melted in our mouth…so delicious. Then, the squid dish arrived. It was beyond delicious – every part was correct – the size of the squash, proper cooking, crispiness, saltiness, thickness and flavor of the sauce. It was a master dish. Then, the greens – mustard greens with pine nuts (lots of pinos) and cured cherries and paella arrived. The fragrance and taste of strong mushrooms (lots of mushrooms) were heaven. Later we spoke with the chef/owner, Rei Peraza. Rei cooked across the country, including several very high end establishments such as Per Se. But his dream and heart was in Tivoli whose local he fell in love with when he studied at Culinary Institute of America. This is a “destination” restaurant.