Saturday, April 08, 2006

Restaurant: La Gorda in Madrid

Have I mentioned the Peruvian diaspora?

This is an informal, unofficial translation of two articles about Carmen Delgado, a Peruvian living in Spain who in 2004 opened her highly-acclaimed Peruvian restaurant,
La Gorda, in the Prosperidad district of northeast Madrid.

Carmen is considered to be one of the finest ethnic chefs working in the Spanish capital.

The first article by Paola Miglio appeared in the Lima daily, El Comercio.

In doing research for this post, I also found an article by Fernando Point in the Madrid daily, El Mundo.

In 2004, El Mundo named
La Gorda one of the year's best new dining establishments.

I thought the popularity of Peruvian cuisine in Madrid was quite interesting.

I know there is now a sizeable Peruvian colony in Madrid, and I've wondered if Peruvian food had experienced crossover appeal among Spanish diners.

It seems it has.

La Gorda, at the center of map.
Calle Matilde Dí­ez 16, Prosperidad.
At the bottom of map, you can see the
Plaza Prosperidad Metro Station.
Click on the map to enlarge image.

Prosperidad is an historical neighborhood in the Chamartí­n district, just past wealthy Barrio de Salamanca, as if you were heading towards Hortaleza. When it was founded in the late 1800s, as a result of the expansion away of the city from the historic core, it was considered so far away from Puerta del Sol, the geographic center of Madrid, it could have been a separate town. Now, it has been enveloped within the urban mass that is greater Madrid.

Prosperidad, or la Prospe, is known both for its historical architecture, as well as for being an area where immigrants have settled in these surrounding areas of the Spanish capital.

Photo by Sergio Tomé Fernández at the
University of Oviedo, Department of Geography.

When I lived in Madrid in the early 80s, I recall there being but two Peruvian restaurants in town: one was just off the Plaza de España, and the other was in Chueca. Both lacked authenticity. At the time, Peruvian cuisine was considered to be very exotic by Spanish standards, and I know authentic ingredients were hard to come by.

Clearly, 20 years of immigration from Latin America to Spain (much of it to Madrid) have changed both its complexion, as well as its culinary heritage. Peruvian cuisine has now been discovered by Spaniards.

If you happen to be in Madrid, enjoy Peruvian!

La Gorda in Madrid

By Paola Miglio, El Comercio, 2/27/06

To view the original Spanish article: Click here.

In the Prosperidad neighborhood of Madrid, a small bastion of Peruvian cuisine is conquering Spanish palates. In her restaurant, Carmen Delgado, affectionately known as La Gorda, daily receives dozens of diners who are captivated by the taste of her Peruvian cooking.

This Peruvian, who arrived in the Spanish capital almost 20 years ago, fervently believes the key to excellence in cooking is doing it with love. Clearly, this philosophy is providing her excellent results.

It is 3:30 in the afternoon and there is almost no place to sit. Every table in the house is occupied. Carmen Delgado meets us in her chef's uniform with a broad smile. After living in Madrid for 17 years, two years ago she was finally able to open her own restaurant, now an obligatory stop for those Peruvians who live outside of Peru and miss their cuisine, as well as anyone living or passing through Madrid who desires to discover the wonders of New Peruvian Cuisine.

A chef by vocation and out of conviction, La Gorda believes the key to cooking is love. This is the lesson she learned in her own home. It is the flavors and odors of her mother's kitchen that she recreates in her restaurant.

Photo of Carmen Delgado by Paola Miglio in El Comercio.

Prior to arriving in Madrid in 1988, she had worked for years making desserts for Lima restaurants. In Spain, once again, she found herself drawn to cooking.

She recalls, "When I first arrived in Spain, I began to distribute desserts door to door. I had to be very ingenious in order to attract new clients. I lived in a tiny apartment, and hardly had any storage space at all, so my neighbors would let me store my ingredients in their homes! They would even give me their house keys. Little by little, I started making contacts, and then I began catering for the Chilean embassy. I did that for four years."

But, Carmen Delgado's dream had always been to have her own restaurant. Today, her restaurant is her life. There are days when she has to turn away customers because her place is completely full. The majority of her diners are Spaniards so captivated by the dishes La Gorda prepares, they return time and again.

"I make sure my food isn't too spicy. Many people think Peruvian food is spicy, and it isn't at all like that. I explain to my customers that the right amount of ají­ is added just to give each dish a special flavor. I also explain what they're eating, the influences and origins of our food, and about the ingredients we use. I try to have a personal touch with my customers, and I can see their immediate positive reaction," she notes.

Without a doubt, she enjoys herself immensely.

Besides running the restaurant, she continues to work as a caterer, alongside another Madrid-based Peruvian chef, Brisa Deneumostier. She also continues to learn new techniques and invent new ways of presenting homestyle Peruvian dishes.

At the restaurant, once a week she dedicates a day to the Peruvian-Chinese cuisine known as chifa. Weekly, she also makes a traditional Peruvian one-pot meal, the soup called sancochado. La Gorda recalls she, "made it one day, and people were so impressed. People came from nearby offices to try it and they all left happy. They say my sancochado doesn't make them sleepy, it's not so heavy."

"It's all a matter of presenting our cuisine with certain refinement by stylizing the dishes. You can't simply associate our food with our folklore. Peruvian gastronomy has been evolving quite a bit in the recent past, and the number of products that are being incorporated into our culinary lexicon is incredible. Every day, I learn something new, either when important chefs come to dine here, or when I go to conferences." She emphasizes, "There is always a constant exchange of information and techniques."

Carmen is involved in many culinary activities. She participates in festivals such as the Latin American Cooking Conference, first held in 2005 in the southern Spanish city of Málaga, in the Madrid Fusion International Gastronomical Summit, and in the International Tourism Festival of Spain.

All this involvement means she is always up-to-date to with the latest in the gastronomical world.

She attempts to maintain authenticity in her cuisine, and use Peruvian products. But, she also compare textures when she has to find substitutes for products that are hard to find in Spain. For example, to make ceviche she uses bacalao, and wild lubina for tiradito.

Most importantly, she tries to preserve the warmth you feel when you dine in someone's house in Peru.

For Peruvians who live in Spain (and fans of Peruvian cooking) that warmth is the draw, that is what makes people leave their homes and head out in search of La Gorda, whether it be on a lazy Sunday, or during one of the infamous Castilian cold waves, or when the subway is packed. Diners in search of the flavor of Peru know they will not be disappointed once they enter through her doors.

Translator's Note:This is the other article I found about La Gorda, from a list of Madrid's best restaurants, published in the Madrid daily, El Mundo.

La Gorda in Prosperidad

By Fernando Point, El Mundo, 07/28/04

To view the original Spanish article: Click here.

It is not a very glamorous neighborhood, the decoration is minimalist, the walls are painted light orange and green, and the kitchen attempts to offer an exotic cuisine true to its origins.

Carmen Delgado has a passion for her cuisine. You see it in her dishes, always attractively presented, and in her dedication. She has pride in her origins, and
using the finest ingredients available, she tries to reproduce to the best of her ability, her interpretation of Peruvian cuisine.

She attained her goal when her restaurant, La Gorda, in the Prosperidad neighborhood in Chamartín district, was acclaimed as one of the best ethnic restaurants in Madrid.

This young chef,
still called La Gorda although she weighs much less than before, is passionate about the traditions of her native Peru, which along with Mexico has the finest cuisine of the Americas.

Photo of Carmen Delgado, her husband Félix Martín, and her kitchen staff, by Diego Saniva in El Mundo.

Carmen also keeps abreast of the most current trends in Asian cuisine, so important in Lima's culinary world, and therefore, informing contemporary Peruvian cuisine as a whole. With her arrival to the Spanish capital, as well as that of Manuel Flores Garcí­a at Hakkasan, the Peruvian culinary presence in Madrid has made a great leap forward, evolving from the old folkloric-style cuisine to something much more exciting and modern.

So, when faced with the fine tiradito de lenguado made by Manuel, we then encounter the even better lubina tiradito, made by Carmen. She creates balance between the fish, the lemon, and the spices. The shrimp dumplings with a sweet and sour sauce is another dish Carmen prepares that has definite Asian influence.

In fact, Carmen feels such passion about this culinary style, that every Wednesday night her menu is all chifa, as Chinese-Peruvian fusion cuisine is called, which is a result of Chinese immigration to Peru commencing in the late 1800s.

La Gorda offers an excellent and potent ceviche made with abadejo, which for the owner is the Spanish fish most similar in texture to the Pacific Ocean corvina; she uses yuca root,
instead of the more traditional potatoes, to accompany the creamy huancaína sauce; and, she makes a a very tasty stir-fried veal cutlet saltado with the juxtaposition of French fries and rice, as typically served in Lima or Callao. However, because the current gastronomical trend is to not combine starches in this manner, just as nouvelle cuisine did away with using flour in sauces, Carmen also needs to now purify these heavy culinary combinations.

A few more comments. At midday, the restaurant is an excellent value, due to its authentic and varied prix-fixe menu which costs less than 10 Euros (in 2005). You begin your meal with a very good pisco sour, and conclude with a sweet suspiro a la limeña. The bread and wine are fine. In short: highly recommended.

La Gorda
Matilde Dí­ez 16, Prosperidad, Madrid
Phone: 91-515-3534
Closed: Sunday evenings and Mondays
Open: 1:30 to 4:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. to midnight.
Credit: Visa, Mastercard, 4B
Median price: 15 to 25 Euros
Metro Stations: Cruz del Rayo (Line 9, towards Herrera Oria) and Prosperidad (Line 4, towards Parque de Santa Marí­a.) View Madrid Metro map here.
Closed for vacation: August 1 to August 31.

Click here for the Peru Food main page.

TAGS: Peru, Peruvian, food, cooking, cuisine, cocina, comida, gastronomía, peruana

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