Antigua, GT: Casa Santo Domingo – The 9-course $45 tasting menu (wine, coffee, tax, tip included)
In 2011, Casa Santo Domingo participated in the Bocuse D’Oro in Lyons France. It is one of the most prestigious cooking competitions in the world. The restaurant was the winner of the Latin American division.
I can understand why they made the competition. I can understand why they didn’t win in the finals … but this is probably a restaurant that will finish higher next time.
I really enjoyed the tasting menu. While there were a few misses, there were mainly hits and some memorable tastes.
This is literally a tasting menu as good percentage is small tastes of regular menu items.
Here's what I had rated from A+ to F -
B …... Amuse buche: Asparagus soup with toast
B + … Complementary dinner rolls with butter
B …... Tuna tartar, avocado, quail egg, caviar, olive tapenade, bell pepper coulis, grana padanno, baguette toast
A -...... Phylo pastry rolls with shrimp and Napa cabbage served with peach sauce, Thai barbecue and soy-ginger mayonnaise
B …... Marinated watermelon salad with hearts of palm, avocado, green apple, pineapple vinaigrette and smoked pineapple air
A -...... Guava sorbet
C - …. Citric marinated salmon, carrot textures, shitake mushrooms, and a reduction of tamarind-soy and spices
B + … Slow-cooked veal cheek with herbed marscapone polenta, brocollini, crimini mushrooms, and chocolate-red wine reduction
B + … Pan-seared beef tenderloin served over sauté spinach with gorgonzola cheese and potato cloud
B + … Dessert sampler
B - ..... Coffee
C …… wine
Service: B - ... Very good
Ambiance: B - ... Very good
Restaurant record with info such as address
Flickr photostream with more photos
Details in first reply.
CASA SANTO DOMINGO DETAILS
AMUSE BUCHE: ASPARAGUS SOUP WITH TOAST: B … Above average
This had lots of asparagus flavor, a rich stock and was a nice start to the meal. It was accompanied by a thin slice of lightly toasted baguette.
COMPLEMENTARY DINNER ROLLS WITH BUTTER: B + … Very, very good
They were classic, soft, wonderful dinner rolls. The butter and service moved these down from an “A”.
While Anchor is a very good butter, in a restaurant of this class, don’t serve the butter in little plastic containers.
They were slow to replenish the rolls. The first was immediately delivered. The second arrived as I had given up on getting any more. I really wouldn’t have minded a third … that never showed.
The second roll was flavored with bits of garlic, I think. That was really good also.
TUNA TARTAR: B … Above average
avocado, quail egg, caviar, olive tapenade, bell pepper coulis, grana padanno, baguette toast
This was a pretty presentation of good quality, delicate tuna tartar. All the items worked together enhancing the tartar. I am not a fan of tartars in general, but enjoyed this dish.
However, they should have paid attention to the fact that the same slice of baguette was served in two consecutive courses.
PHYLO ROLLS WITH SHRIMP & NAPA CABBAGE: A - … Way above average
served with peach sauce, Thai barbecue and soy-ginger mayonnaise
The shrimp were sea-fresh and juicy. They burst with flavor wrapped in the thinnest, crispiest phylo. Each of the sauces was delicious and showcased how different elements … sweet or savory … could change the shrimp into three distinct, different dishes.
There was what I believe was fennel pollen on the side. Whatever it was, it significantly upped the flavor of an already great dish.
MARINATED WATERMELON SALAD: B … Above average
with hearts of palm, avocado, green apple, pineapple vinaigrette and smoked pineapple air
I’m still not sure what pineapple air was, but this was a refreshing salad even though I didn’t detect any smoke flavor. The tiny discs of heart of palm were amazingly tender
GUAVA SORBET: A - … Way above average
This was light, fresh, not too sweet and delicately flavored. It was the perfect palate cleanser. The kitchen has real skill with sorbets which was demonstrated again in the dessert plate.
CITRIC MARINATED SALMON: C - … Slightly below average
carrot textures, shitake mushrooms, and a reduction of tamarind-soy and spices
One of the lessons the restaurant took away from the competition was to expand their repertoire into dishes that were not common to them. Salmon is not a fish local to Guatemala though it appears occasionally on some menus.
The kitchen demonstrated little understanding of it. It would be better to use one of the many excellent local fish.
First, the skin-on salmon was too fishy. It was not the best match for the lovely-looking, but too sweet tamarind-soy sauce.
Also, those weren’t shitake mushrooms. They were button mushrooms. I can understand the lack of availability, but don’t list a specific variety if there isn’t a constant supply.
Perhaps the surprise baby fava beans were the substitute. They were spring-fresh excellent.
The carrot textures were lovely, light airy, crispy crumbles. I hate to make this comparison because they were so good, but they reminded me of canned onion rings in terms of crunch. The kitchen slices food impossibly thin without losing flavor.
There was also a sweet slice of baby carrot for a different texture.
SLOW-COOKED VEAL CHEEK: B + … Very, very good
with herbed marscapone polenta, brocollini, crimini mushrooms, and chocolate-red wine reduction
This would have moved to the A- or even A category but the polenta and mushrooms earned it a lower grade.
Once again, they were not crimini mushrooms. They were the same button mushrooms in the previous course.
The polenta was good, but if it had more herb it would have been a better match for the deeply flavored magnificent veal cheek. It made eating baby cow worth it to me.
I assume that slow-cooked meant sous vide. It was one of the most tender and flavorful piece of meat I’ve ever had. Paired with the exquisite chocolate wine sauce, it was head-spinning greatness.
Surprisingly the chocolate sauce was excellent the brocollini.
PAN-SEARED BEEF TENDERLOIN: B + … Very, very good
served over sauté spinach with gorgonzola cheese and potato cloud
The tender beef on a rich, reduced jus was good, the spinach with gorgonzola cheese tasty, but it was the potato cloud that stood out. A dab of truly soft-as-clouds potatoes were topped with the thinnest crisp of potato. It was lovely.
DESSERT SAMPLER: B + … Very, very good
The pineapple ginger sorbet was terrific with deep, sweet fruit flavor and assertive, hot ginger notes. It topped layered diced mango and pineapple with a tangerine segment on the side. All worked in perfect harmony.
The corn pudding with a stick of sugar was amazing. The corn so sweet. If only Guatemalan corn tasted as good as this.
The banana dessert covered in a light meringue foam also was pure, deep flavor. At first I thought it was a piece of banana, but it turned out to be a cake.
The chocolate cake with dabs of blackberry and strawberry sauce was good, but I didn’t like the texture that seemed like a mousse crossed with cake, but not in a good way.
The only thing they should lose was the macaron. It was obvious that it was pre-made and refrigerated. It was much too hard and chewy.
COFFEE: B - ... Very good
This was a good medium strength coffee that stood up to the milk. I would have preferred the milk on the side rather than added by the kitchen.
WINE: C ... Average
This wasn’t the fault of the restaurant. I chose the cheap glass on the menu, Undurraga. I’ve had this before and knew what I was getting.
I just wanted a glass of wine to sip between courses. I thought the glass of the local Guatemalan wine, Chateau La Fey was too expensive. I didn’t know enough about the other wines by the glass and wasn’t willing to pay for one glass, half the price of the tasting menu. The California wines that I recognized on the menu were fine, but nothing special. So I didn't want to experiment on my own.
The servers had zero knowledge of wine and there was no direction. A white wine would have went nice with the first half of the menu and a better red with the last part of the meal.
Even better would have been a matching wine flight, but the staff had no clue what that was.
SERVICE: B - ... Very good
I went back the next day for brunch and it was what I would expect in a restaurant of this class. On Saturday night at prime time, while it was pleasant, it was a bit off.
I had finished half the menu before the wine was brought to the table. They brought tablecloths into the dining room, draped them over a chair and started folding. A workman came in with a ladder to light a candle in the chandelier. It was an ambiance killer. The unlighted candle didn’t call attention to itself. The workman did.
Each course came with new silverware. A fork was brought with the guava sorbet. Really?
There were lots of little glitches, nothing major but noticeable.
AMBIANCE: B - ... Very good
Located in a colonial monestary with thick stone walls and beautiful gardens, at night it is dark, candlelit and romantic.
The tables are set with white linens and bronze plate holders. What I liked was the dinnerware worked with the food. The small servings were on large white plates for presentation. Usually this means some inconvenience in terms of looks. Not here. Even the heavy knife for the steak which looked unwieldy, turned out to be perfect.
There are strolling musicians, something that usually makes my skin crawl. However, these gentlemen were good and when they approached tables they positioned themselves far enough away to offer beautiful music without intruding on diners.
It was a cold, rainy night and like most Antigua restaurants it was open to the outdoor areas. They had some nice warmers. They were metal buckets that had Mayan faces. The heaters were filled with glowing briquettes.
The only thing I would lose is the hostess uniform which was monestic robes. It was a little gimmicky and I would have preferred someone who was stylishly and smartly dressed. The waiters were fine with white shirts, black vests and pants.
Not only would I return to Casa Santo Domingo, I did the next morning for their outstanding Sunday brunch.
It is a beautiful restaurant with some of the best food in Antigua.
Sounds and looks really good, rw, I made a note for my next trip. As to the misfire with the salmon, they should have stuck to their knitting and do what they do best - mero, huachinango, or boquinette. I would never mess with salmon in CA. Glad you had the nice overall experience!
Seriously, go for the Sunday brunch. Talking to a local before I left, it seems that is where Guatemalans go and the place is packed. Lots of vegetarian options.
Ironically, just paid $45 for 4 burritos, 2 tacos and 5 drinks in the SF Bay Area. Sticker shock is making my heart skip beats.
Also, mark Toku Baru for vegetarian. Fabulous falafel (and I don't usually like the stuff). I need to get to that report. It was my favorite small restaurant in Guatemala. Seriously great sweet potato fries with peanut sauce (Dutch way to eat them). I ate there more than any other place.