Yada yada empanada
Dallas-Fort Worth doesn't have many Peruvian restaurants — period — and certainly not inside Dallas proper. That will be rectified the last week of November, when Joyce & Gigi's Kitchen opens in an old body shop at 1623 Ross Ave., near Central Expressway. The mother-daughter owners hail from Bolivia.
Finally, a place to get South American delicacies like empanadas and feijoada, a slow-cooked stew that Gigi describes thusly: "like gravy and biscuits for Americans."
"Gigi" is Gigliola Aguilera. Joyce Stenvall is her mother; both are chefs. Joyce has cooked South American food all her life. Gigi studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Austin and worked at kitchens in Dallas and Europe — Fearing's, Five Sixty, the Stoneleigh, Martín Berasategui in Spain and Aeschbach Chocolatier in Switzerland — to expand her repertoire.
The mother-daughter duo will open a modern South American restaurant with dishes from Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil and Chile. But they will do their own fusion-y twist.
With a stake from her father, and after many months of construction, Gigi and her mother will fulfill their dream to open a modern South American restaurant spotlighting dishes from Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil and Chile. But they will do their own fusion-y twist.
A classic example is majadito, one of Gigi's favorite dishes, to which she'll add French and Italian elements.
"Majadito is like a risotto that traditionally incorporates dry, aged meat," she says. "We'll make it with duck confit. The duck is mixed into the rice, along with fried plantains, with an egg on top."
Chicharron is a common Latin dish, but Gigli's version will be a surprise to those who expect the Mexican-style crunchy pork.
"My version is more like what you find in Bolivia," she says. "Bite-size pork ribs are braised and deep fried, then served with grilled corn salad and pesto cilantro sauce. It comes on the bone like that, but in Bolivia, they just deep fry it. We start with braised meat, to get it soft on the inside and crispy on the outside."
Causa limena, a delectable Peruvian dish with potato, is layered with crabmeat and topped with avocado puree. "Chicken-skin quinoa gritz" is serious new-age fusion, with grits made from quinoa instead of corn and crispy chicken skin folded in.
"Majadito is like a risotto that traditionally incorporates dry, aged meat," says co-owner Gigi. "We'll make it with duck confit."
Joyce & Gigi's Kitchen will have a full bar with cocktails made with fruit juices that run from tamarindo to rhubarb; a wine list dedicated to unique labels from Chile and Argentina; and a selection of beers from South America, such as Xingu and Palma Louca from Brazil.
Gigi and her mother are both excellent bakers, so you can expect good things from their empanadas and desserts. Their only problem is trying to narrow down the list.
"We have so many desserts. I don't know yet which ones we'll pick," Gigi says. "We're definitely doing a peach bread pudding made with brioche and a dessert that has layers of caramelized bananas and Italian meringue."
They've been remodeling since spring, a project that included the installation of plumbing and the creation of a kitchen from the ground up. Atmosphere is upscale yet casual and homey.
"I was going for a home-kitchen feel, like if you go to your friend's mom's house. I wanted to capture that homemade feeling," Gigi says. "It's rustic but modern, which also describes my mom and myself, in that we're using traditional techniques with a modern little twist."