When one of Vancouver’s most exciting cooks turns his attention to tentacles, you should take attention.
Now, he’s applying European techniques to family recipes at Vancouver’s newest Mexican restaurant, which he named after his mother, Ophelia.
Higareda sous-vides Spanish octopus for five hours to keep the meat succulent. “I can’t tell you my temperature for the sous vide,” he says. “That’s my secret.” He then fries the octopus in a corn-paprika rub made from burned tortillas to give it a pork-rind-like crunch.
White mole, or mole blanco, is a staple of small-town holiday celebrations in Guerrero, Mexico. “We call it mole de fiesta,” Higareda says. His lively version blends fresh chilies, herbs, spices, white chocolate, and honey.
“The rice reminds me of my mom’s cilantro rice,” Higareda says, although his take is also inspired by his stint at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon. “This one is a proper risotto,” the chef says, “with Grana Padano cheese and butter.”
Higareda also mines family tradition for the ground chorizo crumble. “My dad used to make ground chorizo all the time,” he remembers. The chef douses the sausage in his dad’s signature sauce—guajillo, arbol, and pasilla peppers, with cinnamon, cloves, vinegar, and oregano, and then fries it.
“A margarita cleanses your palate,” the chef says. The habanero bitters in the caliente margarita match the floral spice of the mole, and Ophelia uses Casa Dragones blanco tequila, a favorite of another famous “O.”
“Oprah says it’s her favorite tequila,” Higareda notes. “That’s a huge kick.”
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