Since tequila is the national spirit of Mexico, it naturally is associated with that country’s cuisine. But a few operators have discovered that the versatile liquor pairs well with cuisines beyond our southern border.
As its name implies, Sushi-Teq at the 424-room InterContinental Boston Waterfront Hotel incorporates the Japanese delicacy and Mexican spirit in a single concept. “Our sushi chef, [Taki-ish], has created a number of pairing menus to complement the flavors in both the spirit and the sushi,” says Christina Altieri, assistant bar manager. Altieri usually suggests to guests that they accompany dinner with one of eight tasting flights, ranging from a trio of blancos for $20 to a superpremium sampler of añejos and extra añejos for $85.
A signature is the Sushiteq Roll, $14, composed of spicy salmon, soy wrap, avocado, cucumbers, scallops, crunchy potato, soy sauce and chive oil. This pairs well with Corralejo Reposado, priced $13 a glass, according to Altieri, because the tequila’s natural sweetness counteracts the spiciness of the salmon.
Sushi-Teq also developed a drinks list of two dozen mostly tequila-based cocktails, priced from $12 to $14. The cocktail that works best with most sushi selections, says Altieri, is the Garita, which is made with El Jimador Reposado, St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur, fresh ginger, ginger beer and lime juice, priced at $13. The drink’s components, she explains, echo the elements found in sushi, notably ginger, and the tequila adds a sharp note, like wasabi. In an untraditional turnabout on the usual tasting experience, the chefs have designed a flight of sushi pieces to complement the flavors of Garita.
At Verdad restaurant in Bryn Mawr, Penn., on Philadelphia’s Main Line, chef and owner Nick Farina’s menu is composed of shareable plates with a Spanish accent. It runs the gamut from a charcuterie plate of house-cured meats, five different ceviches, crispy red snapper, short ribs and a host of Valencian paellas. Even its nod to Mexican fare is far from typical: the Kobe Taco, $10, features the famous beef, Spanish Manchego cheese and dates.
To match these dishes to Verdad’s 40-bottle tequila list, priced $8 to $25 per glass, Farina’s trick is to incorporate tequila flavors into the food. “I use agave nectar in my scallops entree,” explains the chef. Tequila is of course made from the agave, and the syrup adds to the natural sweetness of the scallops. The Mapleleaf Duck, $13, with plantain mash, is brushed with a pineapple-tequila glaze. “The glaze highlights the citrusy flavors.”
Despite an extensive Spanish and South American wine selection, Farina estimates that a good 25 percent of his customers will indulge in a tequila—and that’s not counting the half a dozen Margaritas and tequila cocktails on menu for $9 to $12 each. For the full experience, many diners opt for one of Verdad’s 16 tequila tasting flights, $16 to $35, to accompany the Chef’s Tasting Menu, $65.