On a warm night in Philadelphia, one can pass by the open doors of Amada and see the passionate moves of a beautiful flamenco dancer. The sex appeal of such a display at other restaurants is often a ploy to distract from a menu that lacks emotion and excitement. But look around in Amada and you'll see rapture in the faces of those who find the Spanish cuisine of Jose Garces as sultry and alluring as any woman in command of a room. Garces is that good. In a handful of years he has emerged as Philadelphia's king of Latin cuisine. He's cooked Cuban at Alma de Cuba, Mexican at El Vez and now Spanish at Amada, his first venture as owner. Each time this Chicago-raised son of Ecuadorian parents embraces a cuisine, he does so with heart and soul. For his efforts, he has become Philadelphia's Amada ("loved one").
Nice rose, Jose. Do you dance?
I cook. But one of the flamenco dancers at Amada actually did dance with a rose in her teeth. It was very sexy.
No doubt. Do you cook at home?
Often, on a Sunday or Monday, we'll have big family meals that include my wife, Beatriz, my 4-year-old daughter, Olivia, my brother, Christian, and my mom.
What do you make?
Last week I made a ceviche, my mother made a paella and Beatriz made the salad.
No suckling pig?
I've done pig roasts at home, but nothing like the suckling pig we do at Amada. We brine a 20-pounder for a day and roast it for six hours. It's so tender it falls apart.
What's Olivia's favorite food?
She likes four-cheese ravioli with tomato cream sauce.
How does she like her new home?
She likes living in the city (just a few blocks from Amada). We thought you had to raise a family in the suburbs, but we love the city's energy.
Apparently. You've got another on the way.
Yup, Beatriz is pregnant again.
Maybe it's all that organic food in the fridge.
I don't know about that. But a Whole Foods store opened nearby recently and I'm impressed with its organic products and service.
Are you using organics at Amada?
To some degree. We deal with local farms as much as possible. Our chicken and mushrooms, for example, are organically produced on nearby farms.
You're also cooking, to some degree, using sous vide.
Yeah, my last trip to Spain inspired me to try sous vide. We use the cooking method for a 30-ounce rib chop, truffle chicken breast, foie gras and more. Protein breaks down beautifully this way.
Rumor has it you're opening a new restaurant soon.
I hope by September to open a Spanish wine bar, one that will feature tapas from southern France and northern Spain. I'll soon be heading back to Spain for more research.
It's hard work, but somebody has to do it. Anything else?
Yes, next year I hope to open a Mexican concept.
It appears you've learned something from your old boss, Stephen Starr.
I have. But while Stephen opens lots of different types of restaurants, I want to be known for my Latin concepts.
We'll dance to that. Olè!