When Geoffrey Zakarian, the “Iron Chef” and Food Network star, goes out to eat in Lewiston, he likes to stop by Carmelo’s.
That’s because of sophisticated, ingredient-focused dishes such as Smoked Beef Tongue Tonnato ($9), a spin on the classic Italian appetizer of thinly sliced poached veal topped with a tuna mayonnaise.
Instead of veal, locally raised beef tongue is cooked for 12 hours in salt and pork fat, then cooled, hot-smoked over hickory chips and sliced thin. Chef-owner Carmelo Raimondi knows the word makes lots of people cringe, but tongue is tasty. “It you didn’t know it was tongue you’d think it was especially silky, rich beef,” he said. “You get that luxurious mouth feel. It’s not like ‘Ugh, this is organ meat.’ ”
It’s topped with a sauce of tuna poached in extra-virgin olive oil, then made into a loose aioli with capers and gherkins. “It’s like a really expensive tuna fish salad,” Raimondi said.
Then there are pickled mushrooms, celery heart and peppadew peppers. The celery heart adds freshness and a bitter note, and a touch of heat plus a flash of red comes from the peppadew peppers. “It’s heavy, with the beef and mayonnaise, otherwise, so it brightens up the dish a bit, gives it that celery umami,” he said.
With the smokiness of the tongue, the chef said, “it’s like a surf and turf kind of thing.”
– Andrew Z. Galarneau