Few realize just how abundant Nikkei cuisine is in Lima. In Peru, the ancestral cooking style fuses traditional Japanese with Peruvian to make some of the most interesting takes on one of the world’s great culinary brands. The international media in their new love of Peruvian cuisine consistently overlooks Nikkei chefs, however, many of the top fine dining restaurants in Lima are in fact Nikkei. Examples: Osaka, Hanzo, and Costanera 700.
Not all Nikkei restaurants are fine dining, though. A perfect example is El Encuentro de Otani, found in the coastal suburb of Chorrillos south of Miraflores and Barranco. While many of the best cevicherias can be found in Chorrillos along the coast, this huarique is in the ass end of the district, not far from the Pan American highway. Essentially it is in the middle of nowhere. If you weren’t looking for it or lived on the same street, you would never find it. I actually lived in Chorrillos for nearly a year and I could still never find it and no taxi drivers seemed to know where it was.
Foodies in Lima have been coming here for decades since the elder Otani began serving Nikkei food out of his family home. Now his daughter runs the kitchen. After entering a narrow alleyway you enter a simple, rectangular room with concrete walls and a bar on one end. There are beer and soccer posters on the wall along with some family portraits. No one is here for the decor though, only the undeniably fresh seafood.
Just by opening the menu I got excited. Sashimi de Pulpo (Octopus sashimi)! I have never seen it on any menu in Lima, though maybe I haven’t been to enough Nikkei restaurants. I don’t think I had ever previously eaten raw octopus. Grilled, sure. But raw never. It was served in thin slices, some of them more fatty than the others. Napo, or turnip, and sliced cucumber were on the dish as well. A small bowl of soy sauce and clump of wasabi were on the side. The dish could have fed four easily.
To pair with the sashimi we ordered Wantan de Langostinos (shrimp wantans). They were deep fried, almost fist size, and served with a sweet and sour sauce. There were maybe ten on the plate. More than enough for four, though we were two.
The main courses range from saltados (stir fries), chaufas (frid rice), and grilled fish, though I took the Criollo route with Tacu Tacu Relleno de Mariscos. I ordered a medium size plate and it was beyond massive. No matter how small a size you order it is still going to be too big. The seasoned day old beans and rice are stuffed thick with shellfish and hearty sauce. It comes out gooier than most tacu tacu I have eaten, but they are sometimes served too dry anyway.
While this place is well out of the way of anything, a huarique like this that makes its business by word of mouth is worth the hassle of finding it.
El Encuentro de Otani
Calle Los Titanes 182, La Campa
Chorrillos, Lima, Peru
Hours: Daily 9am-5pm
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.