Nikkei restaurants have been on the rise in Lima for the past several years. The Peruvian-Japanese fusion spots are home to some of the most technically skilled chefs anywhere in Peru, though with the addition of sophisticated restaurants such as Central and Manfiesto in recent years they have been overshadowed. That is about to change. Hajime Kasuga, you know him from his work at Hanzo, a Nikkei restaurant that was exported to Santiago, has opened this week his new restaurant: H, or Ache.
Kasuga is a third generation Japanese-Peruvian that has worked his way through nearly all of the capital’s top Nikkei restaurants. He began at Matsuei, the renowned sushi bar that was founded by Nobu Matsuhisa, before he left Peru and went on to create a worldwide sushi empire. This was his initiation into more traditional Japanese fare. Later at Osaka, which at the time was beginning to experiment more and more with Peruvian Japanese fusion, he begin to see the potential of Nikkei food in Peru. On opening Hanzo with other partners, he was given the reigns to create his own menu, though his new venture, H, is his real introduction as a top chef in Lima.
The menu is considerably more sophisticated and more playful than at Hanzo. Start with cocktails, like the Geisha Exotica, which mixes Shochu with camu camu juice, or tick with the standard range of original chilcanos and sours. You might as well toss back a Jelly (jello) shot too (passionfruit or Cosmopolitan flavors).
Instead of Maki Acevichado, a dish that combines sushi and cebiche that I’m quite fond of (Kasuga revealed to me was originally invented at Lima’s Edo Sushi Bar), he has the Cebiche Roll. The difference is that slathering the top of the maki isn’t a mayo based sauce, but leche de tigre. In true Nikkei fashion there’s a long list of sashimi and nigiri on the same page as ceviches and tiraditos. One tiradito (al Aji Amarillo) is wrapped around shredded turnip, adding a beautiful crunchiness to a never before crunchy dish. The Cebiche H is served cold with a ginger foam.
The entradas and main courses half one foot in Peru and the other in Japan. Kebabs de Pato y Langostino, skewered duck and prawn meatballs, are a superb starter. Sakana on the Rocks, where a fish filet is cooked in a stone dish (it comes out sizzling), melts in your mouth. Mariscos al fuego are literally in fuego, right on the shell, when they are served. A steak is served with teriyaki and a bed of cacao and chulpi. The tiny aji charapita even appears on the menu.
The stylish restaurant can be found in what will quickly become the hot new food hood in Miraflores, near the corner of 28 de Julio and Avenida La Paz, where a new Hilton hotel, Gaston Acurio’s new Italian-Peruvian restaurant, Los Bachiche, and Pedro Miguel Schiaffino’s Amazonian bar and restaurant, Amaz, will soon be found. Ache is the first of the group to open.
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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.