Javier Wong, the chef owner of Chez Wong in Lima, is one of the most legendary chefs in Peru. His restaurant isn’t fancy, far from it. It’s in one room of his house, in the rough and tumble district of La Victoria not far from a line of auto repair garages. There’s no menu. He serves a ceviche, always using Pacific sole; enormous ones. He is fond of holding the fish in the air before slicing it up and asking the diners: “Hilary (for the white belly side of the fish) or Obama (for the black top of the fish).” OK, it’s a little bit dated, but he is having fun and means no harm by it. Usually he’ll add another seafood such as squid or octopus. For the second course he serves a saltado, or stir-fry. There are usually two options: sweet or salty. There are no substitutions or alterations to the dishes. You get what is served.
Still, Wong’s food is some of the best served in Peru. He is proof that with the right ingredients and techniques that have been perfected over long periods of time, a simple recipe from a simple place can be as powerful and tasty as the food from the world’s most expensive restaurants. The following ceviche recipe, provided to me by Wong for an article about ceviche I wrote that I wrote for the Wall Street Journal (the recipe was cut because of space), is one that he commonly serves at Chez Wong.
RECIPE: Cebiche de Lenguado y Calamar (Sole and Squid Ceviche)
-2 medium red onions
-2 teaspoons minced garlic
-1 pound sole, cut into ½ inch cubes
-1/2 pound squid, with tentacles cut about ¼ inch thick
-16 chulucanas limes (key limes are a good substitute)
-2 ají limo, seeded, deveined, and chopped
-Mix all ingredients together and serve immediately. It will “cook” as it is eaten.
To visit Chez Wong (Enrique León García 114, La Victoria), reservations are essential. Call 511-470-6217.
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.