Mistura is Lima, Peru’s annual gastronomic festival. Now in its 3rd year, the festival is running for longer and attracting bigger names than in its previous incarnations.
It’s about time Gastón! Peruvian celebuchef Gastón Acurio will open a branch of his La Mar Cebicheria in New York sometime between March and May of 2011, as reported by San Francisco Weekly and later confirmed by Peruvian web portal Terra. The 8,000 square foot location is already chosen, on Madison Avenue and 27th street, near Madison Square Park.
While has Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio has opened more than 30 restaurants around the world, few have been as big of a test as the branch of La Mar that is set to open in New York City this September.
There are tens of thousands of chifas, the local name for a Chinese restaurant, in Peru. They are found on almost every street corner in Lima and even in remote communities in the Amazon rainforest. They are overwhelmingly simple and generally inexpensive. They are far less fusion than most Peruvians think. While their influence on mainstream Peruvian cuisine is clearly evident (see Lomo Saltado), most chifas serve what is for the most part standard Cantonese cuisine. While there are a few chifas in Lima that serve dim sum and are a bit more upscale than normal, no major chef has attempted to neither reinvent nor modernize this variation of Peruvian food. Nikkei dishes yes, the chifa never.
Last year after eating at Alex Atala’s D.O.M. in São Paulo I predicted that the restaurant, then #18 on San Pellegrino’s World’s Best List, would make the Top 5 in 2011. I was close. It jumped up 11 spots to #7. Thus far, no other restaurant in South America has come close to the level of D.O.M. Atala is sourcing many rare ingredients direct from farmers and artisanal vendors throughout Brazil, including the Amazon, and presenting them in a modern form. Atala isn’t focusing on foraging like at Noma or molecular gastronomy like at El Bulli. Rather he is showcasing some of the most vibrant, exciting, and unknown ingredients in a new way. Two other Brazilian restaurants, Mani (#74) and Fasano (#59), both which focus on Brazilian ingredients, also made the list.
Gastón Acurio is Peru’s most famous chef and arguably the best-known Peruvian in the world. The son of a senator, Acurio went to study law in Madrid, Spain, but had a change of heart and went to Paris to Le Cordon Bleu culinary school. His first restaurant, Astrid y Gaston, was an instant success in Lima and it soon spurred satellite restaurants around Latin America and other chains based on the various types of Peruvian cuisine. The growth in popularity of Peruvian cuisine around the world in the past decade would not have been possible without him. Here is a list of Acurio’s vast restaurant empire around the world:
I don’t often write about Peru’s mega celebrity chef Gaston Acurio. It’s not that I don’t like him, I’m a huge fan. Without him, Peru’s new culinary boom would be nothing. Period. Rather I don’t write about him often because he gets enough attention that I try to direct some spotlight on some of the country’s other chefs like Rafael Osterling and Pedro Miguel Schiaffino. I love Gaston though. I love his show in Peru and keep meaning to buy the complete set of DVDs of the series. I love that his restaurants are wonderfully relevant to an international audience and that he always tries to bring attention to the diversity among Peruvian chefs and restaurants by going to and promoting the simplest places
Panchita is the latest Gastón Acurio creation in Lima. The emphasis here is on traditional Criollo dishes, which are served in large portions. They call Panchita an anticucheria, though that might be a bit of a stretch. While in general I like most of what Acurio puts out, it is hard to get an honest review of most of his restaurants because most everyone in Lima is so blinded by his star power that they accept whatever is put on their plate for gold. He makes Peruvian food that is acceptable for the international crowd and the restaurants can stand on their own in any city in the world. That said, I always have a good meal at one of Acurio’s restaurants, just not a great meal.