Gaston Acurio’s first New York restaurant, the 2 year old branch of La Mar Cebicheria, has closed. Don’t fret though. There’s already talk of moving the restaurant to another Manhattan location, possibly in Chelsea.
While Tiradito is a Nikkei invention (Japanese Peruvian), it’s not only a Nikkei dish anymore. Tiradito is served in some form – usually several – in nearly every cevicheria in Peru. A cousin to ceviche, tiradito is more thinly sliced, much like sashimi.
Compared with Mexican or even Brazilian, Peruvian food is one of the least explored in terms of cookbooks – at least in the English language. There is an increasing amount of excellent culinary literature being produced in Peru, though outside of the region readers are limited to just a few books. This list includes the best selling books for sale in both English and Spanish.
I have probably visited more Peruvian restaurants outside of Peru than anyone on planet earth (it’s debatable, but maybe inside of Peru too). In most cases I am left disappointed. The primary reason is the lack of access to high quality ingredients, primarily aji chiles, as well as proper substitutions for limes and other fruits, though at times, the entire concepts may seems off. That is not the case at Ricardo Zarate’s Mo-chica in Los Angeles.
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.
At La Perla, Peruvian chef Carlos Accinelli who learned his trade in the kitchens of Lima and Spain at the Michelin-starred Basque restaurant, Arzak, works closely with owner and manager Roberto Carrascal to ensure the menu gets a facelift as regularly as the petite diner’s stylish interiors. There’s no shifting the stars of the show though. Neither the classic Ceviche Corvina (sea bass ceviche) or the Lomo La Perla, a sirloin steak served with a Roquefort-laced sauce served on a bed of creamy mushroom rice, are showing signs of going out of fashion any time soon.
Now that he has more than thirty some restaurants set in a dozen countries, many of which are fusion concepts like Chinese-Peruvian or Italian-Peruvian, I sometimes forget just how revolutionary Gastón Acurio’s original restaurant, Astrid y Gastón in Lima, was and continues to be. I don’t think I will make that mistake again.
As most of my work as of late involves eating and restaurants in Lima, Peru, I am often asked where to go. What is the cevicheria of the moment? Who is the hottest chef of the moment? Where should I go for a taste of the Amazon? Who has the best anticuchos? Which of Gaston Acurio’s restaurants should I go to? I could literally go on for days describing where to eat in Lima. While I’m usually scouting out huariques and market stalls in obscure districts, though for the passing writer or foodie that wants to know what is in right now, here is my Lima IT list.
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.
Sweets are everywhere in Lima. They are sold in food markets, fancy restaurants, out of carts on street corners and cardboard boxes at bus stops. Some are fried, some frozen and some freshly chopped before your eyes. Their names are evocative and poetic like the “Suspira a la Limeña” which is a mixture of meringue and manjar blanco caramel custard and translates as “the sigh of a woman from Lima,” or simply hilarious, which is the case of “champus,” a dessert I just had to try for the name alone.