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Posts Tagged ‘peruvian cuisine’

Cuisine: Peruvian

Visit: March 2013

Price: High

From Lima through LA, Buenos Aires to London, Peruvian cuisine became trendy over the past couple of years. My trip to Peru last year confirmed that this South American country has tremendous potential on the global culinary scene. With thousands of diverse ingredients this is the land of plenty that most creative chefs dream of exploring. It is one thing though to get a plate of potatoes or raw fish ceviche on a local market in Lima, and getting the same freshness and a more sellable look on the plates of distinguished diners with deep pockets in the world’s top cities. I have tried peruvian cuisine in many cities outside Peru in the past year and none had achieved, what the recently opened Coya in London’s Mayfair did – creating authentic, high-quality menu with the right level of experimental spirit.

Coya members bar

Coya members bar

Atmosphere: It is dark, with a great vibe created by the almost night-clubby music/cocktail bar you have to pass right after descending into the underground of the secretive entrance in one of the buildings lining up along Picadilly and the nearby St James Park. The bar is fun and there are some tables you can reserve and have a bite with your pisco sour or some other cocktail from the seductive bar list. Currently it is quite hard to get reservation at the restaurant since it became the hottest place to eat at in the city, but if you do not mind eating late just come around 10pm and wait at the bar until a table frees up. At the restaurant you can sit along the ceviche bar behind which the chefs slice and dice some of the cold dishes.

Coya ceviche counter and restaurant

Coya ceviche counter and restaurant

There is also Open Charcoal Grill where the warm meats and seafood are being prepared. This open-kitchen concept is not a novelty but increasingly the interior design choice of most of the new restaurants worldwide. Most diners seem to like the fact that the preparation of their dishes is open to scrutiny of the demanding customers and also it makes it more of an interesting dining experience rather just to stare at one’s plate and people around. At Coya the attentive, super-friendly effective yet casual waiting staff just perfectly rounds up the exciting atmosphere of the place. I was surprised how quickly most of the dishes arrived considering the fact that the restaurant was packed until late hours.

Anticuchos de corazon (beef heart skewers)

Anticuchos de corazon (beef heart skewers)

Food: Authentic as well as innovative using mostly peruvian ingredients in new dishes. You must try one of the signature tiraditos (the Salmon is great) and ceviches from the starters. Ideally ask the staff as they advised us very well on which is the most popular as well as which of them might be better on that concrete day. The with the skin roasted potatoes Patatas Bravas with rich Huancaina (mayonnaise-based) sauce are naughty but really tasty and its heaviness almost disappears if you sip it with a bolder wine such as the full-bodied Argentinian Malbec, the tannic Tannat, the paprika-spicy Chilean Carmenére or for the adventurous of you (as we did) the powerful Petit Verdot. These wines go well with the meat dishes too. The juicy and fatty Spicy grilled beef fillet was tamed by the rich Petit Verdot from the Chilean producer Von Siebenthal.

Salmon Titadito

Salmon Titadito

Do not miss the deserts as it is the sweet selection that shows the most innovation. From Corn Sundae, Lucuma Bavarois to Sweet Potato Ice Cream, you probably have never had none of these combinations. I am curious how many chefs are going to copy these recipes. I have indulged in the Sweet Potato Ice Cream served on the side with Burnt Chocolate Crumble.

Sweet Potato Ice Cream with chocolate crumble

Sweet Potato Ice Cream with chocolate crumble

The fact that Peru has over 3.000 types of potatoes and corn is unbelievable for most people, yet it stirs one’s interest in trying various dishes prepared from these two multifaceted ingredients. The Sweet Potato Ice Cream was deliciously creamy with tremendous depth underlined by the exotic spices, dried fruit and cocoa powder. Peru is also one of the major cocoa producers and I must admit I have a crush on the single origin chocolates from this country. The Burnt Chocolate Crumble was genuine, rather in a raw character where the cocoa stood out and other ingredients such as sugar or vanilla commonly used in chocolate bars and truffles were not overshadowing the beautiful richness of this antioxidant-rich delicacy. The current dessert menu offers many of the Peru’s super-foods such as Lucuma (Vitamin C rich fruit) or Quinoa (great gluten-free source of proteins) so it can make you feel less guilty about finishing your dinner with one of them.

Toknar 2007- 100% Petit Verdot

Toknar 2007- 100% Petit Verdot

Drinks: We went for the adventurous 100% Petit Verdot from Vina Von Siebenthal in Chile’s Acocangua Valley. Petit Verdot is a very tannic and robust grape varietal usually used in a small volume in blends (red Bordeaux wines are the most famous). Yet as with most of grape varietals they show differently in a different terroir. Malbec and Tannat are both good examples. Malbec in Argentina is much more fruity and round than in France, the same applies to Tannat in Uruguay and Brazil where its harsh tannins are balanced by its juicy fruity character. Tannat in South-West French region of Cahors is rarely drinkable on its own and is blended. The Toknar 2007 from Chile has higher alcohol (14.5%on the bottle), but you could not detect it much on the palate. The depth expressing rich concentrated dark fruits with chocolate, caramel and nutmeg might be too much for some wine drinkers, although perhaps not for the Parker-like palates loving concentration. Fatty meal such as the grilled beef we had befriended this wine, yet the fish and seafood dishes were practically not possible to match. Pisco Sour is marvellous with ceviche as well as most of the tiraditos, so if you are starting with this grape-spirit-based cocktail save it for these fishy starters.

Opening hours: Mon- Sat: Lunch: 12:00–14:45, dinner: 18:00–22:45;

Pisco bar: Monday to Saturday 12:00 pm – 1:00 am.

Address: 118 Picadilly, Mayfair, London, W1J 7NW, UK

Contact: Tel: +(44) 0 20 7042 7118; email: nico@coyarestaurant.com

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La Huella beach view

La Huella beach view

Cuisine: Argentine and Peruvian.

Visit: December 2012

Price: Medium to high (La Huella is perhaps the most popular dining spot in the entire Punte del Este so it can charge what it wants, although it is not over the top and the food as well as the service end up being a great value for money).

Bar at La Huella

Bar at La Huella

Ambiance: Bohemian, rustic and trendy. La Huella is one of the most desirable restaurants in the area of Punta del Este and for that it attracts anyone trendy – from international celebrities to great vibe and food seeking tourists. La Huella is located right on the beach so I would not recommend ladies to wear super-thin heels either for the comfort reasons as well as looking out-of-the-place. Imagine St Tropez 20-30 years ago, sandy dunes and Le Club 55 – the hotspot of the rich and famous for decades and you will get La Huella. Its chill-out ambiance, rustic wooden bar with chess-pieces peaking over your head, open kitchen and grill back room and large terrace facing the beach will transfer even the sturdiest workaholic into the realm of nostalgic dreams. Beach clothes and short during lunch are fine – long pants and mosquito spray in the evening if you sit outside.

Sandy entrance to La Huella

Sandy entrance to La Huella

Food: Fresh, authentic and tasty. I have eaten at La Huella twice. After three out of three people, who know the area well, recommended me eating here, plus the answer to my question “Where would you eat around Punta del Este on your birthday?” being “La Huella”, I knew this place must be outstanding. Perhaps I look biased, (after all the bottles of wines I consumed there it is entirely possible as I tend to like everything after three glasses of this god-blessed liquid), but I am sure about one thing: You must eat there at least once when in the area. The food is a mix of Peruvian, Argentine and Uruguayan cuisines. Fresh and mostly local ingredients are used in preparation and the cooks try to make the plates look cool.

Potato causa

Potato causa

From the peruvian fare I loved the White fish ceviche s well as the Potato causa filled like lasagne with a creamy layer of salmon, mayonnaise and onions. Both were authentic, no fuss and simply delicious.

White fish ceviche

White fish ceviche

Another great starter is the Warm goat cheese salad. Bitter and limey roquette with crisp tomato balance the milky and fatty cheese with a fire burned coating served on a crunchy bread bun.  The only disappointment was the squid appetizer with beetroot sauce, the sauce was the problem as it did not match the squids at all – too much creativity can kill a dish often and my previous experience at another restaurant in Uruguay confirmed that they generally need to figure out beetroot quite a bit.

Warm goat cheese salad

Warm goat cheese salad

La Huella can do pizza very well! If you continue in a starter marathon then get the Goat cheese pizzetta on a thin crisp oval dough as it is not just a great companion to wine but also a perfect crispy snack to share. They get seasonal seafood so if they got the White clams that I have ordered try them as they are really fresh, juicy and palate pleasing. Perfect with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc!

Cheese pizetta

Cheese pizetta

Seafood as well as meat dishes are the restaurant’s strengths. From the main courses I can recommend any steak as the meat is local, without hormones, just grass-fed, wild-nature raised and above all super tasty. The wood-fired grill throws a magic spell of yumminess on each meat that passes its heating throat. The grilled fish is also good, but to my taste the meat is better. After all living in Mediterranean can turn anyone in a fierce fish critic especially if you have the privilege of eating at my friend’s restaurant in Cap d’Antibes.

Literary, the cherry on the cake are the desserts. I might not look like that but I had two desserts on my own here – the Chocolate Volcano is an absolute indulgent blast that keeps your energy fired up until early hours and I had it replayed twice. The cacao-based cake hides a liquid secret. As your spoon cuts through the cake a stream of dark chocolate runs out

Drinks: The bar area invites for a cocktail before or after your meal. The selection of wines from South America is good and the wine waiter is willing to advise you. We went purely Uruguayan with a green and fresh tasting Sauvignon Blanc 1oo Años and later a red blend of Tempranillo with the local tannic Tannat from Bouza, one of the most famous producers in the country. The Sauvignon Blanc was perfect for a light lunch drinking, the red blend was perhaps too rich and heavy, but drinkable with the steak and it inspired me to order the Chocolate Volcano twice!

100 Anos white wine from Uruguay

100 Anos white wine from Uruguay

Bouza red blend of Tempranillo and Tannat from Uruguay

Bouza red blend of Tempranillo and Tannat from Uruguay

Opening season: Out of season only for lunch, from mid-December till April also for dinner. Call and reserve a table ahead.

Address: Playa Brava, José Ignacio, Uruguay.

Contact: Tel. +(59) 8 4867 5432

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Cuisine: Peruvian, modern blend with Japanese – Nikkei cuisine.

Visit: December 2012

Price: High (this is one of the most fashionable restaurants in Buenos Aires).

Osaka has spread across America from Lima, through Santiago, Mexico DF, Saõ Paulo to Buenos Aires, where in 2012 this luxurious chain of peruvian/japanese restaurants opened its second offshoot in the fashionable district of Puerto Madero.

Bar upstairs at Osaka

Bar upstairs at Osaka

Food: Creamy and quite rich sauces accompany most of the Japanese cuisine-inspired dishes. Traditional Peruvian staples such as potato causa and ceviche got a modern revamp and some of the items were made intentionally to impress you with their unconventional presentation.

The Salmon tiradito – “Vietnamito” – is the culinary illustration of the Osaka’s enriching take on Japanese cuisine. The fish was of a great quality when we dined there, yet the sauce was just too sweet for our tastes. Imagine a raw salmon with marmelade – that is the lemon grass flavored chili jam sauce, red peppers and fish sauce on the fish. Served with grated coconut brittle it was indeed quite vietnamese in its own Osaka way.

Salmon tiradito

Salmon tiradito

I preferred more the “Nikkei” tiradito. Nikkei in this tiradito is a blend of Peruvian ingredients: lemon, cilantro and chili peppers with Japanese: shoyu and wasabi. It was more pure and simple yet delicious.

We went for the Osaka Maki roll of King crab, seared scallions, and shrimp furai splashed with au gratin king crab “chupe” on the outside. As you can see on te picture below it was all-too-much. Flavors fighting over each other rather then enhancing its tasty properties. Rich chunk of rice with creamy sauce and hardly detectable crab would be my summery of my palate’s experience from this roll.

Tasty roll at Osaka

Tasty roll at Osaka

We loved the causas at Osaka in Santiago de Chile a year ago, yet as we were slowly realizing that the Osaka at Puerto Madero was far from the excellency its sister restaurant could take pride in, so we skipped them and moved to warm dishes. Causa is based on a potato puree (Peru has over 3,000 types of potatoes) seasoned with diverse savory condiments such as garlic and rich toppings. Its name refers to a fight for the same “cause” of the peruvians.

From the warm dishes we tried the Peruvian classic of flaming scallops. The Parmesan Scallops had its own Osaka touch. Again we loved the scallop dish in Santiago, but here in Buenos Aires we were very disappointed. The scallops were just too chewy, not moist and soft as they should be. Although there is nothing to spoil about melted parmesan so that one saved the dish together with the impressive flame in the middle of the plate that the scallops are presented with. In a similar fashion are made Mariscos al Fuego, which is a seafood mix in Japanese butter, again presented on fire.

Scallops on the fire

Scallops on the fire

Atmosphere: Fashionable, dark and rather party feel like at Zuma, the globally acclaimed chain of Japanese restaurants. Dress fashionable yet do not worry about your attire too much as the Argentines are mostly casual. Upstairs there is a bar and a couple of tables so it can get a bit wild later in the evening (around midnight) and downstairs it feels a bit more like a buzzing restaurant.

Rutini Chardonnay

Rutini Chardonnay

Drinks: Pisco-based cocktails are popular as well as other mixed drinks. The wine selection is quite wide, although not overwhelming. There are many wines suitable for the restaurant’s food and a sommelier eager to recommend you something your palate desires. We went for Rutini Chardonnay 2007 from Argentina. It is made by Felipe Rutini at Bodega La Rural high in the hills of the Andes. It was oaky, rich, complex and worked perfectly with the intensely flavored food at Osaka.
Address: Juana Manso 1164, Faena Arts Center, Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Contact: Tel: +(54) 11 5352 0404

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Cuisine: Japanese-peruvian

Visit: March 2012

Location: 9575 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90035, US

Price: medium to low for LA (simple dishes between $5-8; more complex nibbles start at$9)

Causa - all you can imagine on a bed of potato mash

Chef: Lima-born Ricardo Zarate has been cooking in Lima, London and Los Angeles. One would wonder why he hasn’t named any of his own restaurants in LA just “L” for the letter has been following him throughout his career as a chef. In 2011 he was awarded as the “Best New Chef in America” by Food & Wine Magazine. He earned the fame with his performance at his first restaurant Mo-Chica, opened in summer of 2009 in Downtown Los Angeles.

Atmosphere: It is humming there with energy of hippie cool youngsters, after-office intelligentsia, creative minds of all ages as well as robust business-savvy Asians. Design is a stronghold here. Smart, casual and modern. On two floors you have plenty of diverse options how to enjoy your evening out.

Picca from the above

At the level 1 you can either immerse yourself in the hum of the bar crowd or watch the kitchen staff sweating over the grills at the kitchen counter.

Moving upstairs taking the semi-private table at the back is ideal for little parties and the chairs along the balcony are perfect for the voyeurs like me as everything from the kitchen, bar and downstairs tables is just in front of you.

Food: Picca means to nibble and you will be tasting a lots of tapas-sized dishes here if you want to be sated.

Ceviche Criollo, causa snow crab& spicy yellowtail

When eating peruvian food, you cannot miss a ceviche. It is a savory and refreshing dish based on chunks of raw fish in a zesty lime sauce often called leche de tigre for its milky hues. At Picca they do it quite well. I am a harsh critic though and I have visited Peru twice last year so I must say that their ceviche is rather the average than an exceptionally good. The fish is fresh and of a high quality though.

Causa is almost a national dish for peruvians. Its name comes from an important era in history of the country and there are so many variations of this potato based dish as there are potato varietals in Peru (known to count over 3.000!!). It can be light and refreshing with seafood or chicken in any imaginable kind of marinade and condiments sprinkled over the tall bun. I had the causa snow crab on the menu from this lighter realm. Once mayonnaise is part of the relish like in causa spicy yellowtail even the spicy wasabi does not make it a light bite. The core of cause is the mashed potato bun on which all the ingredients pile up. I was disappointed by how boring this staple of peruvian cuisine was at Picca. I guess it is hard to bring over the right kinds of potatoes from Peru as I had some flavorsome yet delicate varietals of this tuber in Lima.

The restaurant was originally thought to be named “Anticucho” after the wood-grilled skewers so popular for its simple and fast preparation. There are many to choose from. My favorite dish of the evening was anticucho tomatoes with burrata and black mint pesto. Black cod was also nice, but not overwhelming as well as the beef fillet as I was missing more sauce. You can try some more wild skewers such as beef heart with rocoto walnut pesto, but I rather moved to a more trustworthy artichoke. Perhaps, it s not correct to compare a take on one dish by various cuisines, nevertheless, after trying the oily and slightly burned artichoke at Picca, I must admit I was thinking of the French delicately boiled version melting  in mouth like a butter petal on hot pan. The sauce was excellent though. Overall, at Picca they do everything half way to perfection in terms of food. There is always something brilliant in each dish, yet something is too much or just not balanced right.

Drinks: The two bars are fast enough to create hundreds of mesmerizing cocktails per night – from the peruvian staple pisco sour to mojito served in a tea mug. There are some peruvian beers such as Cristal and Cuzquena as well as Californian brews.

Pisco is a peruvian brandy, which is an alcoholic drink made from grapes. The majority of Peru’s grapes are used in the production of pisco, although there are some wineries in the country producing a lower-alcohol drink – wine.

Pisco sour

The wine list is smart. It is concise, yet resourceful in the Spanish-speaking universe. There are wines from Spain, Argentina and Chile. Most of them are served also by the glass starting at $9. From the whites I have started with a Crisp and aromatic Sauvignon Blanc from Chilean Lapostolle as an aperitif. Chilean Sauvignon Blancs never disappoint me with their refreshing flair. There are not many dishes though on the menu that would not overpower this wine as the food is richer and complex. On the other hand Salentein reserve Chardonnay from Argentina goes perfectly with almost all fish and vegetable dishes on the menu. From ceviche to grilled artichoke. Bodegas Salentein from the Andes surrounded Uco Valley produce one of the best wines in the region and they do not overplay with oak so the wine retains its fruity character. In the red realm Pinot Noirs from both Chile and Argentina with their distinctive character and again the fruit-emphasis of the New World wineries plays wonderfully on the palate with the smokey grilled meat anticuchos. Argentinian malbec will take any meat dishes with a flair. To finish the meal a glass of port or a dry sherry, as the cheapest alcoholic drinks at Picca, will help you digest while won’t ruin your valet.

From non-alcoholic specialities I must mention the purple corn iced drink chicha morada which in Peru is at least as popular as a caffeine-boozing predecessor of coca-cola – the Inca kola. Both of the later used contain a small amount of cocaine as they were made from the coca leafs blooming all over the Peruvian rainforest.

Pica is for an energy-seeking crowd expecting to shout at their friends or at least excitedly talk about their crazy day at work with their friends, first-time dates and long-term couples seeking an uplifting night out. I would not bring kids there though. It is a truly adult spot. There is a valet parking outside and super-friendly staff inside so one feels sufficiently pampered.

Contact & opening hours: (+1)310-277-0133; Sunday-Thursday: 6pm – 11pm
Friday-Saturday: 6pm – 12am

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