First in Service News

A Chef's Tour of Lima

F1S recently sent New York City chef and “Chopped” winner Mina Newman to Lima, Peru, on a research trip prior to debuting her Nikkei-style restaurant in Midtown this fall. We sat down with her to see why the world’s top chefs are raving about this next great food capital.

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How well do you know Peruvian food?
I was born and raised with it. My mother is Peruvian. Unfortunately, in the US there is such a poor representation of Peruvian food. I plan to change that. Especially since Peru has one of the best food scenes today.

What is Nikkei-style cuisine?
Thousands of Japanese immigrants began settling in Peru in the late 1900s as laborers. Their influence in food grew to be enormous and greater than anywhere else on the continent. A few generations on, the fusion of Japanese and Peruvian cuisine – both of which have strong culinary traditions and exceptional native ingredients – has come to be known as Nikkei.

How would you describe Peruvian cuisine today?
I was last there 20 years ago. In the past decade the capital has literally exploded with world-class chefs and restaurants. Lima is a very exciting place to eat. The locals are ceviche and seafood crazy. Chefs are using ingredients from Amazonia and the Andes that exist nowhere else on earth. So you get inviting, inventive creations. Amazing dishes, with so many dimensions, so carefully crafted.  And all seafood is local. No GMOs allowed either.

Did you visit the food markets?
The famous fish terminal is exciting and important for food lovers to visit. About 40 percent of the seafood sold in Lima comes from here. The Mercado Central is also colorful. It stretches an entire city block and sells everything from fruits and vegetables to meats and seafood of all kind. Surquillo Market is worth exploring too. It’s where the locals do their everyday shopping.

So where did you eat?
I had two lunches and two dinners nightly over four days! All in the name of research. We had to experience Lima’s finest restaurants including Malabar, Maras, Maido, Central, and Toshiro.

Yuca is the star at Malabar, used in so many inventive ways. The chef at Maras made an incredible causa, a traditional mashed potato dish with crab. Maido is very creative classic Japanese. At the impossible-to-book Central, we savored a well thought out tasting menu using sustainable, Amazon-based ingredients. Toshiro is the forefather of Nikkei cuisine, so it was no surprise that dishes including whole roasted shrimp, and scallops with maca were sublime.

What inspirations did you bring back for your new restaurant?
Three things: I must import Peruvian scallops; seaweed is a must on my menu; and I’ll be incorporating more spices into the dishes.

Finally, where did you stay?
At the Belmond Miraflores Park. It’s a great choice for tourists. Five stars, central, with an English-speaking staff.

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