Showing posts with label Peruvian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Peruvian. Show all posts

Monday, July 31, 2017

first thoughts: Nisei | Brickell (Miami)

It's been quiet here at FFT, which is partly just the result of lots of other stuff going on; but it's also a sign that there's not been anything in the Miami food world that's gotten me excited enough to post. Happily, the latter of those issues got fixed this weekend.

The fix was a dinner at "Nisei," a pop-up dinner series which is taking up residence for a couple evening weekends at B Bistro + Bakery[1] in Brickell. It's the product of chef Fernando Chang, who had previously worked at 26 Sushi & Tapas in Surfside, together with Eric Saltzman (formerly of Taquiza and now at Dizengoff),[2] and features an omakase menu of Nikkei dishes fusing Peruvian and Japanese flavors. While this style of cooking is nothing new in Peru, where Japanese culinary influences have long held sway, Nisei's menu brought some smart new ideas and really nice execution, particularly considering our visit was on only the second night of service.

(You can see all my pictures in this Nisei - Miami (Brickell) flickr set).

The meal starts in mostly Peruvian territory: a ceviche of fresh locally caught grouper, marinated in lime juice and bright, spicy aji limo,[3] and flecked with slivered purple onions and cilantro. It's easy to find ceviche in Miami – it's not nearly as easy to find one this fresh and clean.

The next dish nods to both Peru and Japan: the fried shiso leaf is an item you'll find at Japanese tempura houses, but the sandy texture of the crisp fried shell is borrowed from jalea, a classic Peruvian fried seafood dish. The leaf practically dissolves in one bite and a shatter of crumbs, and is served with a sauce that melds sarza criolla (an onion-forward salsa) and aji amarillo. It's good, but what I really want is for them to sandwich some uni in between a couple shiso leaves and then fry it (like so).

The next dish, maguro don, makes it all the way over to Japan, with a stop-off in Korea. Ribbons of lean tuna are mounted on a sheet of soft nori, nestled over short grain rice and kimuchi (an unfermented Japanese style kimchi), amped up with the rippling heat of Peruvian rocoto chile (Peru's not been abandoned entirely) and then rounded out with a bit of honey.

(continued ...)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Cobaya Muñoz at 1111 Peruvian Bistro

Diego Muñoz is a superstar chef. He spent the first part of his career working at some of the world's top restaurants: the Adriàs' El Bulli and Andoni Luis Aduriz's Mugaritz in Spain, Pascal Barbot's Astrance and Guy Martin's Grand Vefour in France, Massimo Bottura's Osteria Francescana in Italy, then off to Australia at Bilson's in Sydney. After literally cooking his way around the world, he returned home to Peru, where he ran the kitchen at Gaston Acurio's high-end tasting menu flagship, Astrid y Gaston, for four years. During Muñoz's tenure, Astrid y Gaston worked its way from No. 42 to No. 14 on the much-hyped (and much-criticized) S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants list. When Ferran Adrià was in town last year for a "Gastronomy Congress" at Miami Dade College, Muñoz was one of the chefs on stage doing a demonstration, along with David Gil and Fran Agudo of brother Albert Adrià's restaurant, Tickets.

Then at the beginning of this year, Muñoz left Astrid y Gaston, with plans to embark on another year of world-wide cooking adventures. So when I stumbled across a small Peruvian restaurant that Muñoz had opened a few months ago in Miami, with no fanfare whatsoever – well, surprised would be an understatement.[1] We put the Cobaya wheels in motion to set up a dinner, which we were able to schedule while Muñoz would be in town this Friday.

Muñoz's restaurant, 1111 Peruvian Bistro, occupies the space that used to be home to BoxPark,[2] in the ground floor of the Axis Brickell condo building. It looks much the same, the most notable addition being a mural across the top of the open kitchen which appears to track Muñoz's career – I recognized the El Bulli bulldog, that shaggy sheep looks like the ones roaming the Basque countryside outside Mugaritz, the bowtie must belong to Tony Bilson, and there's Casa Moreyra, which houses Astrid y Gaston. At the end, beyond the palm tree, is 1111.

(You can see all my pictures in this Cobaya Muñoz at 1111 Peruvian Bistro flickr set).

Once we got everyone settled into a few communal tables, Chef Muñoz introduced himself to the group, and servers started bringing out the first round of an eight-plus course dinner.

Many food cultures have their versions of meat-on-a-stick. For Peruvians, it's anticuchos. Veal or beef heart may be the most traditional, but it could be just about anything: chicken livers, steak, fish, shrimp, or, as here, octopus. The meat had a nice spring to it without being chewy or bouncy, It had been rubbed with an anticuchera sauce bright with chiles, vinegar and spices, and was served over a creamy corn purée with a crispy potato alongside and a dab of salsa carretillera on top.

Peru's most famous dish, though, is surely ceviche. But Muñoz is not a traditionalist: he has made ceviches of sea urchin, clam, apple, melon, avocado, and I'm sure any number of other ingredients. Here, the base was the customary cubed whitefish, but it came swimming in a creamy, tangy leche de tigre, garnished with soft chunks of avocado and potent sliced fresh chiles, then given an Italian accent with briny capers and a drizzle of olive oil. It was a very good ceviche, and oddly reminiscent (in a good way) of a vitello tonnato.[3]

(continued ...)

Monday, March 21, 2016

best thing i ate last week: everything at the Central + Alter dinner

Don't make me pick a favorite. I just can't.

Last Tuesday was the second collaborative dinner hosted at Alter restaurant by Chef Bradley Kilgore. This time, he brought in Chef Virgilio Martinez of Central in Lima, Peru. These kinds of team-ups can be something of a crap shoot for the diner: even with talented chefs, it's unpredictable how effectively their styles will mesh, or how well someone's cooking may show on the road.

Yet this dinner was so in tune that for most of the night I couldn't tell who had cooked which dish, other than that Virgilio's sometimes had a tell: if I had to google an ingredient, it was one of his.[1] But regardless of the creator, everything - everything! - at this meal was exceptional. If I had to narrow it down to two:

(You can see all the pictures in this Central @ Alter flickr set.)

"Valley Between Andes" – I later figured out that Martinez's menu at Central features dishes inspired by the products of different elevations of the Peruvian topography. This one included avocado, tree tomato (a/k/a tamarillo), and kiwicha (amaranth seeds). The avocado was so creamy and rich that it almost ate like tender braised beef, napped with a tangy sauce and speckled with the nutty, quinoa-like kiwicha, with shards of translucent, herb-dotted crackers for some textural contrast.

"Fallen Tree" – Brad started with a caramelized tranche of heart of palm as the base of the dish, with the other components evoking a tropical forest floor: snails, dehydrated mushrooms, a tangle of green (seaweed?) moss, a pouffe of spring garlic mousse with pickled honshimeji mushroom "spores" poking up out of it.

But these are just examples – every course of this menu impressed. It's unusual to have so many dishes that simultaneously achieve the delicious, the beautiful, and the unexpected all at once.

[1] I.e., kiwicha (amaranth seed, a pseudocereal like quinoa), tree tomato (which I'm more familiar with as "tamarillo"), airampo (a magenta hued prickly pear fruit), chaco clay (an edible clay which apparently has been consumed since pre-Colombian times).

Monday, December 22, 2014

Cobaya Diego at La Mar

It was big news when Gaston Acurio – Peru's most famous and celebrated chef – decided to open a restaurant in Miami. But Acurio has literally dozens of restaurants around the world; he's clearly not cooking in all of them at the same time. At Miami's La Mar, the executive chef responsibilities fall to Diego Oka. In an Edible South Florida piece last year, I recounted Diego's introduction to Acurio as a nervous 16 year old peeking around the corner of a supermarket aisle. He was invited to visit Acurio's restaurant the next day, and pretty much never left. After working with Acurio in Peru, he opened La Mar Cebicheria Peruana in San Francisco with him, then came to Miami to open our own version of La Mar.

Perhaps unlike many other U.S. cities (including San Francisco), Peruvian cuisine is nothing new here. In fact, South Florida already had over 200 Peruvian restaurants when I last counted, as La Mar was opening. But there are few, if any, places, that show the same creativity and attention to ingredients as are on display at La Mar. We got a preview of what Diego could do when he went off-menu at our Cobayapalooza dinner in July, and were eager to see more.

Last week a small group of guinea pigs assembled on the patio behind La Mar in the Mandarin Oriental, overlooking the lights of downtown Brickell across a sliver of Biscayne Bay. After some Pisco Sours to set the mood, Diego served up seven courses that were simultaneously creative and grounded in Peruvian flavors.[1]

(You can see all my pictures in this Cobaya Diego flickr set – apologies for the wonky artificial lighting, but the dark outdoor setting left me with no choice).

The menu started with a tiradito – a dish reflective of the mingling of local and Japanese food traditions that leads many to call Peruvian food the original "fusion cuisine" (indeed, el jefe Gaston Acurio recently published a book called "500 Years of Fusion"). Typically prepared with sashimi-style slices of raw fish that are then bathed in a ceviche-style citrus and chile bath, Diego's version here used slices of raw scallop, tongues of uni and brilliant orange salmon roe, all napped with a creamy rocoto chile leche de tigre.

Another modern iteration of a traditional Peruvian dish followed: a potato causa made with luridly hued purple potatoes, paired with blocks of seared tuna, a green mango chalaca sauce and crispy sweet potato strings.

(continued ...)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

5 Countries in 5 Blocks - El Rincon de Chabuca - North Beach

[sorry, this restaurant has closed]

The food of Peru is possibly the original "fusion cuisine." Indigenous, Spanish, and Asian influences all have made their contributions. An abundance of produce, including more potato varieties than can be imagined, exotic chiles and herbs, as well as ready access to all sorts of seafood, also play a significant role in the uniqueness and diversity of Peruvian cuisine - which is represented in my "5 Countries in 5 Blocks" series on North Beach restaurants by El Rincón de Chabuca (or, as we call it in my household, El Rincón de Chewbacca).

El Rincón de Chabuca is a modest eatery along Collins Avenue just past 71st Street in the North Beach neighborhood where, as I've previously noted, you'll find a multitude of eating options from around Latin America. It's not much to look at, and it's probably not in contention for the best Peruvian food in all of Miami (most people think that honor goes to Francesco in Coral Gables), but some things are quite good.

If there is one item that people think of when they think of Peruvian food, it would most likely be ceviche, or its cousin, tiradito. Traditionally, a ceviche features raw fish or seafood that has been marinated in citrus juices, the citric acid in effect "cooking" the fish. With Chabuca's shrimp ceviche, the shrimp seemed to have been previously cooked, which with shrimp is not that unusual, doused in a mixture of lime juice, salt, garlic, and chile paste (they ask how spicy you want it and it is prepared to order), served over a bed of lettuce, topped with slivered red onions, and plated with traditional accompaniments of steamed sweet potato, choclo (a South American variety of corn with starchy, gigantic kernels), and corn nuts. Ours was good if a tad oversalted (a common refrain for many of the dishes we tried). Their ceviche can also be had with only fish, or with a mix of seafood (calamari, octopus, mussels and shrimp). I was intrigued by a menu item called "Ceviche Caliente Exotico," described as "crispy on the outside and yet fresh on the inside" and apparently involving seafood prepared ceviche-style and then deep-fried - but not intrigued enough to try it. You'll find a broader variety of preparations at a place like Francesco or La Cofradia, where they offer their ceviches either traditional style, or with an aji amarillo chile sauce or a rocoto chile sauce, and sometimes even more esoteric, non-traditional versions.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

La Cofradia Ceviche Bar - Coral Gables

[sorry, this restaurant has closed]

A few weeks ago I gave a preview of the new menu at La Cofradia Ceviche Bar, the reincarnation of a former upscale Peruvian restaurant which closed down a couple months ago. I paid a lunch visit last week on the first day of their reopening to see what was new.

The layout of the space has been reconfigured some, with a few tall tables and barstools in the entranceway along with a new (?) bar. White tablecloths are gone in favor of bare wood tables, though the place still retains many of the upscale trappings from its original incarnation and has a slick (but not uncomfortable) modern look to it. It does feel a little more welcoming and it seems they're trying to make the new bar area in front more of a focal point.

The menu is, as noted earlier, in many ways just a simplified version of its predecessor. There are a few options for ceviches and tiraditos, about a half dozen other appetizer options, about 10 entree choices (some of which, like the sauteed shrimp with tacu tacu, I recall from the original menu), mostly priced in the $15-20 range at lunch and $17-25 for dinner (dinner also adds several saltados or stir fries for $17-22), and daily lunch specials for around $14-15.

Ceviches are offered in four styles: (1) a mix of fish, shrimp and octopus marinated in the traditional citrusy "leche de tigre"; (2) white fish marinated and supplemented with aji amarillo chile; (3) mixed seafood enhanced with red rocoto chile; and (4) tuna done in an Asian style with soy, ginger and sesame oil. You can also get tiradito (thinly sliced fish instead of diced) done in any of the same styles. We got a sampler of all four (for $15; individual ceviches range between $11-$14) and the serving size of each was a bit dainty (three of us splitting it had to be pretty timid in serving ourselves so as not to hog all of one) though collectively it was a decent portion. My favorite, somewhat surprisingly to me, was the Asian style, which came with a little seaweed salad as an accompaniment. A slab of sweet potato and some choclo, more traditional accompaniments, came with the others.

I also tried a shrimp causa appetizer, a traditional Peruvian dish of a round disk of cold mashed potatoes flavored subtly with aji amarillo, topped with cooked shrimp, cubes of avocado and a drizzle of Russian dressing. I know - sounds odd. And maybe it is, a little bit, but it's cool and refreshing while also substantial and filling. La Cofradia's version was decent but not revelatory.

Some of the entrees on the lunch menu are available in half portions, and a half portion of the arroz negro (for $10) worked out just right after an appetizer. The rice, colored and flavored with squid ink, was fairly generously studded with calamari rings and scallops, but it lacked the real depth of seafood flavor that this dish has when done really well (as it is at Francesco, also in the Gables), and the calamari was just a touch rubbery. I've heard it said calamari should be cooked for 2 minutes or 2 hours, and this seemed to be caught somewhere in between.

Given that we were there for literally the first service since they had reopened, it's really not fair to judge the service at all. Our food was just a bit slow coming out but the restaurant staff was acutely aware of it, and plied us with complimentary pisco sours while we waited. It was thoughtful but unnecessary, as the wait time really was not bad considering, and overall service was quite solicitous.

I am mostly a luncher in the Gables and remain concerned that though the food was good, La Cofradia's prices are still too high to be competitive in the current market. They've taken some steps to simplify the menu and make the venue more welcoming, both of which they've succeeded at. But despite offering one daily lunch special for around $15, most entrees still hover closer to the $20 price point. Add a ceviche or an app and you've quickly got a $30+ lunch.

It would seem the most natural point of comparison would be Francesco, the Peruvian stalwart of the Gables, and indeed it seems La Cofradia's prices would compare favorably to Francesco's online menu. But the comparison that instead occurs to me is La Cofradia's neighbor Por Fin across the street. Por Fin has done an excellent job of catering to the Gables lunch crowd, with a lunch special menu that offers a wide range of apps and entrees for a combined price of $19.50-$23.50. Por Fin, whose food I think has improved since they first opened, merits its own post (it is coming), and I think places like La Cofradia ought to be paying attention to what they're doing right.

La Cofradia Ceviche Bar
160 Andalusia Avenue
Coral Gables, FL 33134

La Cofradia on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 23, 2009

La Cofradia Ceviche Bar Menu Preview

ceviche bar lunch La Cofradia opened in Coral Gables in late 2005. Its Nuevo-Peruvian food was often pretty good, but the clubby-looking restaurant with an odd long narrow layout - and the high prices - seemed to keep it from ever getting much traction. About a month ago, La Cofradia closed its doors and filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Almost immediately after doing so, though, it asked to dismiss the bankruptcy case, and signs appeared in the window announcing the impending opening of "La Cofradia Ceviche Bar" in early May. A new menu has now been posted outside, of which I have a couple terrible photos. (Silly me - I now see that they've updated the website with the new menu as well).

ceviche bar dinnerThe quick recap: the food has gotten much simpler, with a fairly straight-ahead listing of about a half-dozen ceviches, tiraditos, and various combinations thereof (all priced around $13-15); several salads and cooked apps, including some traditional Peruvian causas, and a great pork and grapes dish which is a carry-over from the original menu; saltados (stir-fry?) with your choice of protein; and a number of other entrees all priced under $25. Plus daily lunch specials for $13.50. I often complain about "dumbing down," but if it helps a restaurant survive, in these times I suppose that's the name of the game. It'll be interesting to see if it works for this new incaranation of La Cofradia.

La Cofradia
160 Andalusia Avenue
Coral Gables, FL 33134

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Edy's Chicken & Steak - North Bay Village

[Sorry, this place has closed]

A couple years ago a sign went up on a storefront along the 79th Street Causeway for "Edy's Chicken & Steak". Then it seemed like nothing happened for nearly a year. Several months ago I noticed that, lo and behold, the place had opened up, yet the name still was not exactly luring me in. Chicken? and Steak? Umm, Ok...

Finally curiosity got the best of me and I peeked in and grabbed a menu. Well, this isn't just any "chicken & steak," but it's Peruvian style rotisserie charcoal broiled chicken - and even better, it's "famous from Falls Church, Virginia" according to the menu! After a little checking around, I learned that Edy's is reasonably well known in the DC area for its chicken, and even more so for the accompanying green sauce.

We got a whole chicken with a side of Peruvian potato salad (can also get french fries or yuca), which also came with a couple small green salads, for $16. The chicken was indeed good stuff - crispy well-seasoned skin, meat was hot but still tender and moist. But the star was the sauce - a spicy and herbaceous green chile sauce which just really perks up your taste buds. Another milder but slightly piquant mayo-based sauce (which the server could only describe to me as "white sauce") was also good. The potato salad was made with a mix of exotic Peruvian potatoes but a wee bit bland.

The menu also has a few steaks, a mixed grill with chicken, steak, pork chop and chorizo, and several different sandwich options. We've gotten take-out several times since my first visit (only the chicken, haven't tried the steaks) and the quality is consistently good. There are a few variations on side dishes, including yuca fries (decent if a bit bland), choclo (corn on steroids), and big slices of camote (Peruvian sweet potato). They also had several cakes in a display case and Peruvian ice creams (including lucuma flavored, which I thought was delicious - creamy, fruity and nutty, reminiscent of mamey).

The place itself is basically a fast-food joint and doesn't hold much appeal other than that it's clean and well-lit, but their chicken and the green sauce have found a regular spot on our take-out rotation. But I'll confess - this is all mostly just an excuse to link to this awesome ad they made (I'm a sucker for a chicken suit):

Edy's Chicken & Steak
1624 79th St. Causeway
North Bay Village, FL
Edy's Chicken & Steak on Urbanspoon