Forget Brazil (for now). Disregard Argentina (if you can). In December 2013, the World Travel Awards named Peru “South America’s Leading Culinary Destination” – for the second year in a row. Just as they did in 2012, the powers that be believe that Peru, with its amazing natural selection of flora and fauna all ready to be turned into lomo saltado and tiradito, is the clear go-to for the on-the-go epicure.
Other organizations and media outlets such as What’s On followed suit, celebrating the cuisine in countries as far-flung as Dubai and coaxing celebrated chefs such as Alain Ducasse to make comments. “The Peruvian culinary scene is incredibly vibrant. The country benefits from biodiversity, while Gaston Acurio and many young chefs are exploring the region’s culinary traditions, from ceviche to grilling techniques,” Ducasse says on The Braiser. “Peru has a clear vision of its future in terms of both cuisine and sustainable development… Tomorrow, Peru will become one of the leading actors on the global culinary scene.”
In Miami, tomorrow is today.
Given Miami’s role as a Latin American gateway for emigrants, Peru’s unique causas and chifa (Peruvian-influenced Chinese food) first had a starring role in the city in the early-to-mid-1990s, after the leader of the country’s terrorist group Shining Path was captured and citizens felt free to travel and move. Several of the restaurants serving such fare are now considered mainstays, among them Chalan on the Beach, which settled in the heart of South Beach during that region’s initial spurt of renovation, and Chifa du Kang on Southwest 40th Street. Still, the majority were located in Spanish-speaking areas such as Calle Ocho, Sweetwater, Tamiami and Westchester. And most, like Aromas del Peru or Salmon & Salmon, were mom-and-pop shops or cafeterias adjoined to fish markets, heavy on home-cooking materials and tastes but light on atmosphere.
The second wave of Peruvian restaurants in Miami, many of which highlight ceviche, a dish perfectly suited calorie- and flavor-wise to the climate and inhabitants of South Florida, has seen the up-scaling of both cuisine and décor. It began in Coconut Grove with the trend-wise Jaguar Ceviche Spoon Bar & LatAm Grill and continues moment to moment with openings such as SuViche in downtown and Wynwood, Ceviche and Grille in North Miami and Cholo’s Ceviche and Grill in North Miami Beach.
A third coming features Peruvian fusion, which broke whatever geographical barriers remained. The now-defunct La Cofradia in swanky Coral Gables, from which one of the partners later opened Jean-Paul’s House (now in transition to a new location), highlighted just how high-end and innovative Peruvian fare can be. The French-Peruvian Juvia, one of the most popular restaurants on Lincoln Road, took dining quality and matched it to design. The rooftop restaurant even won a 2013 James Beard Award for its décor. It only goes to convince us even more – as if we needed convincing – that Peruvian fare is indeed the South American equivalent of French gastronomy, and deserves settings that match.
Click on for our favorite Peruvian hotspots!...