There are few culinary cultures as perfectly paired as those of Peru and Japan. The so-called Nikkei cuisine, a creole Peruvian revision of Japanese food, is still young although with foundations in generations of Peruvian born Japanese descendants who adapted recipes from home to their new surroundings and ingredients. From Japan, Nikkei cuisine inherits a precise and reverential treatment of ingredients, while Peru adds liveliness and color with chili, punchy creole flavors and a vast larder of fruits, seafood and other products sourced from the jungle, the Andes and the desert coast with its scattered green river valleys.
Perhaps the most important aspect of Nikkei cuisine is liberty, the freedom to break the strict rules that bind Japanese cooking, to take them apart and turn them inside out and see what comes out the other end. It's at Maido, and just a handful of other restaurants around the city, that you really can begin to appreciate the potential for this style of cooking.
Nobody does this better than Mitsuharu Tsumura, who has not looked back since opening Maido six years ago, recently taking it into Restaurant Magazine’s top 50 restaurants in the world. His menu has always has had a rock solid traditional Japanese menu, thanks to Tsumura’s initial formation in Japan, but, he says, he is moving ever more towards a more Peruvian identity; something never more evident than with his Peru / Japan series of tasting menus and the new, more casual design of the main dining room.
Of these menus, Tsumura says, “This tasting menu is the interpretation of the Peruvian Creole cuisine from a Japanese point of view, concluding a saga of two menus in which [the one] prior to this proposed exactly the opposite, a view of Japanese cuisine from Peru. With this we have shown that the Nikkei cuisine is not necessarily a Japanese cuisine with Peruvian influences or a Peruvian cooking with Japanese influence, it is the union of two cultures was born in Peru and the world enjoys today.”
The capchi is a typical dish from the Cusco region, made with a local Andean soft cheese, queso fresco, and served as a thick soup, and often with broad beans or wild mushrooms. Here, Tsumura turns the tofu into an intensely flavorful pate served with Mirin flavored tomatoes, baby corn, and crispy native potatoes.
Sushi Sea Scallop with Maca Emulsion
Simple and perfect, a nigiri with a thin slice of raw scallop and a maca emulsion. It's served with a pair, which is Octopus Muchame. Muchame is a traditional Limeño method of preserving thick fillets of fish by salting and drying. In days past it was done with dolphin, but the modern muchame is made with tuna and served sliced with garlic, olive oil and avocado. Here, the octopus is perfectly tender strip served with a avocado tofu and a dot of spicy salsa.
A local classic, beef short rib stewed until its almost falling off the bone, gets a reworking with 50 hours of sous-vide cooking and a Nitsuke sauce, a blend of soy, mirin, and sake.
Finely sliced limpet wrapped around avocado and yellow chili jelly, with a bed of frozen, powdered leche de tigre (the juice of a ceviche) emulsion and crumbled fried corn.
A slight twist on the famous dish from Arequipa, this mini rocoto pepper, with its usual fiery punch considerably reduced, is stuffed with ground beef and covered with a light tempura then served on a bed of pureed potato.
Seco de Cabrito
This time, a traditional dish from the north of Peru, a stew cooked with chicha de jora (maize beer), yellow chili, and plenty of cilantro. Here, a perfectly cooked version in miniature, in a light sui mai, and topped with an air of a creole salsa and a cube of loche pumpkin (the rich, fragrant pumpkin also from the north of the country).
Nigiri a lo Pobre
The designation a lo pobre (for the poor) refers to a thin beef cutlet topped with a fried egg, here, in nigiri form, and with a quail egg injected with ponzu sauce.
An odd, but delicious mix of lime ice-cream, crispy sweet potato, chili macaroon, chunks of chirimoya (also known as custard apple), and a mandarin sauce.