Pedro Miguel Schiaffino always seems to stay ahead of the game. With his flagship restaurant, Malabar, he has been at the top of the fine dining scene since opening in 2004, he has a weekly cooking show, he was the first to truly explore and cook with Amazonian flavors and ingredients, he looks after the menu of a couple of luxury Amazonian riverboats, and has two other restaurants under his wing (one in Lima, the other in Singapore). But the thing he is most excited about: his garden.
Since early 2014, Schiaffino has been developing an organic farm in the Mala Valley (about 20 minutes south of Lima) to supply an ever growing percentage of the fresh produce used at Malabar. He talks excitedly and passionately of growing quality, healthy food, and of course, of the stress and difficulties of organic farming – it's no easy thing to go out of the kitchen and for the first time, get your hands into the soil. Unsurprisingly, and with the help of an expert farmer, he has shown a knack for growing food and the products at Malabar have never been tastier.
There are changes in the wind at Malabar and the breeze is blowing in from that garden. His time with fine dining is done, says Schiaffino, and he is moving Malabar to a much more casual dining experience, focused on seasonal food from his garden, shared plates, and quality, healthy food. His focus is now on serving food that does good and leaves people happy, with flavors they know and love but his presentation remains gorgeous and flavors although familiar, will never cease to challenge and excite. The Amazonian flavors and ingredients, which were a large part of Malabar’s fame, are all being moved aside and will be focused in Schiaffino’s other restaurant in Miraflores, Amaz.
The interior as pictured here has its days numbered as well. Gone will be the classy but comfortable fine dining atmosphere of old and in will come all wooden tables and an open window onto the kitchen.
A salad built around seasonal products: fermented palm heart, turnip, and eggplant with a kefir cream and mandarin vinaigrette. The ferment is made in acidic cassava juice, which gives a punchy flavor to the vegetables and along with the kefir, the heart of this dish is extremely healthy and excellent for digestion – a perfect summary of Schiaffino’s new direction.
Served with the pickled fish, there are seared oranges, fennel, and fried cheese. It is, says Shiaffino, a dish very popular along the Peruvian coast with the bonito being marinated in panka chili (a long thin sundried red chili, with a slightly sweet, smokey flavor). He chose the bonito because it is a fantastic blue fish with dark, tasty flesh that is still abundant in the Peruvian ocean.
Duck Two Ways
The first preparation is a rare grilled duck breast with a warm salad of wild mushroom and the second is a stewed leg with plenty of yellow chili and chicha de jora (fermented corn beer) and rice with frejoles zarandaja (Egyptian kidney beans). The duck is the creole Peruvian duck from the north and is all free range.
Warm Lucuma Brioche
Topped with a dark chocolate sauce, this dessert is exquisite, following a long tradition of Malabar’s kitchen to always produce some of the best dessert options in the city.