Recently, gastronomy enthusiasts have begun to gravitate towards Peru in South America, R once home to the Inca civilization.
Like the incredibly beautiful city of Machu Picchu which has been kept intact for 500 years, Peru cuisine too has been existent without changing much for years and lately started to magnetize the attention of gastro-lovers.
With the population that consists of the Native Americans, the Spanish who occupied the country for a long time, and then the African, Chinese and Japanese migrators, the cuisine of the country has been transformed to an imaginative and singular fusion over time.
Located between the Andes Mountains and the ocean, of course the country is quite lucky with the seafood sources. The national dish of the country is already a seafood dish called “ceviche” made with raw fish cooked in lemon or lime juice. You can come across the “cebicherías” all over the country, a type Spanish tapas bar where the dishes are almost always served with onion, a special pepper “aji” and potatoes that has 4000 varieties in Peru.
When it comes to the promotion of Peruvian cuisine in Europe; first, “Pakta” in Barcelona was opened by Ferran Adrian, the genius chef of the molecular cuisine; then “Coya” made the headlines in London, and lately Lima Restaurant has been one of the best representatives of the Peruvian cuisine.
After the best restaurant of Latin America, “Central Restaurant” in Lima, the capital city of Peru, made a rise in “The World’s 50 Best” list, the Chef Virgilio Martinez wanted to promote the Peruvian cuisine all over the world and decided to move to London in 2012. With the first star and great attention came in such a short time, Lima became the first Peruvian restaurant which was awarded with a Michelin star.
The restaurant has got a quite basic and cozy atmosphere. With a small trick of the mirrors, the small space of the restaurant has been made more tolerable. With just ten tables, Lima offers A La Carte menu as well as inexpensive express and lunch menus (3 mains and wine pairing cost around 27£.)
As we decided to go with A La Carte menu, the first arrival to the table was artichoke amazonia which was composed of artichoke, red potato, passion fruit and red potatoes. Garnished with slices of radish, the dish was a colorful and delicious welcoming presentation.
The next dish was hand dived scallops. It was jazzed up with some “muna” mint, a common ingredient in other dishes as well. The sauce of the scallops was made with a type of yellow pepper “aji Amarillo”, another ingredient used in most of the other dishes.
The scallops were followed by sea bream which was garnished with sweet potato, crispy red onion and the large grains of the famous “concha corn”. The soup-like marinade in the dish is called “tiger’s milk”, a common name for ceviche juice.
Octopus olivo was made with braised octopus and accompanied by “quinoa”. Quinoa is a type of grain which was originated in South America and has been popular with the “superfood” trend in the United States. As it is high in protein (more than meat), rich in fiber, yet gluten-free and fat-free, it has won the heart of healthy food lovers. With the Peruvian “botija” olive served with the dish, it was nice both in taste and presentation.
The octopus was accompanied by quinoa solterito salad made with three common types of quinoa in colors of white, red and black along with rocotto cream. As the quinoa salad got a good reception from everyone at the table, it was followed by another well-liked dish: Beef Pachamanca. The beef was nicely stewed, and the accompaniments were a type of panca pepper sauce flavored with smoked fruits and a piece of cake made with large grains of cusco corn and boosted with ricotto cheese.
The next dish looked like a painting with all the yellow peppers and starred medium-rare beef loin which I mostly prefer although it is not liked in our country because of the prejudiced Turkish palate.
It was followed by organic roasted lamb rump featuring fresh mint and potato along with a nice piece of “quesco fresco” cheese with its creamy and soft texture which is made from a mixture of goat’s and cow’s milk.
The last dish was duck escabeche which featured the breast of Barbary duck which was originated in Africa and named after one of the African tribes, hence was introduced to the Peruvian cuisine afterwards. The duck is particularly farmed to produce foie gras. Flavored with Algarrobo Tree syrup, pepper and “papa criolla” a type of small potato, the dish was a delicious end to the mains and then we started to wait for the desserts to come.
The night was finalized with two desserts; the first one was cacao porcelana with 75% piura cacao and aromatized with cinnamon cream and sprinkled with dehydrated blue potato. The second dessert was alfajores, the famous Spanish cookie with caramel accompanied by “dulce de leche” a sauce with honey which can also be called “milk jam”. The preparation process of dulce de leche is exacting and quite long.
And the dessert session came to an end with, again, a Peruvian taste rather than a classical espresso macchiato: pisco sour cocktail which is made from pisco grapes. Although it sounds a bit weird with the egg white in its recipe, it doesn’t take long to get used to its taste. With its smooth texture, this delightful Peruvian cocktail has started to become popular in European pubs.
In response to the well reception in the gourmet world, Virgilio Martinez opened a second Lima restaurant dubbed Lima Floral. With a more minimal atmosphere, Lima Floral offers its customers dishes from Nikkei cuisine, a mash-up of Peruvian and Japanese cuisines.
It is hard not to envy the rise of Peruvian cuisine in Europe.
Especially when we think about the place of Turkish cuisine in this list…
I already wrote about the Turkish restaurants such as Mikla, Neolokal, Gile, Tabla and Yeni Lokanta which try to get knowledgeable about the roots of Turkish cuisine and take it a step further. But these restaurants should be more powerful to reach the international gastronomy platform. It can be realized only if a sustainable quality in the ingredients is achieved and as such, certain standards should be settled for the restaurants, and of course we, as consumers, should open our prejudiced palates to the culinary novelties.
We have a long way ahead; but you know, dreams are to be achieved!
Bon appétit and enjoy the taste of life…
31 Rathbone Place, London W1T 1JH