In this post, I take you through Maido’s 13-course tasting menu, “200 Miles,” which celebrates the bounty of Peru’s extensive coastline.
If you’ve been following the blog, you know that I love exploring the full range of Peruvian cuisine from anticuchos on the street to high-end dining. Most of the way through my journey across Peru to learn about food, I realized that I’d been neglecting the world of tasting menus.
I have to admit that until recently I felt much more comfortable eating street food than in a white tablecloth restaurant. While living in San Francisco, I would routinely pick a Mission Burrito or a bowl of ramen over dinner at a restaurant where you had to line up for hours or those where you’d need to compete with hundreds of people for a reservation.
When my friend Renee visited, we wanted to have one really nice meal. A fellow food writer suggested that I explore Nikkei cuisine while in Lima. Nikkei food can be described as the fusion between Peruvian and Japanese food (it’s so much more that that, but let’s postpone that discussion to a future story). While there are several other restaurants in Lima that have helped shape Nikkei cuisine, Maido leapt out as the place we should try.
I was lucky enough to have a chat with Maido’s chef, Mitsuharu Tsumura before the meal. His calm and humble demeanor help me ease into the experience. Maido is nicely laid out and elegant, but it’s far from fussy. The focus is clearly on the food and creativity.
In researching tasting menus around Peru, I realized that what makes tasting menus in Peru special is that they tell stories. The tasting menus in Peru usually are organized around a theme since Peruvian cuisine is so broad that it is difficult to encapsulate everything even with a dozen or more courses.
The theme, “200 Miles,” refers to how far Peru’s costal sovereignty extends from the shore and features seafood, a theme with vast possibilities since both Peruvian and Japanese cuisine both have strong seafood traditions.
Peruvian tasting menus are less about fancy techniques and strange flavor combinations than interweaving themes and ingredients from different parts of the cuisine. Each tasting menu is like a unique journey through Peruvian food. The Nikkei Experience is a perfect example. It combines themes from Japanese and Peruvian cuisines. How it does that exactly will the subject of a future stories, using ideas from my interview with Chef Tsumura.
For now, I’ll let the photos do most of the talking. To help peel away the many layers of this tasting menu, I’ve added a nifty new feature (hover over the underlined text).
- Onion terrine, sole tartare, smoked silverside fish, masago
- Sushi rice cracker, avocado, trout belly ponzu gel
- Black rice cracker, olive tofu, octopus, pachikay ginger sauce
I loved how this dish involved looking around and finding the little morsels of food. It sets you up for the interactive, playful meal to follow.
Second Course-Poda Ceviche
Sarandaja cream, mackerel, shallots, limo pepper, chulpi corn, nikkei leche de tigre
This dish captured the essence of ceviche with its powerful citrus flavor. I especially liked the contrast with the mackerel.
Third Course-Dim Sum
Squid and sea snail cau cau, camotillo cream, crispy white quinoa
Nice things come in little packages. A nice fusion of Dim sum and Cau Cau, a Peruvian tripe stew. The textures really work well together.
Steamed bread, fish and octopus sausage, pickled vegetables, Japanese mustard, native potatoes
The homemade sausage was tasty and a fun element. I think the design on the custom-made box really shows you the attention to detail at Maido.
Catch of the day
Simple and shows how their tasting menu can be adjusted to maximize freshness and seasonality.
Sixth Course-Lapas Ceviche
Chullpi corn, lapas, avocado aji amarillo leche de tigre
A fun and colorful dish. I was surprised at how cold the stone was. Temperature is one of the many elements that Chef Tsumura plays with to make each of his dishes a unique experience.
Seventh Course-Gindara Misoyaki
Cod marinated in miso, crispy Bahuaja nuts, apple gel, Porcon mushroom powder
I can’t sum it up with any word other than umami.
Eighth Course-Catacaos de Camarones
Green rice tamale, sautéed river prawns, creole sauce, chupe reduction
The “tamale” reminded me again of dim sum. A delicious inversion of chupe de camarones.
Ninth Course-Cassava Soba
Cassava soba, tenkatsu , vongole dashi
Another cold dish. I felt this was the most pure Japanese dish with the most subtle Peruvian influence.
Catch of the day, sudado reduction, seaweed
I love Renee’s expression of childlike curiosity as we try to figure out how this dish worked.
Eleventh Course-Sea Urchin Rice
Chiclayo rice, Atico sea urchins, avocado cream, wan yi, baby corn
A nicely composed “bite.” I loved the texture of the rice and sea urchin.
Tofu cheesecake ice cream, bread sand, sweet potato, apple with wakame, camu camu, taperiba and burgundy grape tapiocas, soy milk
Reminded me of a winter wonderland or snow globe. The ice cream had a beautiful texture. I don’t like tofu but the taste didn’t bother me at all. It felt like it was more of a textural component.
Granadilla with mandarin sorbet, mucilage foam, cacao nibs, lucuma ice cream, raspberries
A nice use of lucuma. This dessert featured my favorite fruits. I especially enjoyed the contrast between the lucuma and coca (texture and taste). The “coral” makes you want to touch it and pick it up. It’s actually edible so I tried a tiny piece.
I throughly enjoyed experiencing the concept of Nikkei come to life. Chef Tsumura describes the differences between Peruvian and Japanese food in musical terms with Peruvian cuisine as “hard rock” to Japanese cuisine’s “classical music.” I wondered how he would be able to harmoniously intertwined the two cuisines. The tasting menu not only expressed this fusion in a technically precise way, but it did so in a playful manner.
Many of the dishes involved an element of discovery. Other dishes hide surprises in familiar packages. I loved how Chef Tsumura used texture, temperature, and taste to take us on a maritime adventure and, in the process, told us the story of Japan and Peru’s shared ocean.
- The drink pairings were beautifully executed and featured beverages and spirits from around the world, adding another level to experience. I hope to add photos of the pairings to this post at a later date. The sommelier, Florencia Rey, did an excellent job.
- I aimed to describe this experience on a personal level, showing how we experienced this tasting menu. If you want a more technical description, please read Peru This Week’s review.
- Chef Tsumura and his staff for a memorable meal. He surprised us by kindly comping our meals along with the drink pairings.
- Renee Chu for her spirit of adventure. She bought a plane ticket last minute and flew to Peru to be my eating buddy for two weeks. More stories from the ‘ceviche trail’ soon.
- Sai Htun for introducing me to the world of Peruvian tasting menu on my first trip to Peru.
- Finally, thank you to Joanna Marracelli for inspiring me to investigate Nikkei cuisine.