Peru sets the ta­ble

With APEC in Lima, eatery brings ce­viche, pisco sours to Bei­jing

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - Con­tact the writer at michaelpeters@chi­

When China’s Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping went to Lon­don last year, pic­tures of him eat­ing fish and chips and sip­ping a pint of Greene King IPA with the Bri­tish prime min­is­ter went vi­ral in China.

Over the week­end, the pres­i­dent wasin Lima, Peru, for the APEC sum­mit, where both af­fairs of state and the din­ner menu were hot top­ics.

So we might won­der: Could Peru­vian ce­viche and pisco sours be the next big thing in Bei­jing?

“That would be cool,” says Fran­cisco Chia, who by pure co­in­ci­dence last week­end was host­ing the grand open­ing of Bei­jing’s new night­time Peru­vian restau­rant, Pachaku­tiq. (The name is a mouth­ful: The orig­i­nal Pachaku­tiq was the ruler of Cuzco who launched the Inca era of con­quest that spread an em­pire across much of South Amer­ica.)

Sev­eral Lima restau­rants are rou­tinely ranked among the world’s best, and Peru­vian fare is trendy around the globe.

Ex­cept in China, that is. There are a hand­ful of Peru­vian eater­ies in Shang­hai and Hong Kong, but ex­cept for sum­mer pop-ups, Peru­vian food has yet to cre­ate much excitement in China’s cap­i­tal.

Chia has been ea­ger to change that. He’s been part of two pop-up ven­tures, and the sec­ond one has just mi­grated to San­l­i­tun Soho, where it takes over the Cafe Flat white space in the un­der­ground level from 7 pm.

Af­ter a three-week soft open­ing, Pachaku­tik cranked up the vol­ume on Satur­day night.

As a live band played and sang Peru­vian mu­sic, Chia’s team ran from ta­ble to ta­ble with trays of tart pisco sours and ea­ger ex­pla­na­tions of the food. Help­ing him run the place are his sis­ter Maria, a Ts­inghua MBA holder like Chia, and brother Juan Car­los, who is now earn­ing the same de­gree when he’s not rat­tling a cock­tail shaker full of pisco.

Ce­viche and more

The menu, much ex­panded from the pre­vi­ous in­car­na­tion, still stars clas­sic ce­viche — the glob­ally pop­u­lar seafood ap­pe­tizer that’s “cooked” in a mari­nade of souped-up lime juice. The cloudy pud­dle of mari­nade in the bot­tom of your bowl is known here as “tiger’s milk”. If you want to pass for a real Peru­vian, you’ll slurp it down like soup af­ter you nib­ble through the chunks of fish, shrimp and veg­gies.

Ex­pats from the land of the In­cas are find­ing plenty of au­then­tic­ity on the menu.

For ex­am­ple, there is causa, a sa­vory puree of po­tato and yel­low pep­pers with lime juice. Pachaku­tiq’s ver­sion is pret­tier than Peru­vian home cook­ing — sal­mon, fish ce­viche and grilled oc­to­pus are used as dec­o­ra­tive top­pings in­stead of un­der­cover fillings, but the in­gre­di­ents and fla­vors would be per­fectly fa­mil­iar to any Peru­vian granny.

Our sam­pling of the menu started with a beauty: Stuffed squid with crab, cream cheese, al­mond, anise, curry sauce and cream. We’ll think about the gym to­mor­row.

Asian in­flu­ence

To­day’s hippest Peru­vian plates are based on Nikkei cui­sine, a fu­sion in­spired by im­mi­grants from Ja­pan, where fresh seafood is equally revered — and Peru’s trea­sure trove of limes, corn, aji amar­illo (yel­low chilies), starchy yuca tu­bers, all kinds of pota­toes and the “su­per­food” quinoa that Peru­vians have been eat­ing for cen­turies. Nobu Mat­suhisa has been us­ing el­e­ments of this fu­sion cui­sine since the late 1980s in his var­i­ous Nobu restau­rants through­out the world.

Ti­ra­dito is a plate of raw fish with sub­tle dif­fer­ences from ce­viche. The fish is sliced, not cubed, and the sauce is ap­plied just be­fore serv­ing, so the fish is not chem­i­cally “cooked” by the mari­nade. We tried the yel­low-pep­per ver­sion, with seabass, “tiger’s milk”, co­rian­der, cu­cum­ber and radish. Se­same seeds give the dish an al­most smoky fin­ish.

An­tic­u­chos — Peru’s answer to China’s chuan’r — are slices of beef heart de­li­ciously grilled on a skewer, served with pota­toes, corn and chimichurri sauce.

Other dishes re­flect the im­pact of Peru’s other im­mi­grant com­mu­ni­ties.

Lomo saltado is a stir-fry of mar­i­nated beef, tomato, yel­low pep­per, vine­gar, co­rian­der, onion and fried pota­toes. Typ­i­cally served with rice, it orig­i­nated as part of the chifa tra­di­tion among Chi­nese set­tlers and has flowed into the main­stream food cul­ture.

Euro­peans ob­vi­ously came to Peru, too, in­clud­ing Ital­ians as well as Spa­niards. They are rep­re­sented on the Pachaku­tiq menu by fet­tucini in yel­low-pep­per cream with beef ten­der­loin, Parme­san cheese and a lit­tle jalapeno pep­per.

Dessert op­tions, if you saved room, in­clude crema volteada, a Peru­vian creme caramel or flan, made with con­densed and evap­o­rated milk, eggs, sugar and vanilla.

A richer vari­a­tion ( queso helado) has three milks, plus co­conut and cin­na­mon.

But the fun dessert— and this restau­rant is all about fun— is the molten lava cake, which comes with the vanilla ice cream you ex­pect and a sur­prise flambe with pisco. It is a WeChat photo that should bring a hail­storm of likes if you snap be­fore the flame goes out. There’s plenty of time, re­ally.


Clock­wise from top: NikkeiNikkei-style ti­ra­dito with tu­natuna, gr­grille­dled an­tic­u­chos (beef heart)heart), salmonsalmon-mango ce­viche with crispy co­conut­co­conut, yel­low-yel­low­pep­per ti­ra­dito with seabass.

Fran­cisco Chia hosts the open­ing of Bei­jing’s new night­time Peru­vian restau­rant, Pachaku­tiq.

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