By: Claire Locking
Peru’s most famous ambassador Paddington Bear may have spread the message worldwide about the joys of the humble marmalade sandwich but he did nothing to promote his country’s native cuisine. That task has been left to Jaime Pesaque, the internationally recognized maestro of Peruvian cooking with acclaimed restaurants in Uruguay, Miami, New York and now Mayta in Hong Kong.
Peruvian food represents a literal melting pot of international cuisines including influences from the indigenous Inca people and cooking styles brought in with immigrants from Spain, China, Italy, Germany and, notably, Japan. A blend of Japanese and South American cuisines sounds strange, yet one of the restaurant phenomenons of the past decade, Nobu, has built its reputation on just that.
We started with two of the menu’s classic ceviches ($148 each); raw fish marinated in leche de tigre (“tiger’s milk”, a sublte blend of lime juice and fish stock). The first variation featured sea bass, red onion, choclo (Peruvian corn), cancha (toasted corn) and glazed sweet potato; it was a triumph with the mixture of southern and Asian flavours blended to perfection. The second dish, with salmon, chilli chimichurri and herbs, was also delicious.
Next came causa ($158), a cold mashed potato dish that comes flavoured with everything from Japanese mayonnaise to yellow chilli powder; popular in Peru, but not to my taste. Meat-lovers will prefer the anticuchos ($118): mini skewers of octopus, beef or chicken served with sauté potato and corn, and accompanied by two sauces, one for the seafood and one for the fish.
For mains, we tried two versions of arroz, Peruvian rice dishes. The first arroz con mariscos ($188) was perfect: mildly flavoured with yellow chilli curry and full of perfectly cooked shrimps, scallops, fried squid and caju nuts (cashews). We were less taken with the arroz con pato ($178); the duck confit was cooked to perfection but both it and the rice was lacking in flavor.
Dessert, suspiro de limena ($68), on the other hand, was an overload of flavours: a decadent combination of sweet dulce de leche, olive oil ice cream, almond oil and grilled pineapple.
Unlike many Hong Kong restaurants, Mayta isn’t raking in the profits on the back of its wine list (though it’s excellent). Most of the drinks sold are cocktails and when you read the menu and watch the bar, you’ll see why: piscos are made in-house and almost every infusion from thyme to gooseberry is available.
If you’re looking for a culinary experience that is new, in vogue and adventurous, this is the place for you; if not, best stick to the marmalade sandwiches.
3/F Grand Progress Building
15 Lan Kwai Fong, Central