Maido the Peruvian Japanese restaurant is based in the Miraflores area of Lima. This year it jumped from number 10 to number 8 in the World's 50 Best Restaurants list. Chef Mitsuhara Tsumura seamlessly blends Japanese ingredients technique and cuisine with Peruvian to create a truly unforgettable meal.
Lima is a city all about seafood. The ocean stretches along Lima's long coast and the smell of salt air is everywhere. And at Maido they have a saying, "At sea life is tastier". As we walk in they yell out a greeting of "Maido!" a riff on the typical Japanes restaurant greeting of "Irasshaimase". Peru has a long history with Japan since the 1800's with Japanese migration to Peru and Nikkei cuisine is the blend of the two cultures.
Chef Mitsuhara Tsumura comes over to say hello and it's wonderful to see a chef in the restaurant that made them famous. Tonight, the restaurant is very crowded and there are ropes that dangle above us. We are trying the Nikkei experience, a 13 course journey where everything is found 200 miles from the restaurant and as expected there is a real focus on seafood here.
Our first course is a a series of three snacks to be eaten with hands and we are told which order to eat them in. The first is a sushi rice cracker, avocado, trout belly and ponzu gel, a gorgeous mouthful. Secondly is an onion terrine, sole tartare, smoked siverside fish and masago-this is sweet from the onion. The third snack is a crunchy black rice cracker with olive tofu, octopus and a pachikay ginger sauce that has a familiar flavour to it. They're all crunchy with hits of both sweet and umami. Blissful.
They pace the courses goes according to how fast we eat them and you can conceivably be done in a couple of hours or even sooner or you can make it a leisurely dinner. The cebiche is presented on a sarandaja bean cream with mackerel slices, shallots, limo pepper, chulpi corn and Japanese leche de tigre poured at the table. Leche di tigre is a seasoning sauce for ceviche made with lime juice and chillies and gives it a punchy flavour. The sarandaja cream is the predominant ingredient, indeed reminding us of hummus and it's nice to try a ceviche with a creamy element.
They present us next with a single dumpling which they tell us to pick up with our hands and eat in one mouthful lest the liquid explode all over us. The dumpling is filled with squid and sea snail cau cau (cau cau being a classic Peruvian Creole stew made with aji or yellow chilli and spices, traditionally made with tripe), camotillo (a native potato) cream and crispy white quinoa while the delicious cau cau liquid that explodes in the mouth reminds of curry spices.
The next course is a mini steamed bread roll filled with a fish and octopus sausage, pickled vegetables, Japanese mustard with thinly sliced fried native potatoes. It's a delectable little hot dog with the fish flavour only becoming apparent towards the end.
If you aren't able to get a reservation at the restaurant you can also sit at the bar where the chefs make incredible sushi. We have a selection of two nigiris in the next plate. The one on the right is toro or tuna belly with a fried quail's egg and quinoa-this is divine, especially the liquid yolk that explodes in the mouth (I can still taste that sensation!). The one on the left is a raw shrimp nigiri with a bearnaise sauce, also good but the toro is the fairest of them all.
The next course is a limpet sashimi with chulpi corn, avocado cream, aji amarillo and leche de tigre. Alas this is the dish that was a bit too strong for us and we didn't really enjoy this as much as we did the other courses as the corn powder is so cold as to startle.
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The next course is a divine miso cod fillet marinated in miso with squid ink with crispy Bahuaja or Brazil nuts, apple gel and porcini mushroom powder. This dish is perfectly balanced with sweet from the miso and apple gel and savoury from the mushroom powder and the fillet absolutely melts in the mouth.
Catacaos de Camarones
The next course is their version of a tamale. With a green rice flour outer the bite is filled with sauteed river prawns, creole sauce, chupe stew reduction and sushi rice. Despite its size it is an intensely rich dish and by now I am getting very full.
We're nearing the end of the savoury courses and this is a light course with cassava flour soba with crunchy crumbs and a jellied vongole dashi. The dashi is very cold, here at Maido they do seem to like playing with ultra cold temperatures.
This dish is the catch of the day which is cod belly for today. It is paired with sudado chilli, fish reduction and seaweed. The broth is so divinely rich and even after so many courses I can't help but scoop out spoonful after spoonful of this rich broth.
Sea Urchin Rice
We are then served our final savoury course. The sea urchin rice is a wonderful way to end the savoury courses. Even though we are full I eat every grain. It's a Chiclayo rice, a slightly larger grain not unlike risoni with Atico sea urchins, avocado cream, wan yi, baby corn and nori. The whole dish has an appealing toothsome texture from the rice combined with a creaminess from the avocado cream.
There are two dessert courses on the menu. The reef is a tofu cheesecake ice cream, bread sand, sweet potato, apple with wakame, camu camu (sweet potato), taperiba and burgundy grape tapiocas with soy milk.
Even though it sounds like it has a cast of thousands that might be overkill I adore this dessert and there's not a skerrick that goes back to the kitchen. Well okay I didn't lick the bowl but I wanted to.
The last course is called mussel and it more resembles a mussel in looks rather than in taste. It's granadilla (a fruit related to passionfruit) with mandarin sorbet, mucilage foam (mucilage being the substance that surrounds cacao pods), cacao nibs, lucuma ice cream and raspberries. I loved the ice cream but the "mussel" has a yeasty sort of flavour similar to Vegemite that makes it taste savoury rather than sweet. Truthfully I preferred the reef but I have to admire the artistry as it does look exactly like a mussel. And this menu was full of exquisite moments and artistry that gives us an insight into Nikkei cuisine which is unlike any other.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you like the sound of Nikkei cuisine? Are there dishes that you remember years on? And do you notice if the chef is in the restaurant when you dine?
Maido restaurant is part of our September Experiential Traveller tour! Come along-there are just a couple of places left! Take a peek at the full itinerary, dates and prices here! Can't make it in September but still want to book a tour? No problems, you can also book a modified itinerary and explore Peru yourselves with luxe hotels and all transfers included. Just send us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org or on the website for a quote.
This meal was independently paid for.