Potato Causa with beetroot
Peruvian cuisine is a big hit worldwide this year. With the world’s top chefs, including Ferran Adria (El Bulli in Spain), flying over there in search for inspiration and new ingredients, the news spread across the globe quickly. Now you find peru-influenced restaurants almost anywhere outside Latin America from Los Angeles and New York to European capitals including London. I have been to Peru and dined on incredible local dishes so I am a harsh critic when it comes to tasting this food elsewhere in the world. They do a pretty good job in Santiago de Chile, yet as one gets further away such as to LA, the authenticity and quality tends to deteriorate. It is seductive for the chefs to devise over-complex dishes, yet the peruvian cuisine is elaborate enough, so any even the slightest retouch of the dishes can spoil everything. Using high quality and authentic ingredients also makes a difference. Peru has over 3.000 types of potatoes and you cannot just use any one kind to make a causa, the traditional potato dish. The London’s ceviche though is serious about its endeavor. No wonder, since most of its staff comes from Peru and they are proud of their heritage.
Peruvian chef preparing food
Price: medium to low for central London; medium to high for elsewhere.
Atmosphere: Vibrant, young and refreshing. The staff is extremely friendly and helpful in explaining everything about your dish. You can sit right at the bar on your right side as you enter Ceviche. From here you can watch the chef with his aides preparing colorful peruvian dishes in the speed of a 100 metres world champion runner. The demands are high as the place is currently extremely popular and the nature of tapas – smaller portions so people order more than two or three dishes – creates the buzzing atmosphere. If you prefer low chairs and sitting at your own table you walk further back and sit in a cosy room full of mirrors and after 7 pm of eager diners. Below I took the picture of the room around 6pm, so early for the dinner rush hour in London.
Ceviche tables at the back
Food: Authentic in a fashionable wrap. The dishes are arranged attractively on the plates, but do not be confused, they still taste as they would in Peru! Using quinoa, potatoes, corn, onion, seafood and meat is crucial in peruvian cooking. The only think I missed was the bony and delicate guinea pig, so popular in Cuzco where all the tourists acclimatize themselves before they take off to Machu Pichu. I did not miss the surgical work inseparable from eating this tiny animal. It is a delicacy though we will not probably savor in Europe any time soon. My favorite, and now a trendy superfood, was the Quinoa salad. I can eat it day and night, on its own or with poultry, fish, seafood or even meat for its refreshing properties. Delicate quinoa paired with crunchy onions, melting avocado and mango sauce is an exotic and unique dish. I recommend starting with it.
Quinoa salad
Or you can start with ceviche, Peru’s most famous food invention. Raw fish diced in cubes, tigre di leche sauce with lemon reduction taking off the fishyness from the meal, ever-present onions and sometimes corn, mushrooms and sweet potatoes such as at Ceviches’ “Ceviche del dia” version. Nice ceviche, but this one I get better in Peru, maybe because the fish is different.
Ceviche del dia
From here you can move to something heavier. A vegetarian option, and a very tasty one, is Potato Causa with beetroot. Causa is made of a bed of mashed sweet potatoes on which a wide variety of ingredients are piled up. Avocado mash, creamy red beet chop topped with a crisp platano (big, not sweet banana used in American cooking) chip call for a glass of wine to help you digest this rich tower of ingredients. Something with higher acidity such as Sauvignon Blanc will do the job.
Chicken skewer with chicharon (corn)
Meat aficionados will devour the antichuhos – marinated meat skewers. From chicken to beef hearts and livers, the peruvians jab through everything on the stick. It may sound horrific, but it tastes good. The antichuchos are served with a corn knob and usually a slightly spicy or creamy sauce. The chicken skewers at Ceviche were juicy and supple.
Drinks: The wine list is short but suitable for the dishes. From lighter wines to more concentrated reds and sweet wines. There are lots of Chilean wines but also some from Argentina. We are at a peruvian eatery though , so pisco, the grape spirit is a must! At Ceviche they make a wide variety of seductive cocktails based on pisco, but I am devotee of pisco sour – pisco with lime juice, sugar or sirup and egg white – so I had to get one. It was excellent! Even though I am a wine buff, next time I would drink pisco sour with peruvian food instead.
Wine list
Cuisine: Peruvian, peruvian tapas style
Visit: May 2012
Opening Hours & contact: Monday to Saturday: 12pm till 11:30pm; Sunday: 12 noon til 10:15pm; Phone: +(44) 020 72922040
Address: 17 Frith Street, London, W1D 4RG