For a restaurant, it takes more than just special taste and exceptional seasoning. It’s the service, the ingredients, decoration, people, the ambiance and sure, the food.
It’s said one eats for three reasons: for nutrition, for pleasure and for the experience. There is no doubt, which two bring visitors to Maido.
The moment you walk in you anticipate perfection. The simple, striking, elegant, decoration only enhances the experience. Your senses embrace to be amused, tickled; entertained.
But behind every culinary masterpiece there is an artist, and in Maido’s case this is Mitsuhara Tsumura, better known as Misha.
Misha (Photo: AmaraPhotos)
It’s no fluke this gastronomical fusion between Peruvian and Nikkei cuisine won Highest Climber 2016, after jumping from 44th to 13th in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. If we ask Misha, he’ll credit his success to the same phenomena that affected his predecessors. The previous two winners also feature Peruvian cuisine (Central #4 and Astrid & Gaston #30), making it the first time in 50 Best history a Highest Climber award was given to the same country three years in a row. ‘What happened to all three restaurants is that people noticed a new type of gastronomy, they tried it, they loved it, and they chose us,’ explains the chef.
And there is a lot to love
For the occasion, we were invited to try the new tasting menu: ‘200 millas’ (200 miles), a true roller coaster of tastes and textures through Peru’s coastline.
As the name suggests, the menu pays homage to Peru’s exuberant oceans (Peru’s oceanic sovereignty extends 200 miles out to sea), its rivers and streams. Misha chose to dedicate his new menu to the sea in part because 2016 was declared as the year of the Sea of Grau (in reference to the maritime hero who fought in the war against Chile). Another reason was to raise awareness of the current threats facing the world’s oceans and the importance of conserving its resources.
Interior (Photo: AmaraPhotos)
In this regard, Misha took the time to stress the importance of having a great relationship with each provider, to ensure that the best and freshest ingredients are obtained in a socially responsible and suitable way. This is one of the things that make Maido unique, something most Peruvian restaurants overlook.
The ‘200 millas’ menu is divided into 13 courses (11 savory dishes, 2 desserts) and has a cost of S/ 399 soles (S/ 589 with wine included). Keep in mind, eating this meal is a bit time consuming, taing us about two and a half hours to complete the full meal at a moderate pace. There is also an everyday menu (average price ranges from S/ 35 to S/ 69), which varies from a classic ceviche to a lomo saltado. These dishes, the chef calls ‘œordinary and simple.’ As you quickly learn with Misha, nothing is ordinary or simple when it comes to food.
His style? ‘Full of flavor, if I was going to try to sum it all in one characteristic, it’s powerful,’ the chef told us.
Without further ado, Misha immersed himself in the kitchen, leaving us in the trusted hands of Silvio, our wonderful waiter, whose knowledge for the culinary delights presented in every dish were only outshone by his charm.
Iris de mar (Photo: AmaraPhotos)
As he made his way to our table with our first dish, I wasn’t sure if he was carrying our plates, or a delicate coral sculpture. I was delighted to realize the sculpture was literally part of our first meal.
The entry dish ‘Iris de mar’ is made of three bite-size delights full of flavor. Silvio recommended eating them from right to left, as each flavor complements the next. On the far right we had a sushi rice cracker with avocado, trout belly and ponzu gel. Then we had onion terrine, smoked silverside fish and masago. Lastly, olive tofu, octopus and pachikay ginger sauce sitting atop a black rice cracker.
Next we were brought the Poda Ceviche, served in a tantalizing silver bowl. It included sarandaja cream, mackerel, shallots, limo pepper, chulpi corn and Nikkei leche de tigre.
Dim sum (Photo: AmaraPhotos)
One of my favorites was the Dim Sum: squid and sea snail cau cau, filled with camitillo cream and crispy white quinoa. As soon as you bite into the steamy delight, an explosion of flavors bursts. It is recommended that you to try to eat it all at once (no matter how hot it may seem), otherwise you risk experiencing this flavorful explosion all over your shirt instead of your mouth.
The Choripan was the most unexpected dish included in the menu, simply because you don’t expect to find such a ‘simple’ dish in a restaurant like this. But this is no ordinary choripan: steamed bread fish and octopus sausage, pickled vegetables and Japanese mustard, covered in native potatoes earn the surprising dish two thumbs up. Unusually extraordinary.
Choripan (Photo: AmaraPhotos)
Nigris made from scallops was evidently the more unimpressive of the dishes. Less flavorful than the last two, it diffidently set up the next dish to be full of flavor.
The lapas cebiche was just that. Made from chullpi corn, lapas, avocado, leche de tigre and powdered aji Amarillo at the base, it will have you scraping the bottom of the bowl for every crumb. The powdered yellow aji ads unbelievable texture to the already delightful flavors.
Soft and savory, the Gindara Misoyaki is made from cod that’s been marinated in miso, crispy Bahuaja nuts, and a porcon mushroom powder. The apple gel ‘eyes’ add both flavor and style as it sits atop a warm igneous rock slab.
With an enchanting seasoning, the Catacaos de camarones has a green rice tamale sautéed with prawns and is served with a creole sauce and chupe reduction. The strong explosion of the sauce’s flavors make it the defiant highlight of the dish. It also has a wonderful blend with the texture of the sautéed prawns inside the tamale. Fair warning: the sauce could be considered spicy for some.
Noodles (Photo: AmaraPhotos)
If by now you haven’t appreciated the meticulous contrast in flavors each new dish brings, the next one will make it evident. Cassava soba, tenkatsu (quitua noodles) and vongole, dashi (type of soup), is served into two separate bowls, in a basket filled with ice. Silvio recommended we drop the noodles in the cold soup and drink it together. After the warm, almost overwhelming taste of the previous dish, this soft noodle soup is a perfect follow-up.
burner (Photo: AmaraPhotos)
Before the next dish arrived to the table, our waiter brought a Sudado dressing to be infused with different herbs and spices. It’s truly a spectacle watching the burner work its magic before our very eyes. Next he brings out the steaming cococha (cod checks), sudado reduction, and seaweed. Finally it all blended together. Keep in mind, the rich flavors in this dish might be considered spicy for some.
Another one of the stars of the menu, the Sea Urchin Rice is truly unique. Served with Chiclayo rice, atico sea urchins, avocado cream, wan yi and baby corn. The flavorful crunchy texture intensifies in every bite. This was arguably our favorite dish from the menu. The perfect blend of flavors and textures, sum up the entire experience perfectly.
Sitting on the verge of sensory overload, the desserts made their way to the table.
Reef dessert (Photo: AmaraPhotos)
Perhaps the prettiest dish on the menu, the Reef is served in a fishbowl-like presentation, holding tofu cheesecake ice cream, bread crumbs, sweet potato, apple wakame, camu camu, and burgundy grape. Chances are you’ll spend more time contemplating the dish than eating it.
Lastly, the Mussel, another work of art. This dessert has granadilla and mandarin sorbet, lucuma ice cream, mucilage foam and raspberries. Again, the texture combination offers a unique chewing experience combined with the foam.
When you realize you’ve just eaten sea urchins from Atico, barnacles from Arequipa or lobsters from Mancora, you appreciate the trouble Misha and everyone at Miado goes through to try to find and bring the finest.
But the acclaimed chef cites staying fresh is just as difficult. ‘Today, Peru’s gastronomy is moving very fast. It’s a challenge to remain relevant and fresh.’
Maido has been transforming, adapting, improving constantly. Moving away from traditional Japanese food and more into the Peruvian cuisine, Mish states: ‘We set tendencies, we don’t follow them.’
Indeed, from start to finish and with every flavor, Maido is a unique experience for the senses. The extraordinary ingredients, elaboration and preparation are only superficial elements. It’s the people, relentless perseverance and reluctance to compromise that have justly earned Maido the distinction and praise it deserves.
For an inside look at the story of the chef behind the name, check out the story Misha: the story behind the culinary artist next week on Living in Peru.
Calle San Martín 399 (on the corner of calle Colí³n)
Mon-Sat: 12:30 pm – 4:00 pm, 7:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Sun: 12:30 pm – 4:00 pm