I recently had the great pleasure to experience the Nikkei cuisine venture of Hajime Kasuga at his new restaurant, "H" (aka Ache). The letter "H" (sounds like "ache" phonetically in Spanish) and happens to be the first letter of Chef Hajime’s name. H opened just a few months ago with great anticipation. Chef Kasuga is a third generation Japanese-Peruvian and one of the previous owners of the popular Hanzo. H is located in the hot new food row in Miraflores near the corner of Av. 28 de Julio and Av. La Paz, flanked between new restaurants by Gaston Acurio and Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, as well as the new Hilton hotel that will be opening in a few months.
As you walk in the doors of H, you notice the three distinct dining areas, including an open area on the first floor with natural and ambient lighting and larger tables for groups or families, a middle area with more intimate seating and darker lighting for couples, and a sushi bar on the upper level. The interior of the restaurant is an appealing mix of clean, modern lines combined with organic touches of wood and strategically placed stones and plants.
On occasion a restaurant will give us a "tour" of the entire restaurant, including the kitchen areas and back rooms. I normally do not mention the kitchens, but I have to say that every single area of this kitchen was impeccable, even the separate area used to prepare the fish, which was virtually odorless. The special water filtration system that runs throughout the restaurant demineralizes and softens the water, which in turn highlights the flavors of the broth, rice and many other dishes. Chef Hajime has an in-house training program for his chefs, cooks and other personnel. No wonder the kitchen flows effortlessly and the chefs take great pride in their work.
After our tour, we were ready to enjoy a few cocktails. My favorite was the ache (H) cooler, a refreshing combination of pisco, campari, passion fruit juice, lemon sour and strawberries served in a funky, curved glass. The raspberry cooler, with raspberry vodka, sour mix, ginger ale and raspberries, was also a table favorite and was not overly sweet. H also offers a standard full bar as well as a unique selection of house cocktails that border on exotic; also available jelly shots, sakes and Japanese and Peruvian beers.
The food we sampled at H impressed us all, but there were a few that really stood out. The tiradito al aji amarillo used fresh turnip threads which were wrapped inside tender slices of lenguado (flounder) and drizzled with a light aji amarillo sauce and topped with fried yuyo (deep fried seaweed). The tacos de maguro had a great contrast between the fresh, tender tuna tataki – briefly seared tuna, marinated with vinegar, thinly sliced and seasoned with ginger – and the crisp lettuce leaves we used to wrap around the tuna.
We then moved on to sample three different rolls: cebiche roll, no roll and el charrol. Each order had 6 pieces and was quite filling. My favorite was the el charrol filled with crispy shrimp and avocado and then topped with salmon tartar and a rich guacamole sauce with crunchy wonton pieces as the final touch.
The star of the dish we sampled was the cebiche citrico. The plate arrives at the table with tender pieces of exquisite mero (grouper) marinated in a citrus zest, with a very large dollop of ginger foam in the middle of the plate, kiuri (Japanese cucumber) and a touch of cilantro. On the side is a shot glass filled with lime juice. Our waiter poured the juice over the mero, kiuri and ginger foam and gently incorporated all the ingredients together. This is one of the best ceviches I have had in a long time. The freshness and uniqueness of this dish was groundbreaking.
The sopa osuimono was an invigorating combination of light fish broth flavored with yuzu (a type of Japanese lemon that the restaurant imports). The bowl holds a beautiful piece of roballo fish topped with tapioca that has been marinated in soy sauce. This soup was light, clean and earthy.
The ache rice was a surprise, with Chinese sausage, oriental vegetables and a touch of Thai spice, cooked in a wok and topped off with a juicy egg yolk in the center. Sakana on the rocks is a dish that some could call hot ceviche, but I prefer to think of it as a sudado. The fish is steamed with onions and lots of lime and cooked in a earthenware bowl and arrived sizzling at our table, full of flavor.
My second favorite dish was the duo de costillas. The succulent Chilean pork ribs, which were falling off the bone, arrived in a generous slathering of a special oriental barbecue sauce that did not disappoint. Accompanying the ribs was a generous portion of minced pork combined with vegetables and other spices, which incorporated the same sauce used on the ribs, as well as a stack of lettuce leaves. Each lettuce leaf had a basil, cilantro and arugula leaf on it, which you could roll the pork in and savor the flavor. The combination of sweet and salty notes along with the crunch was very satisfying. The dish seems is pricey at 68 soles, but between the richness of this dish and the high quality of ingredients, it is worth it.
For dessert, we tried the lychee tempura, a generous portion of vanilla cheesecake coated with batter and deep fried and placed on top of a sweet lychee ice cream. We were also served the chocobox, a dessert and a work of art. The pastry "box" holds inside a delicate mixture of chocolate, jasmine and hazelnuts with a touch of ginger.
Our table was amazed and entertained by the Ache infusion, prepared using a Japanese siphon. The top glass infusion chamber was filled with lemongrass, chamomile and lychee fruit. The bottom glass carafe was filled with water. A small burner is placed below the siphon and gradually heats up the water in order for it to enter the top portion to release the flavors of the herbs and lychee and form a refreshing, hot, slightly sweet, invigorating and fragrant concoction that aids with digestion. H also offers several other infusion combinations.
H is the entire package: a restaurant with impeccable aesthetics that serves fresh, refined and creative food interpretations with subtle and clean flavors.
"H" (aka Ache)
1055 Calle La Paz, Miraflores
Seats 90 comfortably
Monday – Friday: 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. / 7:30 p.m. – 11 p.m.
Saturday: 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. / 7:30 p.m. – 12 a.m.
Sunday: 12:30 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Cold Appetizers: S./18-30
Hot Appetizers: S./24-36
Fish Dishes: S./42-46
Meat Dishes: S./42-68
Other Main Dishes: S./33-35
Ache Bento Boxes: S/.50 (M-F)
For more information, “visit our Restaurant Guide”:http://www.peruthisweek.com/restaurants-ache-8253.