One Tuesday afternoon we ventured into the working-class area of Surquillo to check out the popular Al Toke Pez and meet its chef and owner, Tomás “Toshi” Matsufuji. I had previously read reviews about Al Toke Pez and decided to do a little bit of research before our scheduled visit. I am also a reader and fan of El Trinche (the popular online gastronomic website here in Peru) that includes restaurant reviews, food/cooking articles and all things pertaining to food in Spanish – basically an excellent Peruvian foodie website.
Toshi is an occasional contributor to El Trinche as well. Toshi comes from an emblematic family involved in Nikkei cuisine here in Peru. You could say cooking is in his “blood”. Before Toshi was involved with this restaurant, he had previously received his degree as an agriculture engineer and eventually attained his doctorate in molecular chemistry.
What brought him back to cooking? Toshi’s father, famous Japanese-Peruvian chef, Dario Matsufuji, had previously owned the successful Nikkei restaurant, Matsuei, in Miraflores, where Toshi gained much of his culinary experience. After his father passed away, Toshi felt responsible to take over his father’s business for a bit. In 2011, Toshi opened Al Toke Pez.
Al Toke Pez is a casual, unpretentious, rustic food stand – huarique or hole-in-the-wall – which offers quick, fast food at a great price. Prices are very reasonable for the quality and quantity of food which is offered. The chalkboard menu is limited and lists the items available, occasionally a few of those items change.
On the day of our visit, the restaurant was bustling with customers arriving to place carryout orders and a few stayed to dine at the counter. The majority of their business is carryout. There are approximately seven stools available at the counter. There are no tables.
The day of our visit to Al Toke Pez, four of us eagerly shared six different dishes which included leche de tigre, ceviche de pescado, sudado de mariscos, saltado de pescado, their famous combinado and something that was not listed on the chalkboard menu: tiradito. All of the dishes have a bit of an oriental touch.
We were fascinated watching the speedy and talented Toshi multi-tasking and preparing all the dishes rapidly, at times with flames blazing, at the stove. It is no wonder this 24-year-old is wiry and slender in build. There are a couple other employees that serve the customers, take orders and pack up all the carry-out orders as well. They also assist with preparation. The food here is definitely served quickly and the team at Al Toke Pez works efficiently.
Toshi typically buys his fish early in the mornings at the Villa María de Triunfo fish market. The fish used at Al Toke Pez depends on the daily “catch of the day” that he sources, which are usually the more affordable fish such as “lisa”, perico, cabrilla, etc.
We began our dining experience with the leche de tigre, available in two sizes (4 or 8 ounces) and served in white styrofoam cups. The combination of pieces of fish, onion, ginger, corn and canchita topped off with several pieces of plump fried calamari was a good sign of things to come.
The ceviche de pescado was extremely fresh and they used the fish, “lisa”, tossed very briefly with the lime juice and served immediately accompanied by potato, corn, canchita and fresh “yuyo” seaweed. The fish, lisa, was used in most of the dishes we sampled. Next came the piping hot dish of sudado de mariscos. This hearty sudado was the perfect comfort food for this gray day. A plentiful amount of seafood, tomatoes, onions, and herbs in a wonderful broth hit the spot.
One of our favorite dishes was the saltado de pescado, a sweet and salty dish of crispy sautéed fish with green onions, red onion, bell peppers, and a hint of ginger. We devoured this dish.
The combinado is the ideal dish to order if you want some variety and lots of flavor. The plate contains rice with seafood (arroz con mariscos), fried calamari and ceviche mixto (very tender octopus, calamari, shrimp, white fish, etc.).
The final dish that Toshi prepared for us was an incredibly tender, simple and exquisite rendition of tiradito. This dish was not listed on the chalkboard menu, so we were pleasantly surprised. The raw fish was sliced thin, beautifully presented and accented with lime juice and a light amount of olive oil. The simplicity and freshness made this one of the better tiradito dishes I have had in quite awhile.
Al Toke Pez occasionally offers “specials” besides their regular chalkboard menu. I noticed the fish, cachete de robalo, which has three versions available for 35 soles: fried and accompanied by a salad, fried yuca and rice or sudado style or sautéed with vegetables.
We all truly enjoyed the food at Al Toke Pez and I highly recommend it. I definitely will be back very soon myself and plan on bringing visitors here in the future to experience the authentic Peruvian dishes and atmosphere.
Visit their Facebook page for up-to-date information of when the establishment will open up during Peru’s COVID-19 state of emergency.
Av. Angamos Este 886, Surquillo
Cover photo: Al Toke Pez Facebook Page
This article has been updated from its original publication on October 14, 2015.