Chef-restaurateur Richard Sandoval is fascinated by the foods of Latin America. He grew up in Mexico City, where he learned to make authentic Mexican dishes from his grandmother. Those dishes would find their way onto the menus of Maya, the flagship Mexican restaurant he opened in NYC in 1997. More Mexican concepts followed and eventually Sandoval began opening restaurants with menus showcasing flavors not just of Mexico, but all of Latin America. Today he has 32 restaurants throughout the U.S. A trip to Peru largely inspired the menu at his recently opened NYC restaurant Raymi.
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Here, he shares highlights from his time in Lima and Cusco.
“I went to Peru with a team of five chefs to research the food. It’s very important for me to really tap into the people. Food is in their blood. People don’t know that much about Peruvian cuisine. They hear Peruvian and think ceviche. And they have great ceviche. It’s different from the ceviche found in other parts of Latin America.”
“In Peru, they always use a fish stock, an acid, and then a couple of slices of avocado as a base. And it’s always served chilled. The flavors are very crisp and clean. The cooking in Peru is family style. The food is like peasant food. So my chefs and I looked for ways to modernize some of the dishes we save and update the flavors and presentation and in some instances lighten the dishes for sophisticated NYC palettes. Tiraditos aren’t as well known as ceviche but they are similar. You could say they are kind of like Peru’s version of sashimi. The dish reflects the influence of Peru’s Japanese immigrants. Very thick slices of raw fish are served in a spicy sauce and are usually accompanied by corn or one of Peru’s many different kinds of potatoes. At Raymi we serve three versions. The most traditional is probably the fluke, which is served over a sweet potato puree with toasted corn and Thai chile.”
“You can also see how the country’s Chinese immigrants put their stamp on the cuisine. You’ll find a wok section on the menu at Raymi which is a nod to this. One dish, the chaufa completo, is a mix of chicken char siu, shrimp, and Chinese sausage all wok fried with jasmine rice. This dish might be more commonly found in the mountains where the cooking becomes more rustic. You see cages out front of people’s homes with guinea pigs that they cook for dinner. My daughter would kill me if I put guinea pig on the menu at Raymi.”
Restaurante La Preferida
“This little tapas bar served its ceviches in scallop shells. They mix indigenous ingredients in with the seafood so you might see aji Amarillo, a hot yellow chile pepper, or the spicy red rocoto pepper.” Av. La Encalada 908, Monterrico, 51/(0) 1358-9049 and Arias Araguez 698, San Antonio, 51/(0) 1445-5180, restaurantelapreferida.com
“This is a great Peruvian pisco bar in the Miraflores neighborhood with over one hundred and twenty infusions. They are famous for their chilcanos—a refreshing cocktail made with pisco, ginger ale, and lime juice. Chef Jaime Pesaque consulted with me on the opening of Raymi. He’s one of the most acclaimed chefs in Peru and worked with us for nearly two months to make sure the staff was trained in the traditional preparations.” Av. 28 de Julio 1290, 51(0) 1446-5430, maytarestaurante.com
“This pisco bar in Miraflores is known for their delicious pisco sours. The famous cocktail is made from pisco, lime juice, egg whites, and bitters. They also do interesting combinations that mix in maracuya (passion fruit) and uva (a tropical grape). A menu of rustic Criolla tapas helps soak up the pisco.” Ca. Bolognesi 472, 51/(0)1447-1133
“Chef Pedro Schiaffino serves food modern Amazonian food at this world-renowned restaurant. He also has a great selection of mixed, macerated drinks and is known for his star anise pisco-infused cocktail.” Av Camino Real 101, 51/(0) 1440-5200, malabar.pe
Restaurant La Huaca Pucllana
“This place serves contemporary Peruvian cuisine like lomo saltado (marinated beef tenderloin strips sautéed with chili, onions, and tomatoes), tuna tiradito and hot shrimp ceviche that is served in a steaming stone. The atmosphere is priceless. The tables are set in the middle of Incan ruins.” General Borgoño, Block 8, 51/(0) 1445-4042, resthuacapucllana.com
“This hotel brand has properties throughout Peru. We stayed at their Cusco location, just off the steps of the Plaza de Armas. It was very comfortable and felt very connected to the place.” casa-andina.com
Photo of Richard Sandoval by Noah Fecks.
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