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Latin America's 50 Best

Malabar: Private dinner demo by Chef Schiaffino in Lima, Peru

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Malabar: Private dinner demo by Chef Schiaffino in Lima, Peru

“There are naked ladies in there!” gasped a member of our tour group. We had arrived before the restaurant opened, and she was peeking through a tiny gap in the door at Malabar, the third of four top-rated restaurants on Bold Food’s culinary tour of Lima.

People come to Malabar to eat world-class Peruvian food, but their first impression of the restaurant may be the portrait of two nude swimmers by Colombian artist Heriberto Cogollo at the entrance. It’s just one of a collection of Latin American and Peruvian art throughout the restaurant.

Our group chatted amiably and admired the artwork as we sipped perfectly balanced el capitan cocktails before heading up to Taller Malabar. The Taller, or workshop, is a space over the kitchen that serves as a private demo space where we would have the incredible honor of having Chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino cook for us. (Some people may remember Chef Schiaffino from Anthony Bourdain’s 2013 visit to Peru on “Parts Unknown.”) Chef Schiaffino hosts his own TV show in Peru called “From the Garden”, and our amazing local guide, Vanessa Vazquez, was quite star struck.

Malabar specializes in using Peruvian ingredients, both from its own farm and sourced directly from local producers. The restaurant also has it own fermentation program. Chef Schiaffino’s second restaurant, Amaz, specializes in Amazonian ingredients and dishes. He is the first chef in Lima to focus on dishes from the Amazon, and the reception has been very positive.

As soon as we were seated at our demo table, Chef Schiaffino began preparing the first dish: peeled hearts of palm with toasted yucca, nuts and nut oils. The chef told us about the ingredients, showed us what palm looked like in its raw form and described how everything was made. This was the third night of the Lima tour, and we had already enjoyed extensive tasting menus at Maido and Central—two of the most critically acclaimed restaurants in South America--so we were happy when the chef told us that he would be preparing light, simple fare.

The second dish, a combination of luscious Peruvian avocado, asparagus and aji negro, was my favorite. Aji negro is fermented yucca juice, which I think of as Peruvian soy sauce. It’s a bit salty and full of rich umami flavors. We can’t get fermented yucca in the U.S. yet, but I’m hoping that will change soon. Peru is the world’s largest exporter of asparagus, and we were lucky enough to eat the first-ever asparagus crop from Malabar’s farm.

The avocado dish was followed by a corn tostada made with a corn crisp and corn sprouts, then by an incredible stewed fish dish with house-made corn beer known as chicha, then by crispy guinea pig with house-made kimchi, and, finally, by local duck with roasted pumpkin and cilantro rice. Dessert was cherimoya sorbet with meringue, toasted red quinoa, and dried oca chips. Oca is a native Andean tuber that is packed with carbohydrates and becomes a bit sweet when dried.

Throughout the dinner, Chef Schiaffino was eager to address our questions, and he even revised the menu to incorporate ingredients in which we showed interest.

Of all of our amazing dinners in Lima, Malabar’s was the one where we learned the most about Peruvian ingredients and preparations. Chef Schiaffino is passionate about his food and about his native cuisine. Having him at our table, showing us his artistry and answering all of our questions, was priceless. I have been to Malabar multiple times now, and the food has been exceptional each time.

It seems fitting that our first impression of the artwork and our last impression of Chef Schiaffino and the food at Malabar were equally as inspiring.

If you want to join us for our next culinary vacation to Peru, we will be returning to Lima in 2018 from Jan 31 to Feb 4, and July 18 to 22.

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Food Trends 2017: What's on the Way

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Food Trends 2017: What's on the Way

As an obsessive foodie and avid traveler, I have the opportunity to eat at a wide variety of restaurants around the world. That puts me in a good position to spot emerging food trends. 

One current food trend I hope will go away soon is pine. Every restaurant of a certain creativity level has a dish flavored with pine right now. Yep, that's Christmas tree flavor. We can thank Noma and the Nordic food revolution for this addition to the global food lexicon. A lot of amazing things have come out of the Nordic movement, but pine is not one them. When I ate at Noma, Geranium, Radio and Relæ in Copenhagen in 2014, I had a LOT of pine. (If Rene Redzepi were here now, I'd have a very creative way to thank him for the pine in my food!)

Below are some food trends that I expect to gain popularity in the next few years. Feel free to share your own predictions in the comments section below.


Koji

SingleThread  in Healdsburg, CA - Mt. Lassen trout ibushi-gin with shio koji vinaigrette, trout roe, and myoga

SingleThread in Healdsburg, CA - Mt. Lassen trout ibushi-gin with shio koji vinaigrette, trout roe, and myoga

Koji is the fungus used to make soy sauce, miso and sake, and shio koji is a salted liquid that is used as a marinade and sauce which contains enzymes that help break down proteins which releases free glutamate, the main source of umami. Koji preparations are clearly well known in Japan, but koji has been on the menu at SingleThread in Sonoma, Baroo in Los Angeles, Barley Swine in Austin, The Restaurant at Meadowood in Napa, and Restaurant Andre in Singapore.

Barroo  in Los Angeles, CA - Farro and kamut cooked with koji beet creme and dashi with nuts and rose apple pickle.

Barroo in Los Angeles, CA - Farro and kamut cooked with koji beet creme and dashi with nuts and rose apple pickle.


Raw Fish

Gaggan  in Bangkok, Thailand - Raw fish taco

Gaggan in Bangkok, Thailand - Raw fish taco

Raw fish preparations are a part of many cultures, but we are not simply seeing them in expected places like Japan (sushi), Mexico and Peru (ceviche). We are seeing raw fish in Hawaiian poke-like preparations in fast casual restaurants, and a raw lobster preparation at Bianchi in Zurich. There were recently two raw fish dishes on the menu at Gaggan, a high end modernist Indian food restaurant in Bangkok, and just about every chef driven restaurant in the US will have a crudo or ceviche like dish on the menu.


Edible Clay and Dirt

Central  in Lima, Peru - Cushuro (a round colony of bacteria from the Andes that are solid but chewy), cacao, chaco clay.  

Central in Lima, Peru - Cushuro (a round colony of bacteria from the Andes that are solid but chewy), cacao, chaco clay.  

Noma in Copenhagen has served dirt to their guests (on purpose), and for years Michel Bras has garnished his famous gargouillou salad with a bit of dirt. Andean natives in Peru eat the clay that sticks to the potatoes they cook in the earth, and Central and other restaurants in Peru have started serving edible clay. Central actually serves a dessert with edible clay and white chocolate.  As Peru is driving many culinary trends right now, the edible clay trend will continue to grow.

 

 


Non-alcoholic Drinks and Pairings

SingleThread in Healdsburg, CA - Turmeric and grenadine with smoked salt

SingleThread in Healdsburg, CA - Turmeric and grenadine with smoked salt

Many high end restaurants are putting more effort than ever into beverage pairings that do not contain alcohol. SingleThread in Sonoma County offers a revelatory non-alcoholic pairing. Coi in San Francisco offers a tea pairing, and Restaurant Andre in Singapore is fermenting their own juices. The trend is also starting to trickle into more casual chef driven restaurants and will continue to do so.

 

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Malabar in Lima, Peru: Food from the Amazon

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Malabar in Lima, Peru: Food from the Amazon

Lima is one of the best food cities in the world, and there's a delightful culinary surprise practically around every corner. But Malabar in Lima was the most exciting meal of my entire trip to Lima. Malabar has kept a position on the Latin America and World's Best Restaurants lists for many years now, and for good reason. Every menu item was full of ingredients and preparations I had never seen before. 

Chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino is the owner of Malabar. He trained at the Culinary Institute of America and the Italian Culinary Institute for Foreigners, then spent five years cooking in Italy before moving back to his native Lima. He is one of a handful of world-renowned chefs in Lima who is highlighting local ingredients and techniques in his restaurants. 

There's nothing more exciting for a foodie than to find something new and incredibly tasty. When I sat down to dinner and the server brought me the bread course, I knew I would have my mind blown during this meal. I was treated to three breads made from yucca (cassava) that were completely new to me, along with a dipping sauce made from fermented yucca juice that was black and funky with an umami kick that the Japanese would envy. I was in awe of it. It was one of those moments when I thought, "Why doesn't the whole world eat like this?" After the bread came the most flavorful hearts of palm dish I've ever had, and and then raw scallops with cucumbers, native herbs and fermented ají amarillo. This native yellow pepper is ubiquitous in Peruvian cuisine, but this is the only time I have had it fermented. Every dish contained a delicious surprise. I only wish I could eat like this every day! 

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