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Thursday, 26 June 2014

Peruvian-Nikkei Cuisine at Chotto Matte London

Where: 11–13 Frith Street, Soho, London, W1D 4RB, http://www.chotto-matte.com

Cost: There are three 9-course Nikkei sharing menus, priced at £40, £50 and £60 per person. A pre-theatre 3-course menu is also available at £25 including a glass of Prosecco. Average spend from the a la carte menu is around £40 per person for food only.

About: Chotto Matte, opened by Kurt Zdesar (the man who brought Nobu to the UK), is one the first London restaurants serving the still relatively unknown Peruvian-Nikkei cuisine. Born from the Japanese diaspora living in Peru, Peruvian-Nikkei cooking is much more than just a trendy fad – it was born out of necessity in the early 20th century as most Japanese immigrants lacked the necessary ingredients to cook their home fare. Instead, they resorted to using the fantastic produce of Peru, from Pacific fish and seafood to the high altitude vegetables of the Andes, and the fruit of the Amazon. Today, Peruvian-Nikkei cuisine is very much part of the mainstream diet in Peru, with dishes like Tiradito and Maki Acevichado being just as popular as ceviche or causa.

I love bringing Brazilian-Nikkei dishes and flavours into my Japanese Supper Club menus and have been observing with interest the emergence of Nikkei cuisine in Europe – Chotto Matte, Sushi Samba (reviewed here) and UNI in London as well as the fabulous Pakta in Barcelona, opened by Ferran Adriá. At Peruvian restaurant Coya (reviewed here), I was surprised to see a large number of Peruvian Nikkei dishes on their menu.  Recently, Mitsuharu Tsumura of Maido, the Peruvian-Nikkei restaurant in Lima which is number 11th in the San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants of Latin America, was hosted by Virgilio Martinez of Lima, the only Michelin-starred Peruvian restaurant in London (reviewed here).

Opened in September 2013, Chotto Matte’s menus and kitchen are under executive chef Jordan Sclare (former head chef at Aqua Kyoto and Nobu) and head chef Michael Paul. Chotto Matte is a large, beautiful restaurant and bar set over three floors.

On the ground floor, there is live music for much of the day as well as a vast, UV-illuminated mural created by Tokyo-based graffiti artist Houxo Que.

If the sun is shining, and you are lucky enough (as we were) to get one of their coveted outside tables, it is a fantastic place to while the hours away, sipping Pisco Sours, munching on some freshly made sushi and most importantly - people watching!

What We Ate: The kitchen has a number of stations, including a sushi and ceviche bar as well as a Japanese Robata grill area serving barbecued dishes. There is also a bar menu of small eats (tostaditas) with a variety of toppings for those who fancy a few snacks with a drink.

We started with some delicious and wonderfully blistered Padron peppers with sweet den miso and sea salt (£4.50). Den in their menu refers to dengaku miso, a paste made from miso, sake, mirin and sugar commonly used for grilled aubergines (nasu dengaku), one of the favourites in my Japanese Supper Club.

We also had a cone of cassava and sweet potato crisps, with an accompanying yellow tomato salsa and guacamole (£3.25).

To follow, we had two Nikkei dishes which were for me the highlight of the meal. First came a Nikkei sashimi of yellowtail with cherry tomatoes, jalapeño chillies, black salt, yuzu juice, crispy purple potato and truffle oil (£9.95). This was a magnificent dish.

Next we had the seabass ceviche - seabass sashimi, with sweet potato, Peruvian crispy corn, coriander, lemon juice and chive oil (£7.25). This was delicious, with intense chlorophyll colour from the chive oil, and a satisfying crunchy texture from the cancha crispy corn.

To accompany these fish dishes, we had the Paperthin Vegetable Salad - beetroot, daikon and butternut squash cut very thinly and teased into rolls, served with broccoli, quinoa, physalis fruit and lime, and red onion (£4.95). This dish was very refreshing, and I really enjoyed the richly flavoured vegetables, although I thought the sauce was a little sharp and would have been improved by a touch of sweetness.

The next course was grilled octopus, marinated in rice wine vinegar, from the Robata grill, with yuzu and smoked purple potato purée, and antecucho sauce (£9.95). This was utterly delicious - wonderfully tender octopus with a smoked flavour from the grill, and also from the antecucho marinade which is made from smoked dried aji panca.

To accompany it, we had Yuca Frita  - cassava chips with smoked aji panca dipping sauce (£3.25). The cassava was nice and crisp on the outside, but a little too firmly textured inside for my liking.

We also had  Ensalada Peruana -quinoa salad with aji amarillo sauce, pomegranate, coriander and Peruvian crispy cancha corn (£3.25), which was delicious with a combination of sweet and crunchy elements, and heat from the aji.

Alongside this, we had Mazorca de Maiz - a dish of Peruvian corn with chilli butter and coriander (£4.25). This was a more refined version of a dish we ate often in Peru – the corn was soft and a little sweet, and given a lovely lift by the chilli and fresh herbs.

We then had the Pollo Peruana - grilled chicken with crispy cancha corn, onion, coriander and edible flowers (£11.75). This was a well-made dish, with toasted crunchy skin, succulent tender flesh, and perfect seasoning.

We also had a selection of blowtorched sushi - tuna with yuzu butter, salmon with black garlic butter, turbot with antecucho butter, and aubergine with dengaku miso sauce and white sesame seeds (£10.50). I was very impressed by the sushi - the rice in particular was well made and fresh, as was the choice topping for the Nigiri sushi and the richly flavoured, savoury butters.

For dessert, we had the chicha morada brûlée - pineapple in chicha morada (black corn) syrup, with vanilla ice cream and coriander. This was like a very good pineapple crumble dish from school days, with the Peruvian twist being the intense purple colour and savour from the black corn, which is ubiquitous in Peru.

To finish, we had the Trio Nikkei - white chocolate foam, miso mousse, lime and lemon sorbet, and taro. This was a very refined combination dessert, beautifully presented. The miso mousse was reminiscent of dulce de leche, with a refreshing lemon and lime sorbet, and a good texture from the crumble. This dessert was clever, well-conceived, and a good ending to the meal.

What We Drank: Cocktails are priced between £8 and £10.50, Champagnes start at £49 per bottle.  Entry level whites are £23, and include an organic Torrontes from Michel Torino, and an Argentinian Viognier from Casa Montes. Reds start at £23, including a Peter Lehmann Art Series Shiraz, and an Argentine Malbec, Dona Paula.

We had a couple of very well made Pisco Sours (£8.50), and a glass of Organic Torrontes, Michel Torino Cuma 2013 (£23 per bottle). With the chicken, we had a glass of Argentine Chardonnay from Pulenta Estate VIII 2012 (£29 per bottle).  For dessert, we had a Mio Sparkling Sake - a 5% alcohol wine, this was refreshing, off-dry with gentle stone fruit flavours (£13 for a 300 ml bottle).

Likes: Great service, cool setting and some mean Pisco sours. The highlight dishes for me were the Nikkei sashimi of yellowtail and the seabass ceviche. Desserts are spectacularly good.

Dislikes: None

Verdict: Chotto Matte is a great place to discover Peruvian-Nikkei cuisine in the heart of London. A facet of Peruvian-Japanese cooking still relatively unknown in the UK, it is rapidly gaining momentum thanks to places like Chotto Matte. Highly recommended.

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