Creative Peruvian Cuisine at Tomo, Mérito, and Kjolle in Lima
Three of Lima's Most Innovative Restaurants
Somehow, we always end up procrastinating on fine dining. As I saw our final1 week in Lima fast approaching, I decided to pack in as many of the trending restaurants as I could. Perhaps it was a side effect of decreased tourism in Peru, but we were able to score reservations with only a few day notice.
Nowadays, there are more and more upscale options with unique interpretations of Peruvian ingredients to try in Lima, making it challenging to choose. Don’t take this as an exhaustive list2. Also, don’t think that this is how we normally eat in a typical week!
Tomo: Modern Nikkei
We heard about Tomo while watching Peruvian food television. Lima has a long tradition of Nikkei cuisine, but we could quickly tell that Tomo has a unique offering. Previously, they were in a much smaller location, making reservations very difficult to come by which was the main reason we hadn’t tried it earlier.
Tomo feels like a “create your own tasting menu” kind of place. The menu offers many small plates organized by categories including sashimi, makis, tiraditos, and a whole category for bivalves (oysters, scallops, clams, and razor clams). Depending on how many people you have in your party, an easy way to order would be to pick one item per category.
The Tobiche, Tomo’s take on ceviche, feels like their signature dish so we broke the tradition of not eating ceviche at night and ordered it. The fish was sculpted into a rose at the center of the plate, flanked by slices of scallop and octopus. The ají amarillo leche de tigre was then poured on top tableside. This dish really highlighted the freshness of the fish and seafood at Tomo. The fried calamari that came with dish felt a bit superfluous.
The Pejerrey nigiri was my favorite bite of the night. It had the perfect amount of crunch and the citrus balanced the strong flavor of pejerrey.
Mariela hadn’t been as into Nikkei cuisine before we met. The nigiri at Tomo really brought home the importance of getting the sushi rice right.
We sat in the main dining area downstairs, but I would like to check out the experience of sitting at the bar where you have a direct view of the kitchen. After dinner, we explored upstairs and were surprised at how big the second-floor dining area was. It even had its own bar.
Mérito: Peruvian and Venezuelan Fusion
We’ve walked by Mérito many times before finally popping in. We even peeked inside a few times. We saw many stones, colorful ingredients, and a lot of deliberate movement but didn’t really know what going on inside.
Mérito is known for its unique fusion of Peruvian and Venezuelan flavors, but aside from the arepas, nothing leaped out to me being obviously Venezuelan-influenced. That might just be because of my lack of knowledge regarding Venezuelan cuisine. It was hard to pinpoint one dominant influence in the food at Merito. You definitely see some commonality with Central in the plating and presentation, but Mérito’s style is its own. Overall, I thought the food was an expression of chef Juan Luis Martínez and José Luis Saumeo’s artistry and technical mastery.
In addition to the food, what really stood out for me is how good the space was for conversation. The lighting at night was perfect and the music wasn’t too loud as is often the case in Peru.
This is a place where you definitely need a reservation.
Kjolle: Playful Use of Peruvian Ingredients
Kjolle, named for a cactus flower from the Andes, incorporates ingredients from all over Peru. However, whereas Central serves an ecosystem on one plate at a time, Kjolle interweaves ingredients from the Andes, Jungle, and Coast in its menu without neatly delineating between one ecosystem and another. A lot of times, constraints drive creativity, but sometimes as in the case of Kjolle when you remove these constraints, you unleash another form of creativity.
While it wasn’t on the a la carte menu, we requested the Muchos Tubérculos, a tartlet showcasing colorful slices of yucca, olluco, and potatoes. Luckily, the waiter was able to fulfill our request and bring out a small tartlet.
I’d seen many photos of Muchos Tubérculos. What I didn’t understand from all of the photos was how perfect the texture was, with the slight crunch of the tuber slices contrasting with the creamy base of the tart. I was also pleasantly surprised that the tubers were lightly fermented, adding a playful touch.
My favorite dish was the “Amber Forest,” a multi-layered dessert. The dish featured camu camu, our favorite Peruvian fruit, as a sorbet along with dehydrated chincho, a Peruvian herb and Sanki, a cactus fruit from the Andes.
Like the Muchos Tubérculos, the textures and colors played a big role in the enjoyment of the dish.
We didn’t go to Kjolle earlier because we thought that the tasting menu was their principal and only offering. We were wrong! Thanks to Copehagen Foodie, we realized that the la carte option was excellent.
Some news-I’m rolling out paid subscriptions. I plan to do something a little different with my paid subscriptions. I will post more details in a couple of weeks, but the gist is everyone who subscribes will get an e-mailed copy of my guidebook to Peruvian food. This guidebook has taken me more than six years to research and write and I’m already working on updates!
The focus of the paid subscriptions will be providing practical information for people planning a visit to Peru. Since this is primarily a hobby for me, I will continue to provide plenty of stories about Peruvian food for free.
“Final” for now. We’ll likely be back in September, but personally, I think it’s hard to beat summer (December to March) as a time for visiting Lima.
I generally like trying a restaurant twice before writing about it; think about this as more like a preview of possible future posts. For any of these restaurants, I could easily write a whole post dedicated to it. Many of these restaurants are multi-faceted so in many cases, I could write several posts, each covering a different aspect of the restaurant.