ámaz - Lima, Peru

Dinner - Saturday, May 3, 2014

Pedro Miguel Schiaffino is a pretty big deal in Lima. Trained in the USA and Europe in the 90s, Schiaffino returned to Peru in 2002. Two years later, he opened Malabar, which has received a fair amount of acclaim in the past few years. Known as a champion of "jungle cuisine", his newest venture is ámaz, where he has gone all-in with the ingredients from the Amazon. Not since our meal at Attica 2 years ago have I encountered so many new ingredients - I can readily say that Amazonian flora are much more palatable than their Australian counterparts. (NB: as it turns out, this meal was just the beginning of a week full of new discoveries - South America has so much untapped potential).

Fried plantains, pan de queso
Cocona salsa, avocado purée with banana vinegar
In lieu of bread, we received crispy tostones and balls of pan de queso (similar to Brazilian pao de queijo). To accompany these, cocona (Amazon tomato) salsa and a wonderful "guacamole" tinged with banana vinegar - addictive.

Grilled fresh scallops, camu camu butter
Although camu camu is known to have the highest ascorbic acid content on the planet, the sauce was not tart. Instead, it was pleasantly sweet, and combined with the caramelization, gave the grilled scallops a pseudo-Asian touch.

"Green salad"
Green taperiba, green papaya, green mango, leche de tigre
In experienced hands, unripened fruits can be used to great effect, as was the case here. This Peruvian take on som tam was fantastic - texturally complex, bursting with salt and acid. Notably, this was my first time eating unripe taperiba (hog plum), while the ripened fruit is quite common in the Caribbean.

Amazonian river clams
Sweet chilies, green onion salsa
Ceviche ámaz style
Cooked ripe plantains, charapita chilies
Wild giant Amazonian snails
Chorizo, spicy chilies
Wow - giant is almost an understatement. The scarily large shell of each snail was filled with its diced flesh, cooked with chorizo and chilies. I suspect the meat has little taste of its own (hence the aggressive seasoning), but the texture was abalone-like. I very much doubt I will ever encounter any land mollusc as large as these fellows anytime soon.

Dorado grilled in bijao leaves
Cecina, mashed plantains
If this is anything to go by, Peruvian cecina is very similar to the Mexican version - grilled, salted sheets of pork. Tender, and very good with the sweet mash underneath.

Amazonian fruits, basil
Unfortunately, our poor command of Spanish reared its ugly head during dessert, which comprised a variety of indigenous fruits. A number of citrus species were present, as well as a lychee-like fruit. The only recognizable item appeared to be (and tasted like) passionfruit seeds, although even then I'm not confident they weren't from some sort of related fruit. Surprisingly, all the fruits were very pleasant - the rainforest did not let us down.

Our first dinner in Lima was an exciting meal from start to finish - the element of the unknown coupled with very proficient cooking. I am curious whether Schiaffino's re-introduction of these traditional ingredients to modern Peruvian cooking will have any significant trickle-down effect - certainly, many are delicious enough to stand on their own. Time will tell.

Av. La Paz 1079
Miraflores, Lima
Phone: +51 (1) 221-9393