Peru was named ‘World’s Leading Culinary Travel Destination’ in November 2013’s World Travel Awards – the ‘Oscars of tourism’. In 2014, some 1.2 million people (around 40 per cent of the total visitors to Peru) were so-called ‘gastronomic tourists’. But you need travel only as far as Sumaq, in Palma’s Santa Catalina district, to find out why Peruvian fusion cuisine is gastronomic gold.
Irene Gutiérrez comes from Cuzco. In June 2013 Irene opened her own Peruvian fusion restaurant in C/ Sant Magí in Santa Catalina. In May 2014, the chef/patron moved Sumaq to the larger premises (75 covers) once occupied by Fábrica 23 restaurant. The bar area has three high tables with seats, and there’s a separate glass-walled room that’s good for groups, as well as the main dining room in front of the open kitchen.
Sumaq is a Quechuan word meaning delicious or tasty; the name couldn’t be more appropriate for this restaurant serving lunch and dinner, year-round. Peruvian fusion cuisine has its roots in the late 19th century: the poverty resulting from the first Sino-Japanese War prompted many Japanese people to seek a better life, in Peru; today, the country has South America’s second-largest ethnic Japanese population. The result is what’s known as Nikkei – Peruvian/Japanese fusion cuisine.
Irene uses authentic ingredients from Peru, Japan, and China (another immigrant influence) in her creative fusion cuisine. We recommend sharing dishes here so that you can taste as many as possible. Reading the menu introduces you to ingredients and dishes you might not have tried or even heard of – such as unagi, causa, kataifi, takuan, and tobikos. It’s like going on a culinary adventure without having to pack a suitcase.
Two Peruvian cocktails are the first items on the menu. We had to return to work in the afternoon, so took a rain check on the exotic Pisco Sour and Chicha Morada Sour cocktails, in favour of a glass each of Verdejo.
The menu is helpfully annotated: dishes that are specifically Nikkei are highlighted; the Peruvian speciality of ‘causa’ is explained (Peruvians love potatoes; Irene uses Yukon Gold); a note about special diets (dishes can be adapted to suit particular requirements), and the occasional Irene comment (“It’s to die for!” or “Dare to try it!). The menu includes a selection of ceviches and ‘tiraditos’ (Peruvian-style raw sliced fish, inspired by sashimi), as well as meat and fish main course dishes.
Irene selected the dishes we tried, which started with octopus ceviche in its own ink, served with sweet potato chips and roasted corn. Next was the Nikkei starter of grilled unagi (eel), with crunchy yucca and spicy yellow chili sauce; we agreed that although we wouldn’t have chosen an eel dish, we were pleased to have tried this one. The Nikkei mixed exotic ceviche was divine; a must-try for ceviche fans. There are four meat dishes on the main courses – of which we tried the crunchy chicken (in panko and wakame) with Nikkei wheat, and the richly flavoured flambéed beef steak. Australian lamb was the main ingredient in the two other meat dishes.
We ended our Sumaq experience with two desserts: a sweet and zingy ‘tarta de limón’ (more like a cheesecake) and a rich smooth chocolate mousse. Both were served in round bowls with a small indentation on the rim – containing a small portion of Curaçao ‘caviar’, which Irene recommended we have last. Our only minor (very minor) criticism is that the coffee here is from a catering-sized Nespresso machine, rather than the more traditional coffee machine.
Irene’s vibrantly colourful Peruvian fusion cuisine tastes healthy, fresh, and delicious – as you’d expect from the quality ingredients used. It also looks good on the plate. If you can’t join the gastronomic tourists in Peru, head to Sumaq. No packing required.
We particularly enjoyed the mixed exotic ceviche and crunchy chicken (in panko) with Nikkei wheat. The lemon pie dessert, with curaçao pearls, was delicious.
Irene will adapt dishes to suit vegetarians, vegans, and dietary restrictions.
We love…the flavours, textures, and colours of the healthy cuisine.