Hanzo: An Alluring Journey into Nikkei Cuisine
By Barbara de Mul
A Nikkei is a Japanese emigrant or a descendant thereof who is not a citizen of Japan. Peru has over 100 000 citizens of Japanese descent but here, Nikkei designates the blooming industry of Japanese-Peruvian cuisine, a well established element within the institution of Peruvian gastronomy.
Travelers don’t always find their way to the top shelf establishments in Lima, perhaps simply because trying out the vast variety of local cuisines takes up all their time. There are plenty of good options in Miraflores, but those who dare to venture out into the district of San Isidro and Surco (near the Jockey Plaza Shopping Mall) will find excellent restaurants in pleasant, quiet surroundings (especially in San Isidro).
It is easy to designate Nikkei cuisine as fusion, but at Hanzo, a flowering restaurant with a young management team, gastronomy goes beyond the term fusion. ‘We find it important to stress that both ingredients are equally important. Our Japanese roots weigh in as much as the variety of Peruvian ingredients does’ says Miguel Asay, managing director of the Surco restaurant.
He also stresses that you don’t have to be a diehard sushi fan to enjoy Hanzo. “What sets us apart from other Japanese-Peruvian restaurants is our large menu with hot dishes.” Also, as we know the
Peruvian palate is quite demanding, we try to renew our menu every six months.
Hanzo is a young venture (founded in 2006) with two locales in Lima and recent franchises in Santiago de Chile and Quito, Ecuador. The formula is so successful, the Nikkei restaurant is hoping to expand onto Guayaquil, and later on cities in Argentina, Chile and then the United States and
“The feeling of luxury comes mostly from the knowledge and expertise the chefs and personnel show. We aim to give you a complete experience. Our fusion comes mostly from our cooking methods (the famous parilla or Peruvian broil) and local ingredients, mixed with fish that is flown into the port of Callao on a daily basis” says Miguel.
In true Japanese fashion, architecture is kept simple. Hanzo’s most popular feature is undoubtedly its Japanese dining room, shortly dubbed ‘tatami’, a name which may ring a bell if you own a Japanese mattress. In this area with soft sitting cushions and low tables, one may feel truly in Osaka, but usually these kinds of space are not great for a date or sitting with friend for hours on end. Here, Peruvian architect Pamela Teruya has brought in a very welcome fusion element by making a hole into the carpeted floor. This way your eating seat becomes both Japanese and traditional or Peruvian!
At the entrance, we are greeted welcome ‘irashaimase’ and quietly ushered to the sushi bar. While having a drink (try the smooth saketini (a martini with a twist of ricewine) or the chilcano with ginger or hierbaluisa) we order our first set of maki rolls. The itamaya’s or sushi chefs answer all our questions while swiftly chopping away.
There are lots of modern style sushi and maki rolls with chicken, pork or red meat, for those who are not into fish. Also, Hanzo revisits ‘raw’: the maki parrillero or barbecue maki features lomo fino with chimichurri sauce, fine slices of meat which have merely been kissed or ‘sealed’ by charcoil.
One of the signature creations we’ve enjoyed are flambéed seashells (mariscos en fuego), cupped with scallops, squid and shrimp in a mellow Peruvian butter sauce and crunchy togarashi (a slightly spicy roasted herbs and sesame mix).
One of the best features of this red carpet adventure for the taste buds may be its price: you will leave Hanzo anxious to come back and only about 25 to 30 USD (per person) poorer.
Hanzo is located at Av Conquistadores 598 San Isidro (tel: 422-6367) and Av. Primavera 1494, Surco (344-4801).
Barbara de Mul is a writer living and working in Lima, Peru. Traveling and writing are Barbara’s lifeblood. She likes to travel for long periods of time or, when she can, she revisits, so that places become friendly, yet preserve a little mystery.