The first couple of months for Lima was an experimental period. In June, the Walsh Bay 100-seater launched as Folklor and had a split focus: nikkei (Japanese-Peruvian) and chifa (Chinese-Peruvian) cuisines. But co-owners Luis Guzman and Hector Chunga (who together own Warike in Surry Hills) quickly saw they had to pick one.
“We realised the message was a bit unclear,” Guzman tells Broadsheet. “Most customers were new to Peruvian food, and to include Chinese and Japanese influences was a bit confusing. We knew we had to choose one or the other.”
Nikkei was the winner, and the result is a more focused menu that clearly illustrates the history of the cross-continental union. Tender Wagyu is served on rice as nigiri with anticuchera, a sauce of garlic, coriander, citrus and beer; steamed dumplings are stuffed with Piura rice and seafood mixed with coriander and chicha de jora (an alcoholic drink made from fermented corn and referred to as “the spirit of the Incas”); whole snapper is deep fried and served with octopus tartare, sweet potato and chalaca (fresh salsa).
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While Japanese “fusion” dishes can be found worldwide, in Peru the cross-cultural encounter evolved into an entirely new cuisine. “That’s because it’s not really fusion, it’s an evolution of more than 100 years of migration. Japanese and Chinese people came and combined their cooking techniques with the ingredients they could find in Peru. We’re really proud of the strong nikkei and chifa cultures in Peru.”
At Lima, executive chef Chunga introduces a third element to nikkei cuisine: Australian ingredients. Riverina Black Angus is used in the tallarin saltado, a stir-fried beef dish that incorporates pasta noodles, tomato, coriander and a tart-savoury lomo sauce. The tiradito with Fremantle octopus is a sashimi-inspired dish served with avocado and leche de tigre (a citrus marinade).
Ceviche is Peru’s national dish, but Guzman says that when Japanese migrants began to influence the food culture, the way Peruvians made ceviche changed. “The raw seafood used to be marinated for a few hours until the fish was white and cooked. But the Japanese handled food differently – now we eat it fresh with a little bit of seasoning or lime.”
The drinks are on theme, featuring Peruvian fruit infusions and Japanese spirits. The Old Fashioned Nikkei, for example, combines Toku Whisky and bitters with lucuma, “the national fruit of Peru”.
Although the focus at Lima has changed, the Folklor fit-out remains: moody lighting with black chairs and tables. The graffiti murals evoke Lima’s bohemian Barranco district bars, while the backlit halo of abundant cherry blossoms encircling the bar nods to Japan.
Concentrating efforts on nikkei cuisine at Lima leaves the team open to launch a chifa venue in the future. “We want to give chifa its own space. It won’t be next year, but when we’re ready, it will probably be our next venture.”
Tue to Thu 5pm–10pm
Fri & Sat midday–3pm, 5pm–11pm
Sun midday–3pm, 5pm–9pm