One block west of one of my favorite spots in New York City, Madison Square Park, you’ll find a gem of a restaurant that is a must to visit if you’re looking for authentic Peruvian cuisine. Raymi Peruvian Kitchen & Pisco Bar is located at 43 W.24th Street (btwn 5th & 6th Aves) in Manhattan’s Flatiron District. Now, I know what you might ask (I would), “What makes this Peruvian restaurant better than the rest?” Great question!
Here’s your answer: The Old World roots and cultural diversity that make up Peru are elegantly captured in every delectable dish prepared by Chef Erik Ramirez and his staff. Oh, and the Peruvian Pisco Sour? Yeah, don’t skip it. It’s as much a part of the experience as the Ceviche Clasico or the Lomo Saltado! Speaking of which…let’s get to the cuisine, the Chef and the history, shall we?
The setting was the Ceviche Bar which sits in the center of the establishment. There we were welcomed by Chef Ramirez — a brief background on him: Jersey kid of Peruvian parents, he’s a graduate of the Art Institute of Philadelphia. His background was in French and American cuisine until a stint living in Peru inspired him. He redirected his culinary efforts and is now spreading the love of his native land’s dishes along with the history behind them. Ok, yes…the cuisine. Pisco Sour in hand, and away we go!
1st Course: Causa
This dish was developed during the Spanish colonization of Peru. It claims both indigenous and European foods as its ingredients. The picture you see above is what you’ll be served at Raymi. It consists of cold potato puree as the base with slices of avocado over it. It’s then topped with a mixture consisting of aji amarillo, tuna, octopus, salmon and spicy mayo. It’s spicy alright…and oh so good!
2nd Course: Ceviche Clasico
This is Peru’s signature dish! Its origin is pre-Incan and yet, influenced by the Spaniards and Japanese. You see, the Spanish introduced the lime and in the mid-1800’s the Japanese perfected the dish by showing how to properly fillet the fish. Before then, it was just ripped open. The fish is Corbina – White Sea Bass from the Pacific. The ingredients that make this dish deliciously unforgettable are: Sweet potato, habanero chili, red onion, cilantro and lime juice. We were told by the Chef to spoon it! You want to pick up that Leche de Tiguere. That’s right, Tiger’s Milk! Hold on…it’s not actual milk from a tiger; just the name given to the lime juice because it picks up a milky hue. Also, the dish is served ice cold.
3rd Course: Lomo Saltado
This dish is a staple of Peruvian cuisine that is heavily influenced by Chinese culture. Hanger steak prepared in a wok with tomato, red onion and soy sauce. It’s garnished with crispy fries over the top and served with jasmine rice on the side. Now, don’t be shy…you’re encouraged to mix the rice in with the steak. It takes on a life of its own when it soaks up the juices in the plate. Phenomenal!
4th Course: Picarones
We now arrive at desert. Picarones: Peruvian fried donuts covered in Chancaca honey! This is what you’ll find being sold by sidewalk vendors in the streets of Lima. Think NYC bagel carts kind of street vendors. So yes, they’re everywhere. The origin of this sweet treat is Spanish, as well. Funny thing is they happened by accident. You see, the Spaniards made buñelos which at some point got too expensive to make, and picarones were born. They consist of four simple ingredients…which I’ll let you discover for yourselves when you visit Raymi.
I recommend you take advantage of Restaurant Week (July 22nd – August 16) where you can enjoy 3 courses for $38. They’re offering their entire menu during that time.
Contributed by Orlando Manuel