An Amazonian adventure
Claim to fame: The menu’s glossary, listing 88 ingredients and their definitions.
Reason to go: To taste the flavors of Peru’s jungle without leaving Lima.
To look out for: Whimsical, tropical décor, stellar drinks and the not-to-miss paiche, a gigantic fish with an unforgettable taste.
It’s lush and exciting, exotic and mysterious. Stepping into ámaZ feels a little bit like a sweaty and sexy afternoon in the jungle. A relaxed, down-to earth ambiance is home to Pedro Miguel Schiaffino’s casual take on Amazonian cuisine. Schiaffino’s first restaurant Malabar was an exploration of haute cuisine techniques applied to native ingredients from the Amazon. Back in the country, after training in New York and Italy, Schiaffino experimented with products Peruvian diners had never seen–let alone tasted–in an upscale restaurant. Founded eight years later, in 2012, ámaZ makes this exploration more widely available.
Peruvians pride themselves on their culinary knowledge but a visit to ámaZ will humble most of them: Schiaffino brings to the table little-known ingredients and preparations from some of the country’s remotest and least populated areas. The restaurant’s website lists 88 words diners will find useful to navigate the menu. Some of them, like ají macusari (a very spicy red chili) aren’t even in the botanical register. Others, like juane (a ball of sticky rice wrapped and steamed in bijao leaves) are offered with so many different fillings (fish, pork, duck or chicken) that it’s hard to chose just one. Sharing is encouraged to make the most of the visit to this popular spot in trendy Miraflores––now with a sister location in residential Surco.
The menu is divided into seven categories, excluding side dishes. Start with the churos pishpirones (river snails with a spicy chorizo and tapioca sauce), pick one of the four ceviches (ceviche ámaZ, with plantain and ají charapita, is a favorite), continue with a patarashca de hongos (mushrooms and hearts of palm seasoned with turmeric, wrapped with bijao leaves and cooked over hot coals) and then prepare for the main course. The saltado de mariscos has a ring of Southeast Asia; seafood and vegetables sauteed with coconut milk and turmeric. The sacha chaufa is Schiaffino’s take on Peruvian-Chinese fried rice, it features plantain and cecina (smoked and dried pork), a staple of the Amazonian pantry. Visitors should not leave ámaZ without tasting paiche, one of the world’s largest freshwater fishes, with white flesh and a dense, delicate flavor. You can try it with herb butter or with a chorizo and sweet chili sauce over aguaje puree.
If Malabar felt like a once-in-a-lifetime trip to an exotic and foreign destination, ámaZ is an exciting adventure you can return to time and again.