Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Āmaz restaurant

On Monday Liz an I headed to Miraflores for lunch at a restaurant that I had been wanting to try since it opened two years ago: Amaz.

Amaza is the latest brainchild of Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, the chef behind Malabar restaurant, which has been ranked among the top 50 of the San Pellegrino list of the world's best restaurants. Continuing the practice he started at Malabar of inspiring his dishes on Peru's natural regions and sourcing his ingredients directly from those regions, Schiaffino cultivated and supported small producers in Peru's jungles until they could reliably source ingredients of sufficient quality and quantity for him that he was able to open Amaz, which is dedicated in its entirety to showcasing the bounty of Amazonia.

Our meal began with complimentary parmesan-flavored yuca bread and large plantain chips.   We then followed those with a half order of giant river snails cooked with a fruit relish.

Amaz allows, and even encourages, half orders of their appetizers and main dishes so that diners can experience a greater variety of flavours and textures.  They also encourage sharing, and thus serve all dishes in the middle of the table, family style.   So, that's what we did (and thus all of these photos represent half-portions).

We followed the snail appetizer with two more appetizers: yuca-flour empanadas, and yuca crisp beignets with a paiche emulsion and avocado topping.

For our main courses, we opted for another example from the appetizer menu - little causas made from pituca root, with prawns, avocado, cocona and hoisin sauce- and a sautee of paiche and vegetables.  

Paiche is a large river fish from the Amazon basin.  They can grow to several hundred pounds and are the second largest freshwater fish in the world ( after sturgeon, I assume).  In Brazil they are called arapaima, and that is the name they are usually called by in English.

Instead of a side starch, we ordered a chicken juane.   Juanes are a native Amazonian lunch box.  They are made of rice seasoned with turmeric, or in this case with long-leaved sacha culantro, fotrmed into a ball around a piece of chicken (or other meat), and often hard-cooked egg and an olive. This is then wrapped in bijao leaves (or sometimes banana leaves) and steamed.  The leaf package keeps the food inside clean and tidy, and allows its easy transport.

The restaurant's decor is relaxed and friendly, with vibrant colors and lots of plants.  Upstairs, in an area I guess is usually given to those with reservations (we didn't get to sit there), the palette is darker, with more wood tones, and seatting in alcoves resembling thatch huts.

Overall, it was fun and much more relaxed than Malabar.  The food is a fun experience in itself, and with little surprises on every plate. 

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