Nikkei's Ghost

Nikkei sounds far away and exotic. One could think it is a japanese pop band or even an insult, but it's actually a culinary movement, and it does have name and surname: Nikkei Cuisine. The details of its birth have been endlessly argued, as it always happens when something gains some popularity: was Columbus Italian? was he Spanish? I don't mean to compare Nikkei Cuisine's creation with the discovery of America, although it happened the same way: by chance. At the beginning of the XX century, Peru received numerous immigrants from Japan, stream that became torrent because of the Second World War. It's around these days that the nikkeis (word for japanese immigrants and their descendants) start to adapt their cuisine to the country they live in, creating, not knowing it, the Nikkei Cuisine, literally translated as immigrant Japanese food. In fact, the invention seems inevitable, and it's label as "invention" is almost generous. It would rather be an adaptation of the peruvian product to the Japanese cooking methods, or an assimilation of the habitat with a nostalgic attitude. However, it's not about adding a bit of wasabi to a stuffed rocoto and claim for the nikkei, but about the transformation being subtle and precise, and therefore very few performers are recognized as valid.

Nowadays there are many names in everyones mouth, ones better acclaimed than others. One of the most secure ones is Humberto Sato, who gained popularity in the 80s thanks to his restaurant Costanera 700. However, I've been lucky enough to eat in a bit more contemporary nikkei restaurant, Matsuei, which discreetly shows the distinguished footprints of chefs as Nobu Matsuhisa or Toshiro Konishi. In this video, Gastón, constant teacher, explains us all:


WE EAT AT... Matsuei

If there's a bar, always at the bar. In Matsuei's case it also includes the appeal of being able to watch the chefs cook, palliative for the anxiety or simple entertainment for the hunger. We start with sashimi, which melts in the mouth like a raw cotton candy. We follow with the typical ceviche-like-roll, not to be missed in the nikkei menus. Matsuei's one has ebi furai (breaded prawns), avocado, and tuna with a spicy mayo lemon sauce on the outside. The mixture is precise and perfect: the cooked of the prawn with the rawness of the tuna, the freshness of the avocado, the crunchy of the bread coat and creaminess of the sauce, the acidic of the lemon and the surprise spice. Next is a Matsuei maki, which has also prawns, but this time with cream cheese, avocado and eel's sauce on the outside. After the ceviche-like-roll I missed the lemon touch in the Matsuei maki. To finish we had a langoustine tempura which, although the tempura was light and exquisite, it's only Japanese. The line between nikkei and Japan is very thin.