South American chef Christian Cejas cross-pollinates two cuisines in his Legaspi Village restaurant Nikkei, a beautiful love child of Peru and Japan
Nikkei, a barely month-old restaurant in Makati’s Legaspi Village, is the second to offer Peruvian food in Manila, but the first to introduce us to the cuisine. A product of Japanese migrant workers marrying their cuisine with Peruvian ingredients, Nikkei creates something entirely innovative, and its menu—implemented by South American chef Christian Cejas—acts as an introduction to the flavors that form the cornerstone of the cuisine. There is sashimi, for example, but in the form of tiraditos, the Peruvian way of slicing raw fish. Instead of leaving the fish unadorned, it is subtly dressed with a sauce that plays to the fishiness, or a hint of citrus that adds a cleansing spark of acidity. Coco uses the sweetness of coconut milk to temper the spice of togarashi, adding a note of creaminess to fleshy white snapper, while Kocha introduces a floral and herbal crispy tea to sweet salmon. Roast meats, common in South America, use miso and teriyaki, instead of chimichurri or salsa verde. A moreish Kurobuta short rib is one of the best of the lot, with a wasabi coleslaw that cut the gelatinous fattiness of the meat. A tataki-style tuna was paired with a risotto flavored with Huancaina, a sauce which combined the subtle heat of Peru’s famous aji amarillo with the creaminess of milk and queso fresco. It is the ceviches, however, which truly show off what Nikkei cuisine can do, smartly using sweet or robust Japanese flavors to enhance the Peruvian ways of cooking. Green Ceviche has adequate heat and a surprising creaminess, while the Classic has glazed sweet potatoes for an entirely new texture and sweetness. There may be a few faults still, but Nikkei (Unit GO3, Frabelle Business Center, 111 Rada Street, Legaspi Village, Makati; 580-6213) is promising. To introduce a concept foreign to our dining culture may be bold, but in the hands of chef Cejas, it might just work.
This article first appeared in Rogue’s 2015 Design Issue, now available on newsstands and digitally on Zinio.com/Rogue. Get immediate access every month to intelligent storytelling, world-class photography, and in-depth profiles on the country’s influencers for $1 less per issue by subscribing now to Rogue Magazine for iPad, now available on Apple’s App Store.