What’s the best Perth restaurant for some Peruvian food?
No? Me neither. Despite a reported boom in Peru’s cuisine in recent years, there aren’t a ton of options that show off the South American nation around Perth. But if you want to try out Andean appetisters or learn about Lima’s lunches, you’re now in luck.
Esperanza Roberts runs Perth Meets Peru, which specialises in showcasing Peruvian food. The company offers business and social packages – I imagine more than a few foodie cravings readers would enjoy having a chef bring a degustation to their house – matched wine and food evenings, and cooking classes.
We attended the last option, courtesy of Esperanza and Luis Vergara. Luis – formerly head chef at Public House on Adelaide Terrace – caters for local businesses and food outlets through his firm Latin Treats. He also handles the demonstrations at Esperanza’s ‘Perth Meets Peru’ classes, where punters enjoy a three-course meal while learning how dishes are prepared. On this occasion the audience sat down to a Christmas-themed menu, which Luis described as “modern Peruvian” cooking that incorporated his experiences in Australia.
That said, we were assured that “causa tricolor” is a Peruvian staple. After trying it, I can see why. Cold mashed potato may not sound like the ideal starting point for a dish, but the finished article was delicious. Three sections of spud were naturally dyed; the green layer using chlorophyll from spinach and herbs, the red and yellow via chilli paste. Chopped prawns and avocado were spread between the potato, before the tower was topped with more herbs, olives and a bonus prawn. Served cold, the causa offered a smooth texture – much lighter than cottage pie – and a stack of fresh, clean flavours.
Luis also demonstrated how the rustic family favourite could be plated with more “restaurant-style” presentation. It was interesting to see a chef re-interpreting a recipe for a different audience; the result used the same ingredients but reflected Luis’s goal of adapting Peruvian cuisine for Australian plates and palates. His engaging, easygoing manner meant the evening didn’t feel like a pretentious “class”, but an informal way to pick up ideas and tips. While considerable thought had clearly gone into the quality dishes, Esperanza and Luis’s approach meant the two-and-a-half-hour session was fun and relaxed.
Esperanza had paired each course with South American offerings from Untapped Fine Wines, and the moreish sweetness of their Caelum Torrontés (2015) was ideal with the causa. Wine buffs would probably enjoy the detailed tasting notes provided as part of the cooking class, but I was impressed by the detailed recipe booklet given to each guest, so they could
recreate aim for similar South American standards at home.
The main Christmas course did feature turkey, but it was a decent flight away from the traditional, English-style dinner. We enjoyed tenderloins stuffed figs, cranberries and apricots, all suffused with the sweetness of port and honey. Compared to sage and onion stuffing, the Peruvian version seemed more lively and flavoursome. Along with the slow cooking process, it also ensured that the turkey remained tender and tasty.
The side wasn’t half-bad either. “Quinoa arabe” saw the now-ubiquitous South American grain mixed with angel-hair pasta and veggies, creating a sauce-absorber that reminded me of special-fried rice, without being as greasy. Speaking of sauce, sweet potato and mandarin puree – which Luis made as an alternative to apple or cranberry sauce – was a treat, and would go well with all sorts of fish or white meat.
After two delicious savoury dishes, the hat-trick was completed by what may have been my personal favourite. I’m an open-minded (and open-mouthed) dessert enthusiast, but the corn cheesecake still confounded my expectations. It was simultaneously light, moist, and fluffy. Though regular cheesecake is never a bad thing, it can occasionally verge on being sickly. There was none of that here.
The natural sweetness of the cake meant it was perfect with fruit, especially the maple syrup-soaked blueberries. I advise adding these to your nearest pancake, immediately.
Esperanza said guests at her cooking classes always receive a proper meal rather than tiddly tasters. We certainly left full, and keen to try more Peruvian cooking. Luis hopes to open a café early next year, and the menu should definitely be worth peru-sing (sorry). In the meantime, check out the websites linked above for catering, events and cooking class opportunities.
Disclaimer: foodie cravings was invited as a guest of Perth Meets Peru. See disclosure policy for further details.