Could it be that tacutacu is the new taco, and cebiche the new calimari? Places like Mochica, Piqueos, and Destino have us surfing a wave of Peruvian food fandom -- and now two SF food trends have merged in happy unity. Chef Christopher Kese have started a weekly gourmet Peruvian pop-up restaurant, perfect for your Wednesday dinner.
The party takes place at SF Food Lab every Wednesday, where guests will be offered a variety of staple dishes that include mushroom and beef heart skewers, the spicy Afro-Peruvian rice dish tacutacu, and a traditional Peruvian ice cream dessert. Tonight (Wed/20), Gomez and Kese will be whipping up offer sashimi drizzled with a spicy-citrus leche de tigre sauce and a cilantro lamb stew. Afro-Peruvian salsa music that’ll serve as the perfect soundtrack to your .
Kese was studying in Peru's mountainous regions when he felt the pull from its gastronomic traditions -- he actually ditched the history thesis he was working on through the University of Washington in order to study the food more deeply.
Cebiche for what ails you
"Talking with the people there, a lot of people were angry with their government and didn't feel like a part of Peru,” says Kese in a phone interview with the Guardian. “But when it came to the food, they felt so proud of being Peruvian. I fell in love with the social aspect of the gastronomic movement there. They celebrate the diversity of it."
With 11 of the world's 13 ecosystems at its chefs' fingertips, Peru's cuisine exhibits a diversity that may explain its current vogue. Fresh fruits and vegetables are available at the country's higher elevations, and the coast brings in fish that stands up to the best of Japan’s sushi stock.
"That's a part of the basis of Peruvian cuisine," Kese says. "Any food has a place in it. There's a really eclectic immigration.” He cites the country’s waves of immigrants from China, Japan, Italy, and Spain -- not to mention its rich indigenous heritage -- as important contributors to the country’s “melting pot of flavors."
It's only natural, then, that the culinarily-eclectic United States would eventually start salivating over Peruvian fare. All signs point to the trend’s longevity -- there are currently 80,000 culinary students in the city of Lima alone.
"[Peruvians] have this huge, domestic, culinary tradition,” says Kese. “They've also had a self-defeatist attitude in the past -- as many developing countries have. But if you go there today and ask which country has the best food in the world, they'll say ‘Peru’ very proudly."
Kese plans to use the pop-up to build a close relationship with clientele before acquiring his own kitchen space and restaurant front. To our way of thinking, he can take his time: a cilantro-infused, perfectly-skewered pop-up party set to the sound of salsa sounds like fun enough for now.
Lima Peruvian Food pop-up dinner
Every Wednesday 5:30-10:30pm, free entrance
SF Food Lab
1106 Market, SF