I leave Merit with a full-blooded smile. It has not been the best possible meal, but the cuisine of this small restaurant recently opened in Barranco (Lima) is one of those that it deludes. Above all, I see windows that open to the present, which ends up being the door of the future.
It’s a small restaurant, nowadays. A small bar next to the entrance behind which shows the kitchen and a tiny dining room on the top floor, with an agile menu that handles with ease its relationship with the market and the product. It moves every week and does not reach twenty proposals.
It does not take more. I just found a part of what Lima cuisine left behind in full drunken success. Merit is a proposal of our time, a green shoot in a landscape that seemed doomed to immobility and formula kitchens.
I like what I see and I enjoy some dishes. They work the devil fish seasoned with black garlic, served with arepas, and rice with squid and snails; highlights the lamb with mashuas, geese and curry, and shines a soft and mellow flan that is very close to the pannacotta.
It does not matter, the reading is above the details in a kitchen that shows some paths and a couple of contradictions. The biggest is that it comes from the hands of two chefs born and grown culinarily far from Peru, the Venezuelans Juan Luis Martínez and Jose Luis Saumeo. Even so, it reveals a solid commitment to the products of the Andean pantry. The first one traveled through the kitchens of Central, but his work shows that he did not leave many marks.
A day later lunch at Mó Bistró, Matías Cillóniz’s new restaurant in San Isidro, and the auguries launched by the Merit proposal begin to become a certainty. Something important is happening in the kitchen of Lima. I do not know if it’s the definitive resurrection or just the announcement of the change, but here a few things are happening and it’s worth going to see them.
I begin to intuit it with a very light onion pie, the hot ceviche of avocado (avocado) smoked confirms it to me and I ratify myself in the idea with preparations like the piece of whole cooked cabbage, seasoned with grated bottarga and a broth of vóngole that fit to the millimeter, or the half onion with beef stock and dice of cow udder. The white beans stewed with potato and a giant bean halfway between the potato, the bean and the chestnut called puro,
The work of Mó Bristró is handled in a completely different line from Merit, but both coincide in a close relationship with the market and seasonal products and, consequently, the dynamism of its culinary proposal. In that way they have turned their back on the current, giving up on recipes to finish cooking their own dishes. A couple of gestures and some compromises have been enough to upset the culinary status quo of the city.
There are no two without three. After years of proposals for the routine and the cardboard kitchen, Lima has seen in just two months the opening of some restaurants that demand attention. Among them is 7, the tavern of Ricardo Martins in Barranco, still refining his identity in the process of testing.
You will have to follow the track when you finish the works, finish adjusting your culinary proposal and definitely open to the public. On the other hand, Statera is a full-fledged restaurant built by another young professional, Andre Patsias, in Miraflores.
A conventional dining room, with many aspirations and certain rigidity that luckily does not move to the kitchen. Statera’s menu is handled with flashes such as the spectacular candied yacon (an Andean tubercle related) that accompanies a good suckling pig or a tartare of beef seasoned with a porcon fungus that changes records. It has just started and it has a way to go, but it reinforces the idea of change.