Photo by Patricia Esteve
Of all the freak show fusion food out there, Japanese-Peruvian sounds like one of the most unnatural. And I speak as someone who has been to Glasgow and actually eaten a battered and deep-fried Hawaiian pizza. With brown sauce.
Japanese-Peruvian, known officially as Nikkei, was the gastronomic result of Japanese immigrants arriving in Peru after the two countries lifted trade barriers in 1873, but it was chef and restaurateur Nobu Matsuhisa who catapulted it to global recognition when he started serving South American sushi over a century later.
The common thread in the two cuisines comes in the shape of raw fish: sushi and ceviche are the central themes in Komomoto, the new incarnation of El Japonés de Princesa. Still owned by Grupo Tragaluz, its look has not changed much since its previous turn as El Japonés: the basic monochrome decor and Wagamama-esque canteen tables and sushi bar are still there but it has acquired a bit of colour by way of a wall covered with tacked-up photos, drawings and other paraphernalia that looks rather like a corporate vision of a youth hostal message board. The young staff are assembled with the racial even-handedness of a Benetton advert and all are preternaturally cheery.
Nikkei cuisine is pretty on the plate and well liposuctioned, thus posing no threat to the immaculate cubist structure of the fashionable clientele’s cheekbones. It poses no threat to the structure of your stomach either, to be honest—portions are small. The menu reads well though: yucca chips and edamame beans rub shoulders with interesting maki sushi combinations such as salmon and rocket or grilled eel and mango and, just when you get tired of all that fish, the antidote comes along in the form of a porky anticucho.
We mixed a set lunch menu and some à la carte dishes. One of the lunch options was okonomiyaki with shrimp and sweet corn (tinned, unfortunately). This was described as Japanese pizza but was more like a floury, soggy omelette. (To get an idea of how okonomiyaki should taste —crunchy and filled with crisp shredded vegetables—go to Bouzu on Ronda de Sant Antoni.) For the main course we tried a beef roll, which was much better—crisp veggies wrapped up in a thin roll of tender beef with a nice smoky, fruity flavour from the aji panka chili sauces.
Going à la carte kicks the cooking up a notch. For starters we had a small criss-crossed stack of chicharones de pulpo al olivo, finger-length slivers of crisply fried octopus, which came with a delicate little heap of cucumber, coriander and peanuts. Of the two dipping sauces, one was sharp and limey with a little jolt of jalapeño but the other was a sickly purple mayonnaise made with Kalamata olives and best forgotten. We also tried the ‘spicy’ ceviche: salmon, tuna and corvina (meagre, similar to sea bass) with leche de tigre, which is basically the by-product of ceviche preparation: concentrated key lime juice, fish and blended aji limo (hot pepper). It was delicious but small; to make it a main course it really needed the typical Peruvian additions of raw onion, boiled sweet potatoes, toasted corn or yuyo seaweed.
Generosity finally came in the shape of dessert, a towering bowl of rose-flavoured ice cream, and a green tea tiramisù but even this couldn’t fill us up. Really, it was all slick and competent in the way that the Tragaluz machinery usually guarantees but after paying the bill, my main thought was this: I’m still hungry.
Komomoto: C/Princesa 35, tel. 93 315 2504, www.grupotragaluz.com; Open: 1-4pm, 8pm-midnight daily. Lunch menú €12, à la carte about €35 for three courses and drinks.