Maty’s is a new Peruvian restaurant and bar in Midtown Miami at 3255 NE First Avenue, from the team behind Itamae. I admit I was a small minority who didn’t understand the admiration and affection the restaurant was receiving, including a nod from Michelin with a Bib Gourmand award. So it was with trepidation that I ventured down to Midtown to give this new place a try.
This restaurant is under the helm of Chef Val Chang, the executive chef, and owner, who used to work alongside her brother and father at Itamae. This restaurant’s food is adopted from the chef’s family recipes. The restaurant is named after her grandmother.
You notice a change of scenery from their Midtown location immediately. The space is large and airy, seating 150. There is also outdoor seating and floor-to-ceiling windows surrounding the restaurant, which brings in lots of natural light. The ceilings are high with exposed ducts, and there are touches of greenery which warm up the space. On the white-painted walls and pillars, you will find black and white family photos. There is a calming neutral palette of blond woods, cream colour faux leather fabrics and tiles, and hanging globe lights. There is a mixture of well-spaced table seating, from booths (backs are too straight and uncomfortable), communal tables, free-standing tables to bar seating. But, because of these hard surfaces, the restaurant gets incredibly noisy, and you have to scream to your tablemate as the evening progresses and gets busier. It also gets loud because people are enjoying themselves and having fun. That is my only criticism because the food and drink are delightful. There is a tiradito and ceviche option that are great. The ceviche traditional was a black grouper, with a torita de chocolo, in an aji limo leche de tigre that I recommend. We couldn’t decide between three salads, so we ordered them all. The first was spicy sweet corn with Parmesan and huancaina with a mixture of American and large Peruvian corn. The second was refreshing tomatoes with avocado and huacatay in a lovely tomato vinaigrette, and the third was a beet dish with toasted quinoa and raisins. There are half a dozen mains to choose from. We went with an outstanding whole roasted Dorade with chives and a brilliantly coloured aji amarillo beurre blanc. It was an unbelievably tender fish served butterflied. We also selected a half-roasted green circle chicken with fingerling potatoes in an aji panca. The portions are large and meant to be shared. Each of the mains, could have been split to serve four, but we were happy to take home leftovers for lunch the next day.
The cocktails, wines, beers, and non-alcoholic drinks are no afterthought here. There is an extensive selection, and the choices are meant to complement the dynamic flavouring of the food. When I couldn’t find what I was looking for, the bar customized a drink with my preferred taste preferences, and they were bang on.
There are only two offerings for dessert and we were graciously and generously offered the picarones, a sweet potato and squash donut with a chancaca syrup that was reminiscent of a great churro.
The James Beard nominated chef, Chang has a hit on her hands and her restaurant has only been open for three weeks as I write this. Although they were slammed with hungry customers, her staff couldn’t be more friendly or warm as well as helpful to gringos like us. She is paying homage to her Peruvian roots. And to quote Chef Chang “The food that created me will be the food created here”. Her food not only celebrates her family’s cuisine and is also infused with bold flavours, using Florida’s catches and seasonal and local produce infused with her own. Maty’s is about celebrating Peruvian cuisine, not rethinking it.
Kudos to a female chef and business owner who has pursued and realized her dream.