José Mendin has been having a series of dinners with famous chefs at his restaurant, Habitat. I was lucky enough to snag a spot at Massimo Bottura’s dinner a few months ago, with the #2 rated restaurant in the world, the famous Osteria Francescana in Modena, and now in mid-March 2018, a spot at a collaboration meal between Chef Mendin and the super talented wonder kid, Mitsuharu “Micha” Tsumura, from Maido Restaurant in Peru, rated #8 in the world. He is not exactly a kid anymore, but when he opened his now famous restaurant, he was only in his 20’s.
He had a two-night stint at Habitat restaurant in Miami. Night one was a cocktail reception, with passed bites and a cocktail at $50. The following night, which I attended, was an 8-course dinner with a cocktail and selected premium sake with each course.
Chef Micha is of Japanese and Peruvian descent. He learned his craft in the U.S. and then Japan. He then returned to Peru to work at the Sheraton and soon became a sous chef. He was offered a larger position but opened his own solo venture instead, which was Maido, at the age of 28. The restaurant combined traditional cooking of Japan with Peruvian ingredients. This coupled with his understanding of modern gastronomy, garnered him a position in the San Pellegrino’s top 50 by 2013. He now is ranked #5 on the planet. His restaurant is Nikkei inspired, and the name “Maido” means, “welcome”. He claims the landscapes of the Peruvian Amazon inspire his unique dishes. The Amazon has a huge bio-diversity, and he is the leading proponent of this cuisine. Peru is the melting pot of cultures from China, Japan, Italy, Africa, Spain, and Mexico, resulting in a cuisine with nuances, and flavours both local and international.
Although I have already booked his restaurant in Lima when I go next fall, I was excited not to miss the opportunity of seeing the master at work in Miami.
After an interesting cocktail of sake, green tea, champagne, peaches and citrus, we were escorted to our pre-arranged tables. There were 8-courses divided into four sections, with each having two dishes, one provided by Chef Mitsuharu and one by Chef Mendin, with a wonderful sake. This continued for 4-courses – two raw courses, two seafood courses, two meat courses and dessert. Dessert was actually three courses. The first two by Chef Mitsuhari’s pastry chef, Maria Patricio Larrea, and the last course by Mitsuharu.
I was truly impressed with the culinary excellence of the evening. We also got to enjoy sharing moments with both chefs. The meal was opulent and rich tasting. From the ceviche, and tiradito, to the best seafood sandwich I have ever had, as well as a most tender lobster dish by Chef Mendin. The meat course was a lamb shoulder by Mendin, but was even outshone by Chef Mitsuharu, with the most succulent and delicious short ribs I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. It was cooked for 50 hours and topped by a Peruvian potato cream and garnished with crispy garlic. The glaze on it had a depth and complexity to it that made each bite perfection!
For dessert, we started with a palate cleanser of purple corn ice cream and spiced condensed fruit. It was a cornucopia of tastes and textures. Next up was an interesting presentation on a log that was a combination of corn and chocolate. The first two desserts were from Maria Orantes and Patricio Larrea. We were wowed with the last course, a purple, sugar basket, with chocolate mussels, lucuma ice cream, granadilla and tangerine, with perfectly toasted Amazonic nuts and raspberries.
My only complaint is that unfortunately the Habitat staff were not trained in the menu and were are unable to describe the dishes as they are placed on the table. They had no idea what they were serving, and the same thing happened at the Massimo Bottura evening.
Otherwise, I found each dish inspiring, well executed and appealing. The evening was intimate, and the chefs’ menus worked well together. It was one of the culinary spotlights of the year for me, and I look forward to traveling to Peru and visiting Maido, where I will get the full gastronomic experience. I found Chef Mitsuharu to be truly humble and passionate about his work. I highly encourage you to try the Mendin and Friends Dinner Series.