April 09, 2019
Maido was the 14th restaurant on Jonathan's quest to visit 50 of the World’s Best Restaurants. It ranked 8th on the list in 2017, and 7th on the list in 2018.
Maido is our first of two restaurants in Lima, Peru, on this particular adventure. The restaurant was about a fifteen minute walk from the hotel, which meant, unsurprisingly, that we were early. By "early" I mean "the first ones in the resaurant when it opened." The greetings, the relative quiet, and the focused attention really helped make this a delightful experience.
I struggled initially with the smell of our place at the bar, and our view. Jonathan didn't notice anything odd about the smell of the place, but my nose can smell shit, decay, and death, and that's often all it can smell. With the view of the fish heads, fish heads, roly poly fish heads right. in. front. of. us. it is no surprise I had a moment or four of struggling before my brain decided the fish heads were not a threat and desensitized me to the smell.
First up was snacks. We had a lovely stack of mushroom and chicken liver, croquetes, and a yolk and root custard. We would soon learn that root vegetables, potatoes and their cousins, would figure promintently in our Peruvian meals. All three snacks were delicious, setting the tone for the meal.
Our first course was ceviche, delightedly and unsurprisingly. I have become a huge fan of ceviche, thanks in no small part to Tamale Boy, so was so happy to have this. It was also delicious, with the fish melting in the mouth, and the spice level just slightly too hot to be comfortable, but not so hot to be unbearable.
The sudado, a seabass and seaweed soup, up next was wonderful, an unexpectedly comforting food. I rather wanted this dish to be bigger because I enjoyed it so much. The portion was totally the right size for the meal, I just liked it enough to want more.
Next up, we pretty much had a, crudely put, deep-fried ball of rolled up meat, which is a completely unfair was of describing the Cuy-San dish. It was delicious, an all too common word in this review. It was good. It was tasty. It made me laugh with the shape of it.
I had ordered a single bottle of sake for the meal, with Jonathan having the wine pairing. At this point, I was surprised that the sake I chose, the one first offered by the waiter, was pairing incredibly well with every dish. I wasn't expecting it to pair so well, given my experience with Nodoguro where some of the sake pairings were amazing and some were passed along to Claire, whose tastes are different enough from mine that together we form a complete tasting profile, but this one just paired with every dish. I was so delighted that it did.
Next up, we see the Japanese part of the Peruvian-Japanese fusion that Maido is known for. We had two nigiri, a toro with a mustard gel, and a scallop with uni on top. Recognizing that omakase with Hien at Bamboo Sushi NE in Portland is the bar by which all sushi is compared, I was delighted by both of these nigiri. Both were fresh, melting in the mouth, with rice that had that perfect sushi-rice flavoring. Yum.
The next few dishes were the "main" dishes of the evening, which is to say, meat is the focus of the dishes. First up was a miso-marinated black cod with chestnuts and an apple gel. This was, up to this point, my favorite dish. I wanted Maido to have a cookbook with this recipe in it. The fish was flavorful without any hint of "fishy," pairing nicely with the chestnuts. The chestnuts could overwhelm if one had too many with the fish, so best to have less and let the cod shine.
A lamb meat dumpling was next, originally described to us as goat. It was tasty, but not necessarily exceptional.
And then arrived the fifty-hour stewed beef short rib with a potato puree. One bite and my eyes rolled into the back of my head, it was so delicious. Melting is a common theme in the food at Maido, where one doesn't need to chew to have an explosion of flavors. None was so illustrative of this melting as this beef. Wow, just wow.
The uni, sea urchin, dish arriving next was over chiclayo rice, with avocado cream on top. I jokingly asked Jonathan when the last time I had uni, since I avoid it for the most part, and he replied, correctly, "Twenty minutes ago?" I laughed, agreed, then downed this delicious dish.
Desserts were next, and we had three courses of them. Extra desserts and "just one more" desserts are pretty common with tasting menus, so we were curious how many we would have. Answer: three
First up was a chocolate mussel, which is to say, a chocolate shell in the shape of a mussel, filled with mandarin ice cream and cacao nibs, on a bed of lucuma ice cream in a sugar "rock." Lucuma is a Peruvian fruit that looks like a cross between a mango and an avocado, and with a caramel taste. I don't recall what the foam was made of. The whole dish was complete with the chocolate and citrus and vanilla flavors all merging into a mouthful of sugar satisfaction.
The second dessert was smoked ice cream with shoyu and camu camu, yet another Peruvian fruit that the US is tragically unaware of (or maybe thankfully unaware of, given that country's citizens' penchant for abusing and capitalisming things it loves to death). I liked this dessert less that the former desert, as it was more tart than I expect in an ice cream. Was still good, though!
The last dessert and dish was a petit fours of chocolate mochi and ice cream sandwich. While tasty, I was okay with the previous dessert being the last dish. I still ate the cookie and mochi.
Overall, a delightful experience. (Of course it was, top 50, baby!)