I was pretty devastated when Hong Kong lost its only Peruvian restaurant last year, particularly during those times, of which there were many, when all I wanted was an authentic Peruvian Pisco Sour. So when I heard that Pirata Group (who run Pirata and The Optimist in Wan Chai) were opening TokyoLima, a Peruvian-Japanese restaurant, I immediately booked a table for the first available date.
Tucked away on Lyndhurst Terrace, TokyoLima is both a bar and a restaurant, styled like a Japanese Izakaya to welcome people looking for a full on feast or drinks late into the night (it closes at 3am on weekends). Using Japanese and Peruvian inspired elements and eclectic furnishings, the space is elegant and chic. The lounge area features a terracotta bar, whilst in the restaurant eyes are naturally drawn to the huge open kitchen and the colourful, aromatic dishes it produces.
Peruvian and Japanese food, separately, are arguably some of the best cuisines the world has to offer. Together, they form Nikkei cuisine, which dates back to the late 19th century when hundreds of Japanese workers emigrated to Peru and the two cultures began to merge. The kitchen at TokyoLima is headed by Peruvian Chef Arturo Melendez, who was previously the chef at Chicha. He has created an impressive menu of raw, marinated and seared plates that go just as well with a bottle of sake as they do with cocktails or wine.
We visited on the restaurant’s second night of operation, when it was still in ‘soft opening’ mode. There were therefore still a few items missing from the menu and the kitchen was still figuring out a few things. We nonetheless had an incredible feast and left owner Manuel and chef Arturo to bring us whatever they pleased.
We began with the “Ki-mo-chi” fried chicken, which was excellent. Succulent pieces of chicken were prepared in Japanese karaage style, served with a spicy soy aioli.
To follow, we enjoyed the T-3 Salad, which the menu quite accurately describes as being “like a typhoon for your taste buds!” A beautiful combination of textures was created by marrying mixed leaves with poached quail eggs, roasted vegetables and crispy glass noodles and almonds.
The beef tataki, consisting of lightly seared beef with a tangy ponzu dressing, simply melted in the mouth and tasted divine.
Causa is a typical Peruvian potato-based dish. Here it combines beetroot with prawn tartare, charred avocado and prawn tempura, with Peruvian rocoto pepper and garlic mayo, to create a lovely medley of flavours and textures.
You can’t really mess with a simple sashimi plate, so this dish didn’t have any Peruvian influence. The seafood was evidently of an exceptional quality and incredibly fresh. The maki rolls, however, did have Peruvian elements, such as the maguro and avocado rolls, made with rocoto chilli mayo.
Tacu tacu is another typical Peruvian dish, traditionally made to use up leftover rice and legumes. Topped with grilled onions, peppers and fresh coriander, this simple dish was hearty and comforting and surprisingly turned out to be one of my favourites.
Both Peruvian and Japanese cuisines include meat and vegetables cooked on skewers. Here, we tried the chicken breast yakitori, the octopus with black olive tapenade, and the Portobello and nasu (aubergine), all of which were delicious and moreish.
The lobster acevichada – grilled lobster with chilli butter – was incredibly tender and flavoursome. Although the hard work had been done for us, so there wasn’t a lot of fighting involved, I still think there’s never enough meat on a lobster for the effort put in, especially for $360 a pop.
The barbecued baby back ribs, glazed in a sticky Nikkei marinade and topped with popped quinoa, were sensational, falling effortlessly off the bone and melting in the mouth.
Prices are pretty reasonable on the whole, although they can add up quickly if you’re very hungry. If, like me, you’re very indecisive and want to try as much of the menu as possible, you can opt for the Omakase menu and have Chef Arturo prepare a selection of his favourite dishes for $480 per person – which I think is seriously good value.
I am a big fan of TokyoLima and went back for drinks and snacks just a few days after my initial visit. Although the Pisco Sours aren’t quite perfect just yet, I know exactly where I’m going the next time my Pisco craving hits.
G/F, 18-20 Lyndhurst Terrace
Tel: +852 2811 1152
Open for dinner only, Tuesday to Sunday; closed on Mondays.