Monday, August 12, 2013

Pachamama House: A taste of Peru in Surry Hills

It doesn’t get much more exotic than Peruvian cuisine in Sydney, especially when my knowledge of the South American cuisine extends only to pisco sours and everyone's favourite super-grain, quinoa.

Inside Pachamama House, Goulburn Street, Surry Hills
Pachamama House is a relative newcomer to the Surry Hills area, filling the space below an apartment block on the corner of Goulburn and Riley Streets.

Spaces under apartments like this are often a design challenge but restaurant owner Tony Maia has done an amazing job injecting warmth and a genuine atmosphere into the just-above-street-level venue.

Exterior of Pachamama House
Pachamama House is not exclusively Peruvian, which itself is a fusion of cuisines. Executive chef Danny Parreno (ex La Bodeguita del Medio, as is Maia) is of Peruvian heritage and weaves his magic in the kitchen with modern Australian sensibility and hints of Japanese.

He's almost like an alter-universe Nobu Matsuhisa who, alternatively, incorporates Peruvian influences into his high-end, global chain of Nobu Japanese restaurants.

Adega de Monaco wine
While pisco sours feature on the drinks menu, I skipped the cocktails as I couldn't resist a category of wine labelled "green".

Listing a single Portuguese wine, Adega de Monaco, the wine is made of young grapes and has a slight, pleasant effervescence and a greenness to its white wine colouring. It's meant to be served ice cold, done so at Pachamama House with the addition of an ice cube.

Classic cebiche: Snapper, lime, green chilli, coriander and sweet potato chips
On the food Maia recommended that we start with the classic cebiche (ceviche with a different spelling) of snapper.

A great palate starter, the snapper cebiche was extremely zingy with loads of lime just 'cooking' the surface of the white fish flesh while the green chilli had a fair bit of bite. The garnish of sweet potato chips was a great twist on tradition as well as a textural contrast, and we would have loved more.

Tiradito cebiche: Scallops, sesame, spring onions and aji Amarillo dressing
The tiradito cebiche of scallops featured creamy, thin slices of the mollusc and spring onions, both just touched with hot peanut oil in a style typical in Cantonese cuisine. It was perhaps just a little heavy on the oil while the bright yellow-orange, mild aji Amarillo chilli dressing could have with some tartness.

Salchipapas: Smoked frankfurt, roasted potatoes & Huacatay mayonnaise
Next we had a taste of Peruvian street food; thick-cut hunks of a smoky grilled pork frankfurt, served with kipfler potatoes to soak up the flavours and eaten with toothpicks. The sausage was so full of flavour that the Huacatay mayonnaise on the side was barely needed.

Empanadas: Braised pork cheek & Chilean condiment
I have yet to meet an empananda that I don’t like, and the pork cheek filled one at Pachamama House was no different.

Thinly layered, shortcrust-like pastry enveloped soft pulled pork cheek, an array of saucy spices and a segment of hard-boiled egg. The little parcels were served with a Chilean salsa condiment of fresh tomato, coriander and lime – a highlight of the dish.

Pescado Frito: Pan fried sardines, green tomato and jalapeno salsa
Onto the larger, mains type dishes, we started with butterflied sardines coated in a crunchy mix of corn, Spanish oregano and two chilli spices: Chilean merkén and Japanese togarashi.

The small, oily sardine isn’t my fish of choice but I couldn’t help but use them and the sweet tomato segments to mop up all the green jalapeño salsa which was deliciously mild and creamy with a hint of smokiness.

Sticky Duck: Coconut braised duck, crispy rice & chilli jam
The duck dish was probably the fusion frontier at Pachamama House: the combination of betel leaves, rice, coconut cream and chilli jam meant that I could not tear my mind away from the concept of Thai cuisine.

The softly braised duck was a delight atop the crisp-surfaced rice brick, matching well with the chilli jam and only just a little overpowered by the strong flavour of the coconut cream.

Wagyu: Seared wagyu rump, roasted okra & Peruvian bbq sauce
Probably my favourite larger dish of the night was the sliced medium-rare pieces of wagyu beef rump which were laid over softly roasted okra – that polarising green vegetable with sticky, seed-filled innards.

The trick is, as I learnt at Pachamama House, is to roast them with a bit of oil till they’re soft, not quite as sticky anymore and just deliciously earthy.

The house-made Peruvian barbeque sauce with the beef had an awakening chilli kick, elevating the perfectly cooked wagyu rump to something very special.

Zapallito: Zucchini, mint, red radish & lemon dressing
The refreshing, raw salad of zucchini ribbons was a stunner too, including thin rounds of radish, fresh mint leaves and lashings of lemon juice that cut through any fattiness on the menu.

Eschabeche: Chicken, fennel, kipflers & green olives
We were told the Spanish influenced eschabeche sauce can be used as a base for almost any protein; and here it was served with chicken thigh.

Chunks of raw meat are marinated overnight in the acidic vinegar and chilli sauce, then cooked with fennel, kipfler potatoes, green olives and other vegetables as an epic, almost stir fry-like, dish.

Seats at the bar
I was looking forward to dessert, and even more so when Maia matched it with a glass of the 2010 Petaringa Late Harvest Riesling.

Picarones: Sweet potato doughnuts with spiced syrup
The free-formed rings of picarones doughnuts were surprisingly light given they are made of sweet potato. Lightly fried with fluffy innards, they had just the right sweetness from the accompanying spiced syrup and dusting of icing sugar.

Tequila Sorbet, orange cream, baked meringues, cinnamon & caramel popcorn
But they were no match for the tequila sorbet dessert, which triumphed in flavours, textures and appearances. The quenelle of icy tequila sorbet was more citrus than alcoholic while the cinnamon and caramel popcorn was a fun and scrumptious addition to the just-perfect orange cream.

I wouldn't have expected all these components, plus crunchy white meringue, would work so well together but they sure did – and exceptionally so.

The specials board at Pachamama House
Tummies filled and eyes opened to various aspects of Peruvian cuisine, Pachamama House is one of those satisfying places where you're happy to linger a while. Bringing a unique taste of Peru to Surry Hills, it's a great fusion offering to broaden the Sydney (and Surry Hills) palate.

Food, booze and shoes dined at Pachamama House as a guest.

Pachamama House on Urbanspoon


Tina @ bitemeshowme said...

love the sight of it all! I've never had peruvian before but am desperate to try.

Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

Love Peruvian ceviche but I really want to try one of those sweet potato donuts! Yum!

Missy Piggy said...

I loved our meal here -- the place is a real hidden gem. The cebiche was amazing and I love the doughnuts too.

Tina said...

Hi Tina - Great place to start with as an introduction to the cuisine!

Hi Helen - The cebiche were outstanding; could eat that every day!

Hi Miss Piggy - Such variety but all of it delicious!


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