Ceviche – at its most basic, fresh raw fish cured in citrus juices, spiced with peppers, served cold – is so entrenched in Peruvian culture they have a national holiday in the dish’s honour. Anyone who has tried ceviche will admit that it’s the stuff of instant addiction. To taste it, Mumbai diners must go to LIMA, chef Atul Kocchar’s second restaurant in India after (and alongside) NRI–Not Really Indian, in Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC).
LIMA’s renditions of both traditional -- tart and textural sea bass ceviche with avocado and onion, and untraditional -- mushroom ceviche with enoki, oyster mushroom, trumpet, shimeji, and shiitake in a soy-dark, tangy ponzu reduction, are as good as any we’ve sampled in Peruvian restaurants.
But LIMA is not a Peruvian restaurant – it calls itself a Latin American lounge bar, and it features Peruvian, Brazilian, and Mexican flavours. With blue rope lamps and chevron floor below, the bar is the focal point of an otherwise unpretentious glass-walled room in shades of earth, with un-cushioned armless dinner chairs, a few bright lounge seats, and an array of luminaires.
The bar menu is longer than the food menu but a short list doesn’t always mean easy choices for curious appetites. To have the sea bass, we had to forego the grouper with strawberry leche de tigre (‘tiger’s milk’, the name given to ceviche’s runoff, made of marinade and fish juice). To have the salty, sweet, spicy and plump Brazilian churrasco (grill) of gojuchang- and honey-marinated chicken thighs, we had to forego the livers with chimichurri. These were hard decisions.
Happily, there were almost no regrets. Chunky, dense, smoky and delicious grilled yuca (tapioca) served with salsa criolla (South American kachumber) and roasted green tomato salsa reminded us that sabudana comes from a tuber that tastes best unprocessed. A fragrant kumquat basil caipirinha alongside made us wish the speakers piped samba instead of Bieber.
LIMA also has the plumpest quesadilla in town. Beans, corn, bell peppers and manchego were so generously stuffed into a tortilla, it was an inch high. Ask for the spiciest house-made sauce, and you’ll want to knock back a tequila to tame the burn. From Chinese chao fan (literally fried rice) comes Peruvian arroz chaufa, borne of chifa cooking, which uses Chinese ingredients in Peruvian food. Like ceviche, and many of LIMA’s dishes, it exhibits some of the influences of colonisation and migration on the region’s flavours – Moorish, Spanish, African, Japanese, Chinese, Korean. At LIMA, one diner said the chaufa reminded him of fried rice made with leftovers from biryani.
At the moment, dessert comes from NRI next door. They were out of their excellent gondhoraj tart, so dessert became a course we were willing to forego.
Where: 2 North Avenue, Maker Maxity, Bandra Kurla Complex
When: Noon to 12.30 pm
Cost: Rs 4,000 for a meal for two, with one drink each.
The author tweets @RoshniBajaj