It’s a fusion of flavors and a spectacle for the eyes. This awakening of senses summarizes Peruana, one of the newest kitchens in Playa Guiones, Nosara.
As the name suggests, the menu’s base is the gastronomy of the Andean nation. And that’s not a small thing. It's a cuisine recognized across the world as one of the most privileged.
The Peruvian capital, Lima, was declared in 2006 the best culinary destination in the Americas.
Guillermo Vidal, the face of Peruana, recognizes his responsibility. A month-and-a-half ago he opened a food truck that prepares dishes that seek to pay homage to their roots.
It’s an open-air and relaxed space, but with limited space. There are only six tables with about four chairs each to host customers.
Vidals suggests that we try some of his best dishes. On this occasion, he prepared them personally, but that won’t be a privilege that many get to enjoy since the search for a chef will intensify in the coming weeks.
“I studied administration, but I come from a family of chefs. At age eight, I made bread for the first time,” he recalls. He was the head of a Peruvian restaurant and a Mexican one in Berlin, Germany.
What We Came For!
It was time for the classic Peruvian ceviche, but with a local touch. Red snapper is the star ingredient. It hadn’t been caught more than four hours ago and it was fresh, juicy, and melted in our mouths.
Contrary to what us Ticos believe, the fish spent just one minute soaking in lime juice for it to cook, not 24 hours in lime like many of us think.
The red onion was cut to order and very crunchy and, the local touch - orange-glazed sweet potatoes - gave form to the dish. It also had “a little bit of hot spice.” If you don’t like hot chile, it would be best to order it without this ingredient.
Plate after plate, you have to struggle with the zone’s heat and dust. To deal with that, Vidal said he joined up several business owners from nearby locales and dumped molasses on the street to reduce “the dusting.”
A second star dish is coming and it's a Peruvian cuisine standard: The tiradito in yellow aji chili pepper sauce.
It’s raw fish, once again red snapper, cut in sashimi form, giving it a look similar to that of carpaccio. According to Guillermo, this is a dish that reflects the best of influences from cuisines like Japanese in the gastronomy of his country.
The presentation is an impeccable visual blow. The yellow color of the aji chili sauce is intense and that is reflected in its flavor. It gives a similar sensation to that of eating ceviche, but different.
Aji chili pepper is a vital ingredient for Peruvian cooking and it is supplied by local producers. And that’s precisely the commitment that Vidal took on: create supply chains with local vendors.
“I worked in Peru with a sustainable agricultural NGO and I have that sensibility,” he said. “Peruana is just the beginning. I envision myself in a space with a sustainable farm and a restaurant with 100% organic food, cooked with products of the season, hopefully here in Guanacaste.”
He imports two key ingredients from Lima for his dishes: Aji panca, a Peruvian red pepper, and botija olives (purple with an intense flavor).
The latter product is key for the plate that concluded our experience: Causa, Lima-style.
The base is a yellow potato mix with with yellow aji chili paste. On the upper layer is a bed of guacamole, cherry tomatoes and shrimp. And on top a botija olive mayonnaise.
To accompany the dishes you can order classic drinks such as chicha morada. And to close out the experience you can order a desert that, according to Vidal, gives Nosara something to talk about: coconut panna cotta.
While we ate three fish dishes, Peruana has several vegan and vegetarian options, such as floral ceviche with a fresh mushroom base, or the tofu tallarin saltado.
Peruana is ideal for a lunch or dinner with fresh products in a space with good service and dishes that transports you to kitchens outside of Costa Rica.
Location: Adjacent to the Delicia del Mundo supermarket, Playa Guiones. Little Italy mall.
Cost of plates: Between ¢3,500 and ¢8,000 ($6.25 - $15.20)
Things to consider: They don’t accept cards, the space is limited and then don’t sell alcoholic beverages.