It’d be pretty hard to top anticuchos or the guinea pig as the epitome of “exotic” Peruvian cuisine, but for those fresh off the plane and not quite ready to tackle the heavyweights in the Limeño culinary world, there is always the option of tasting a little piece of Peru in… a sushi bar.
It was my first weekend in town and sometime throughout the course of the evening the group decided that we were hungry enough for a buffet: an all-you-can-eat sushi dinner offered by Oceanika, a Peruvian/Japanese fusion sushi bar and lounge in the upper-middle class district of San Borja. Opening its doors little over three years ago, the establishment now attracts a sizeable crowd – both from locals and from the expatriate community – for its daily lunch and dinner offerings.
That is not to say the restaurant is easy to get to, though. Located 8 km (5 mi) southeast of the Plaza de Armas and 4 km (2 mi) off the Paseo de la República highway linking downtown with coastal Miraflores and Barranco, it took our taxi driver about half-an-hour (and a great deal of searching and asking around) to finally arrive at the establishment, located on the woody avenue of Paseo del Bosque. For those who end up with clueless taxi drivers, the street – and restaurant – is located directly opposite the Ministry of Defence building in San Borja.
Entering through a narrow passageway that leads off the main street, the entire restaurant comes into sight as you step through the main doors: a large hall with the bar taking up an entire wall, chefs and patrons in full view of one another. For a lounge Oceanika was brightly-lit; it was more the place for social gatherings than one for intimacy. To underscore this point, the television screens were showing replays of the Netherlands-Brazil match played earlier that day, and World Cup promotions were being advertised in the bathrooms. Those looking for more privacy could choose to sit in a more dimly-lit section on the far side of the hall, but the atmosphere can undoubtedly be described as one more communal than cosy.
The drinks menu looked pretty standard for a Limeño bar; Julio and Christina, who were showing me around, ordered a Pisco Sour each. Fourteen soles for a low-shot glass seemed a little pricey for me, though, so I opted for the less exciting option of an Inca Kola. With drinks out of the way, it was time for the reason we had come: the buffet.
Unlike the Japanese buffets I’m used to back home (in Hong Kong and Singapore), Oceanika isn’t a get-up-and-fill-your-plate affair, grounded by the staples of udon or soba noodles. Instead, each patron orders a platter of ten sushis for each round, continuing until, presumably, you’re absolutely stuffed for the night. Our group was ready for the bill after our third round, but I suppose a hungry group could last maybe one or two more orders.
The array of rolls and makizusushis was, to me at least, impressive to the eye: thirty-six varieties listed on three pages of the menu, ranging from standards such as the California roll to more interesting choices such as the “Champignon” (crabmeat, fish, cream cheese and mushrooms) and the “Yakuza” (eel, prawn, salmon and avocado). Most worthy of note are the fusion creations integrating staples of Peruvian cuisine into the Japanese roll:
“Lomo Saltado”: Originally a Peruvian entrée of stir-fried sirloin that was in turn inspired by Chinese cooking, it is here wrapped in a roll with potato bits and smothered with onion sauce.
“Guacamole”: The avocado, native to Central and South America, is churned into a cream topping that just about drowns the sushi underneath.
“Crispy 2”: Avocado slices and a passion fruit sauce are integrated into a makizusushi with the more traditional ingredients of ebi tempura and cheese.
In all, Oceanika was a fun experiment in Peruvian and Japanese cuisine. There are many hits and a few misses (our group wasn’t overtly fond of the shrimp- and salmon- based “Extravaganza”), but the point is to gather a group to try out both new and familiar tastes, and maybe to pig out a little. Oceanika: recommended as the start or end to a fun night out with friends.
Francis Sin is a volunteer with the Karikuy Volunteer Program