First a little background…
Peruvian food is experiencing a new boom in international cuisine. Thanks to its diversity of regions with coasts, mountains, jungles, and the combination of different cultures since Spanish colonialism, the richness of my home country’s cuisine is getting famously known around the world.
In Peru, food is a thing that people are proud of and enjoy talking about anywhere you go, whether in a luxury hotel, a small restaurant, or any type of home. Peruvians will spend hours in the kitchen preparing a meal and they enjoy talking about their recipes and fusions. You can be sure that the competition is always on to create the best flavours and win the hearts (and stomachs) of their guests.
Even though I recently became a vegetarian, I have always had a passionate love for food, new ingredients, and world cuisine, so when I heard that a new Peruvian-Japanese fusion (or “Nikkei”) restaurant was opening in Hong Kong, I couldn’t wait to sample the delights of my motherland.
El Mercado is a great ambassador of Peruvian cuisine, with a menu that boasts all the traditional Nikkei dishes such as Anticuchos Lomo Saltado, Tacu Tacu, and Ceviche. The menu also includes tasty vegetarian options such as Ceviche De Vegetales – a mixture of vegetables, ginger, and lime – all bursting with flavour.
Ceviche De Vegetales – $108
This dish paired beautifully with a Classic Chicano – one of my favourite drinks – which consists of Pisco, lime, ginger, a dash of bitter, and ice. This simple and refreshing drink has Italian roots, but takes its name from Chilca, a city in the north of Lima. No Peruvian dining experience is complete without this tipple – it’s a must try!
Classic Chilcano – $108
Sophie – One of the menu highlights for me is the traditional Cochinillo Con Tacu Tacu dish, which Luis tells me originates from the African slaves who lived during the colonial times in the south of Lima. Historically, this dish was a creative way to combine leftover beans and rice, spiced with hot pepper and garlic, with suckling pig, beef, egg, and slices of fried plantain.
Cochinillo Con Tacu Tacu – $308
El Mercado does a great job of bringing history to life with this plate of beautifully tender meat which falls apart in the mouth, allowing the spicy flavours of the beans and rice to come bursting through. At $308, this dish is pretty pricey, but the richness of flavours and quality of the meat make it worth every dollar!
Sophie – The Nigiri Del Amazonas is equally as delicious as the Tacu Tacu, and a little more affordable too. This dish combines seared flank beef with sweet banana confit, and a quail egg which explodes in the mouth to create a soft, creamy texture.
Nigiri Del Amazonas – $68
Although this is a light bite and therefore relatively small in portion, it’s a must try for meat lovers with a sweet tooth. Luis tells me this is like a version of Tacacho, a very popular dish derived from the Peruvian Amazon that consists of plantain and wild pork cecina. You can’t beat a bit of history with your dinner!
Seating an average of fifty people, El Mercado is modern and immaculate, however it’s a shame that the richness of the menu is not reflected in the décor, which lacks identity. It would be nice, for example, if the restaurant could educate diners about Peruvian culture, rather than just feed them great food, and share the identity of the culture.
I would like to have seen pictures, or flags, or posters, or anything that makes me feel that I am in a different “Peruvian-Japanese” restaurant. I want others to learn about the history of this unique cuisine – so tell me about it!
Dining at a Peruvian-Japanese fusion restaurant in Hong Kong is definitely an interesting and rewarding experience, and El Mercado has succeeded in bringing the very best of my home country’s cuisine to Hong Kong. Definitely worth a visit!
El Mercado, 21/F, 239 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai (+852) 2388 8009
Hungry for more? Why not check out more of our culinary adventures in the restaurant reviews below? Bon appétit!
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