The palate picks Peru
Nikkei, the celebrated Peruvian-Japanese cuisine, arrives in Bangkok at Above Eleven
Bangkok has its first Peruvian restaurant - just as food critics everywhere are declaring that Peruvian cuisine is a major trend this year. It's called Above Eleven and sits on a roof on Sukhumvit Soi 11, though not quite at Andean altitude.
It's atop the tallest building on the bustling soi and offers stunning panoramic views. Stools at a long bar are the designated perches for drinks and dinner is served at the tables, specifically nikkei, which is Peruvian-Japanese cuisine, the product of 120 years of Japanese migration to Peru. Executive chef Omar Frank Maruy hails from that mixed heritage.
For Thais, nikkei will seem surprisingly familiar and yet quite unexpected as well. A typical meal might entail sashimi, potatoes, lamb stew and tom yum all together. Maruy never loses sight of tradition, but he loves tapping local markets.
"Peru is far away, yet the food tastes very much like Thai food," he says. "The essence of Peruvian cuisine is in the methodology and the authenticity of the ingredients. We get our chillies, vegetables and herbs here but we import the lamb from New Zealand, the salmon from Norway and, thanks to the well-established Japanese restaurant scene here, we can easily get top-quality imported fish from Japan."
The chef earns a wow with Peru's national dish, cebiche, which is raw fish in a soup called "tiger's milk". (Relax, no tigers were involved.) Cebiche Above Eleven (Bt550) utilises seabass and prawns in the white soup of lime juice, shallots, chilli and cilantro, served with marinated beetroot and topped with fried calamari.
The first slurp is quite overpowering due to the lime's tang and the chilli - much like tom yum without the fish sauce. Refreshing and addictive, it really whets the appetite.
So here comes causa - mashed potatoes with chilli and lime juice and a variety of toppings. Our choice was Kani Causa (Bt300) with crabmeat, mayonnaise, avocado and quail eggs, accompanied by savoury and creamy Hauancaina sauce made from white cheese, vegetable oil, yellow pepper, evaporated milk and salt. Vegetarians can find a meatless causa too.
Next up was Beef Heart Anticucho (Bt280), a Peruvian yakitori commonly sold on the streets of Lima. The cow's heart muscle is marinated in cumin, vinegar, garlic and soy sauce and grilled on skewers. It's served with creamy, minty and spicy sauces.
Recommended for the main course is Arozz con Mariscos (Bt530), a dish of rice flavoured with yellow chillies and tossed with pan-fried prawns, squid, clams and mussels. It's light but still filling. The rice isn't as heavily seasoned as Spanish paella or as oily as Thai fried rice.
The kitchen also serves very juicy and rich Seco de Cordero (Bt950) - slow-cooked lamb shank seasoned with beer, cilantro and aji amarillo chilli. It looks Western but tastes utterly oriental, given the herbs and chillies and the savoury vinegar shallots on the side. The sizeable dish is served with steamed rice and white beans.
Always leave room for sweets, in this case a creamy and tangy creme caramel or a chocolate mousse. And for a drink to fit the theme, get a Peruvian Pisco Sour, which mingles pisco grape brandy, syrup, lime juice, egg white and a dash of bitters. It comes in passion-fruit flavour, too.
<< Above Eleven is on the roof of Fraser Suites Sukhumvit on Sukhumvit Soi 11 near the Nana Skytrain station.
<< It's open daily from 6pm to 2am.
<< Book a table at (02) 207 9300 or the AboveEleven page on Facebook.