It’s safe to say sushi has won over the Chilean people. This type of food has become so ingrained in the national palate, that it has little to do with its popularity in the United States.
Here we usually miss out on more diligent and creative work. Where recipes out of the usual cream cheese, salmon, and avocado are simply predictable.
Breaking the rules is Naoki. The new restaurant at Paseo El Mañío is a nice change from the Italian fare that was present beforehand.
The chef Marcos Baeza is a sushi veteran who worked at the Ichiban restaurant for many years. He has full control of the menu and is responsible for combining local products with oriental techniques to deliver a Japanese-Chilean-contemporary cuisine.
| The Menu
On the day of our visit, the courtesy of chef Marcos Baeza was shown in full. A crunchy “Cochayuyo Pil Pil” with hot pepper jam immediately greeted us with its sweet and sour flavors and spicy accents. The first dishes of the tasting were “Crispy Rice with Salmon Tartar” and an assortment of Masago and Kisami Nori. The tartar dish was a real surprise in both flavor and texture, with its warm and crunchy rice that provided the perfect counterpoint to fresh tartar. The spicy touch added to these recipes give their flavors more intensity that whats usually found.
The next dish was more traditional, “Sashimi Naoki.” Accurate slices of cold Octopus, and a Salmon that melted like butter on the palate. These were delicate and permanent flavors that left a lasting taste in the mouth. The finish to this dish were creamy cuts of Vilagay. This forgotten fish of Juan Fernandez is served with an excellent texture and flavor that completes the Sashimi experience.
Soon after the chef returned with the Ususukuri plate. Vilagay petals with excellent cuts of red chilli, leaves of parsley, and a potent yuzu sauce. What an eclectic mix! An artful dish, vibrant to the palate. Here, every single ingredient was thoughtfully combined to achieve a high complexity of flavor.
With the selection of rolls available, we tried the “Roppongi.” A roll with a center of breaded “Loco” (chilean mollusc), Vegetables, and Chañar arrope, all finished with a Tuna leaflet. An aromatic combination for a delicate roll, which included touches of smoke and bittersweet.
Another exotic classic soon arrived to our table, the Gyutataki. A recipe which is halfway between carpaccio and flash seared beef. Here we meet a loin sealed by salt above ponzu sauce. A good sourness is given to the recipe with strong yuzu sauce. To finish out the meal, we tried the northern flavors of “Cochayuya” and “Papaya Gyosas.” Tasty and well spiced combinations that worked better than we could have believed.
Naoki is doing real nikkei sushi in the most traditional manner. So much so that it calls on any Japanese cuisine beyond its borders. Here we find creativity, inventiveness and a constant challenge to flavors.
Text: Darío Córdova Translation: Rami Hunter L. Photos: Alejandro Mery (Instagram) * We were invited to this place. © Zona33 com S.A.
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