While the ceviche revolution hit London a few years ago, it’s taken a little longer to make its way to Amsterdam. And even now, this list is a short one. But for those of us who love our pisco sours, leche de tigre, aji amarillo chillies and choclo corn, there are now a handful of Peruvian restaurants in Amsterdam with our names on them. Buen provecho!
The new kid on the (eastern) block, Moche has been a highly welcome 2023 addition to the Oostpoort/Watergraafsmeer neighbourhood. The evening I visited, service was relaxed yet attentive, the décor modern but featuring patterned tiles and colourful artwork, and the food quite simply a Peruvian pleasure. We started with the croquettes filled with a mixture of chicken and aji, while we tucked into an expertly mixed pisco sour. Next, we tried the ceviche of the day: a classic combo of white fish, shrimps, choclo, chulpe corn, sweet potato purée and red onion – all swimming in a perfectly balanced, spicy, citrusy leche de tigre. The chef’s signature dishes of achiote aubergine with smoked yoghurt and Padron pepper (as a starter) and rocoto-marinaded chicken with coriander yoghurt (as a main course) were both pitch perfect: smoky yet fresh, and with a satisfying bite. Prices were on a high side (we paid around €160 for two people eating starters and mains, with drinks) but for quality this good, it’s a price worth paying.
NAZKA’s big, bold flavours start in Peru but take many global twists and turns along the way. And in 2022, they welcomed a new head chef – Koosh Kothari – who has arguably taken NAZKA’s menu up another notch. The evening I visited, we were treated to the six-course chef’s menu (€65 p.p.), which started with two takes on ceviche followed by an innovative dish of stuffed courgette flowers with tahini and huacatay oil. Next came perhaps my favourite fusion of flavours: an octopus tentacle cooked “carbonara style” with guanciale, pecorino cheese and macho sauce. If the outstanding food isn’t enough to convince you, the authentic pisco sours and excellent drinks pairings should be. Not limiting themselves to wine, NAZKA pairs its dishes with everything from ponzu sake to cider to port. Distinctly different – in the best possible way.
Editor’s note: I was invited to eat at NAZKA as a journalist, and I didn’t pay for my meal. Obviously I try to be as objective as possible, but I always disclose when I’ve had a freebie.
I’m not sure what’s so difficult about pronouncing the word “ceviche”, but apparently were a Dutch person to say it phonetically, it would sound something like Sjefietshe. Luckily, the rest of the restaurant is far more Peruvian than it is Dutch. The ceviche itself was just as I’d anticipated: it came in six different versions, all of which sounded heavenly. Sadly I could only manage two, so I made it the classic ceviche – with crunchy chulpe corn and red onion that had been slightly pickled from the acidic leche de tigre – and the shrimp and haddock ceviche, which came with a slightly sweeter (but still pleasantly sour) combination of pumpkin purée, coconut milk, hot yellow chillies and crispy puffed rice. Both were full of delightfully bright, feisty flavours, and went wonderfully with a pisco sour. A cosy neighbourhood gem in De Pijp.
Meanwhile, bang in the centre of town, INCA is peddling its Peruvian wares on the Reguliersdwarsstraat, with a colourful interior and a terrace ripe for people watching. We tried the “ceviche ahumado” – unfailingly fresh white fish with charred avocado and a lightly smoky yet fruity leche de tigre – and “la conquista” – seared scallops with a bright and tangy sauce. Both were very good. And very expensive (€26 and €28 respectively for five pieces of fish). I also enjoyed the skewer of smoked octopus, while the guacamole lacked texture and flavour for me. Grilled ribeye steak was fine, but came with nothing apart from a tiny dish of chimichurri. A cocktail will set you back €16, but INCA’s pisco sours were the least impressive on this list and the staff can tell you very little about the wine on offer. INCA’s central location means that steep prices are understandable. But for that amount of money I’d expect more: whether that’s quantity, quality or creativity.
Peruvian-Japanese fusion cuisine is a thing, and it’s called Nikkei. Think sushi meets ceviche, and you’re getting close. To try it in Amsterdam, head to Yokomo in the Rivierenbuurt. Meat eaters will appreciate the crunchy-spicy chicken roll featuring chipotle and plantain, or the chimichurri beef roll that comes with fried onions and aji verde. While those who favour fish will enjoy the ebi shrimp maki with masago roe and mango. Yokomo has a good cocktail list as well, although the service can leave a little to be desired. Frankly, I’d have drunk double the amount of pisco sours if only I could’ve ordered them!
Want to make your own Peruvian food in Amsterdam?
Katinka is the queen of Peruvian cuisine, and I’ve been following her on Instagram @cevicheceviche for a while, slowly gaining tips and tricks… Visit her website for culinary masterclasses, cookbooks, hot sauces and much more. Reading about her work makes me realise how little I know about Peruvian food myself!