There’s no doubting that you’re in for an evening of Peruvian-Japanese Nikkei cuisine with a restaurant called like TokyoLima. But the first challenge is finding it, until it dawns that it occupies a spot that waaaaay back in the day used to be called, somewhat oddly, Flower Trump. It was a decent enough go-to for visitors wanting to try the myriad cuisines of China at very reasonable price points, especially for Central.
But that was back when Lyndhurst Terrace was still more about egg tarts than pisco sours, more seven-eleven than ceviche. Today the interior is darkened and glammed up no end, particularly in copper piping that has doubtless made some mainland factory owners very wealthy. It looks sleek and almost has the feel of a private club to it, the creation of Manuel Palacio and Christian Talpo, the brains behind Pirata and The Optimist.
Peruvian Chef Arturo Melendez is responsible for overseeing the menu that combines ‘the heat of Peru with the freshness of Japan.’ I’m not sure whether Virgilio Martinez from Central, Gaston Acurio or other Peruvian chefs would agree 100% with this characterisation, but as always it’s how it translates on the plates. The menu is arranged into Small Plates, Raw & Seared, Sticks, Nikkei Sushi and Larger Plates.
First up was ‘SS’, their soba salad ($90), noodles with some avo, toms, coriander and nori. Decent, clean eating but could have done with some more oomph on the flavour front as the sesame sauce was a bit MIA. By the way, no prizes for guessing which were my photos and which I found online.
Then some peppers dusted with togarashi, advertised as a ‘chilli pepper roulette as one in ten is a hot one’. We didn’t find it so would have ruined the Deer Hunter, had Walken and de Niro needed another player.
Then to ‘ceviche japones’ whereMelendez – formerly the main man at Chicha – showed his props. There’s none of the classic ‘leche de tigre’ or ‘tiger’s milk’ – the wonderfully named spiced citrus marinade – in this one, but instead a shoyu citrus dressing which worked beautifully over nuggets of scallops, shrimp and what I think was sea bass.
From fish to fowl, in the words of David Thewlis, with a tasty little spicy soy tare with karaage ‘ki-mo-chi’ chicken ($110). Here’s his quote from Naked, a vastly-underrated film:
“Well, basically, there was this little dot, right? And the dot went bang and the bang expanded. Energy formed into matter, matter cooled, matter lived, the amoeba to fish, to fish to fowl, to fowl to frog, to frog to mammal, the mammal to monkey, to monkey to man, amo amas amat, quid pro quo, memento mori, ad infinitum, sprinkle on a little bit of grated cheese and leave under the grill till Doomsday.”
Fried chicken can often disappoint, just ask the Pengest Munch, but not here. It was great eating.
Then we hit up sticks in the form of yakitori and Peruvian street-food style anticuchos. Portobello & Nasu bought three skewers for a fair $80, the miso sauce good stuff, more than liberally applied.
To finish, a lime meringue tart was made with pastry that was so hard it almost broke the spoon – a shame as the filling and ice cream were great. The server did the right thing and asked if there was a problem with it.
TokyoLima was already very busy on an early weeknight, the bar out front full of people waiting for a table. Although it’s not Nikkei cuisine, when you compare them with Zuma, for example, then they need to finesse consistency and presentation. Execution wise there were some issues, but maybe in time they’ll be ironed out – as always, it’s fair to say when a visit comes once they’ve just opened. I’d go back to try some of the bigger plates on the menu, as well as more of those signature ceviches.