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Chef Micha Tsumura, owner of Maido: ‘Peru isn’t Latin America’s food capital because of just five haute cuisine restaurants’

Maido topped Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list for the fourth time in 2023 and was also ranked the sixth-best restaurant globally

Restaurante Maido Perú
Mitsuharu "Micha" Tsumura, the chef and owner of Maido restaurant in Lima, Peru.SEBASTIAN CASTAÑEDA
Renzo Gómez Vega

Standing in the hallway of Maido restaurant in Lima’s Miraflores district, chef Mitsuharu “Micha” Tsumura looks imposing even though he’s only five feet seven inches. Last year, Maido won the title of the best restaurant in Latin America for the fourth time (2017, 2018, 2019 and 2023). His success lies in mastering everyday cooking, such as rice and fried eggs. Yet, under his watchful eye, these humble ingredients become the gateway to extraordinary flavors. Every detail matters: precise water measurements for Creole and Japanese rice, the quantity of minced garlic in an aromatic sofrito, or starting a recipe with cold versus boiling water. Of course, the amount of salt added must be just right. Any slight variation could lead to a misstep, especially when working with large quantities for restaurant cooking.

It’s noon, and the workers who bring Maido’s Nikkei (a fusion of Peruvian and Japanese cuisine) experience to life are enjoying a delicious roast chicken for lunch on the second floor. This dish holds a special place in Micha’s heart, as it reminds him of his mother’s cooking: crisp and juicy, with a flavorful blend of Peruvian red pepper, soy sauce, vinegar, mustard, oregano, and cumin. The team of 85 makes meals for 52 settings (down from 78 before the pandemic), accompanied by exceptional customer attention.

Restaurante Maido Lima
Diners at Maido restaurant sit under a ceiling decoration made from 1,000 ropes from fishing boats.SEBASTIAN CASTAÑEDA

Hospitality is the hallmark of this establishment. Customers are greeted with a loud chorus of “Maido!” that shakes the restaurant. “Maido” is a Japanese expression meaning “thank you for always coming.” Opened in October 2009, when Peru’s conservative diners resisted innovation, the restaurant’s greeting ritual has remained unchanged for 14 years. The hostess offers the first “Maido,” and is robustly echoed by the cooks, waiters and sommeliers.

Restaurante Maido Lima
Preparing food at Maido restaurant in Lima, Peru.SEBASTIAN CASTAÑEDA

The restaurant is a reflection of its chef-founder, once an explosive young man who learned to control his emotions after an incident that nearly cost him a finger. Years ago, while working in a luxury hotel kitchen, Micha Tsumura got into an argument with his boss and took out his anger on the pumpkin he was chopping. The outcome was plenty of blood and seven stitches. “Ever since then, I never go into the kitchen when I’m upset. Nothing good happens when I’m not in the mood,” he said, displaying his old war injury.

His most recent injury is a burn on his right forearm caused by a hot pot. At 42 years old, he has no plans to step away from the kitchen despite the perils. Apart from Maido, he currently manages a restaurant called Karai, located in Santiago’s W Hotel. He also oversees Tori, an informal chicken eatery that he hopes to franchise someday, and the Mai Mai bar in an exclusive Panama City skyscraper. Tsumura also has plans to export 14 sauces that are currently only available in a local supermarket chain.

Overwhelmed by so much work-related travel, Tsumura once thought about passing the Maido baton to one of his partners. But that thought was quickly banished. “I’ve come to realize that this is my life. I’ve really thought about where it’s all headed for me and my family. We’ve been on this journey for 15 years now, and it’s been something truly special. We’ve created an iconic place that’ll make you feel things you’ve never felt before,” he said. After all, that’s what haute cuisine is all about — the promise of a unique sensory experience, from the tableware to the last bite.

Restaurante Maido Lima
A cook puts the finishing touches on a dish at Maido restaurant in Lima, Peru.SEBASTIAN CASTAÑEDA

Over the past 15 years, Maido has developed a renowned tasting menu featuring coveted delicacies. These include a strip steak slow-cooked for 50 hours, glazed in a sauce of sake, mirin, shoyu and beef stock. It’s served with mashed native potatoes or Peruvian fried rice sprinkled with beef jerky. Another favorite is the nigiri sushi — a bite-sized portion of rice wrapped with a fillet of tender Angus beef, topped with a quail egg injected with ponzu sauce. Rice with duck confit in ankake sauce and sansho (Japanese pepper) is also a popular choice. The menu features many more creative dishes, such as nitrogen-infused ceviche, bread with pejesapo (clingfish), and cane-sugar ice cream with loche squash.

In November 2023, Maido topped Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants for the fourth time. The restaurant’s sommelier, Florencia Rey from Argentina, was also recognized as the best on the continent. Not only that, Maido was voted the sixth-best restaurant in the world in 2023. The top prize went to another Peruvian restaurant — Central, owned by Virgilio Martínez. It has been a fantastic year for Peruvian gastronomy, a testament to its consistent quality. “Peru isn’t Latin America’s food capital because of just five haute cuisine restaurants,” said Tsumura. “You can also eat well in the streets and marketplaces. We’re a really tight-knit bunch of restaurant people, which doesn’t even make sense, but that’s what sets us apart. We’ve got these shared goals. That’s why people are flocking to Latin America to see what’s going on. You never know what you’re going to find! We’re this exotic destination that’s always pushing the boundaries.”

Micha Tsumura preparing a dish in his Maido restaurant in Lima, Peru.
Micha Tsumura preparing a dish in his Maido restaurant in Lima, Peru.SEBASTIAN CASTAÑEDA

Celebrities like Eric Clapton and Robert De Niro have dined at Maido. It’s not just for special occasions like anniversaries or birthdays, but also for visitors who want to treat themselves before leaving the country. César Choy Contreras, a founding partner of the restaurant, recalls the touching story of a customer whose seriously ill father improved enough that his doctor allowed him to enjoy his favorite dishes at Maido. “That’s when you realize the true meaning of what you’re doing,” said Choy.

It’s nearly two in the afternoon, and the main dining room is bustling with patrons. A procession of sea bass, sole and delicate slices of wagyu beef delight the senses. Micha Tsumura excuses himself warmly, then disappears into the kitchen to conduct a symphony of flavors. Soft music fills the air as the next welcoming chorus begins — “Maido!”

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