A delicious secret from Japan and Peru

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Sandals and socks, pizza and prawns, some partnerships should never see the light of day. But a new Japanese Peruvian restaurant proves two is sometimes better than one.

Bijou and as yet unknown, Amaru is one of a handful of bars and restaurants along a hidden mariner, a few minutes from Tower Bridge. I bet few of the thousands who visited the poppies found it, so this could be a secret worth keeping.

Amaru, which means fertility in Peruvian and abundance in Japanese, opened in January, and is owned by one of the original Yauatcha and Hakkasan investors. Chef Victor Garvey is in the kitchen, after exploring Spain and Japan for inspiration, including time at El Bulli. You can watch him while you eat as the pine-clad café-style room is small and seats just 12, catering to an office crowd for lunch or take away dinner. Garvey designed the space, with a live moss wall at the back.

Japanese and Peruvian isn’t such a strange coupling – ceviche is a Peruvian staple, probably brought over by the Spanish, and perpetuated by the high population of Japanese in Peru today. The typically chunked raw fish is cooked only in citrus, sometimes with chopped onions and chilli. Nobu Matsuhisa was an early exponent of the Peruvian Japanese fusion, a combination cuisine known as Nikkei. It takes the soul-cleansing elements of Japanese food – the clean fish, neat rice, the earthy seaweed and soy – and straps a large pair of balls on it in the shape of cured beef, meaty avocados and chilli.

We started with miso – with added mirin, a Japanese vinegar, to give it depth. And that jewel of Peru, quinoa, worked well in a salad of pomegranate and balsamic. The seaweed salad came wrapped in a baton of soft avocado and ponzu, and the sesame crusted tuna with truffle a jalapeno a perfect punch of flavours.

The beef is worth a section on its own. Weighty sleeves of sweet house-cured meat, with wasabi and a fried sweet potato shreds. You can just feel that kind of food, strong, confident and simple, making you stronger. Buddah’s delight, a vegetarian sushi, was sublime, as was yellowtail tuna and jalepeno. Imaginative desserts like white miso and apple cheesecake, and lychee chocolate truffles, end the show.

Amaru may be small but this a class affair, without the class prices. It should also be commended for only using fish from co-operative boats, mostly around the British Isles.

The rub? It doesn’t have a licence. But don’t be so primitive as to let that put you off. Focus on the food here, and choose one of the fresh juices and 12 teas on offer. If you really need a drink, step one door along into Bravas Tapas, a Spanish restaurant and bar buzzing when we visited, and reassuringly owned by the same people. That’s another combination worth thinking about.

 by Vicky Paterson

Amaru can be found on Twitter

Ivory House, St Katharine Docks, East Smithfield, London E1W 1AT

Open: 11.30–21.00
Tel: 0207 702 4765


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Glass Online dining writer

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