Krave Restaurant’s “Around the World” Sunday Brunch: Peruvian-Style

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From the moment we arrived, Krave Restaurant captured us with its otherworldly art, sparkling curtains and ornate chandeliers. It’s a stylish room with a modern bar, wooden tables and molded plastic chairs were lit up by huge, open windows, allowing natural light to filter in. And the atmosphere was brought to life with a band singing Latin American favourites like Marc Anthony’s “Vivir Mi Vida”, Camila Cabello’s “Havana” and Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito”.

Before being escorted to our seats, we were given a tour of the restaurant—our waitress didn’t want us to miss a thing. The all-you-can-eat buffet was divided into four main components: your average breakfast (waffles and omelets for the traditionalists), sushi and salads (for those who love raw foods), carnivore central (meat and seafood galore) and desserts (because who doesn’t love an early morning sugar rush?). Ceviche, elaborate vegetable soups, tuna crudo, carving stations and two live cooking demos occupied the perimeter of the restaurant. It was easy to feel overwhelmed, but we took a deep breath, ordered a glass of champagne and figured out where we wanted to go. No big.

Since opening in 2014, Krave Restaurant, located in Tarouba, set out on a clear mission to introduce Trinidadians to international flavours and styles. Here, the menu can hop from China to Italy to Japan to France to a fantasy territory somewhere off the map of the known world. Last week, from March 20 to 25, Chef Artistoteles Brena Jamie of Nazca 21 in Casco Viejo Panama took over Krave’s kitchen. We stopped by for brunch on Sunday morning.

The bounty of the sea plays such a strong role in Peruvian cuisine; ceviche is the country’s national dish, so one would expect that to stand out. And it did, but the meaty options won our hearts over. The lamb stew (seco de lamb de Machu Picchu) immersed in a curry broth and the rib-eye rubbed with cumin, paprika, garlic, salt and pepper and slathered in an Inca-style Madeira sauce melted like butter on our tongues. The meat was so tender it seemed surreal. We also swooned over the ‘Aji Chicken’ sushi roll, inspired by Aji de Gallina, a creamy Peruvian chicken dish. The chicken was seasoned with Aji pepper, a staple spice, and wrapped like a traditional roll. It was then topped with a roasted onion mayonnaise that was so delicious it should have been served in a cup to drink. The chicken and cilantro soup (aguita verde de pollo) was bursting with flavours and textures. Classically, it’s completed with a healthy dose of cilantro, but in Trinidad and Tobago this translated to a healthy dose of chadon beni. Naturally.

The Guest Chef Aristoteles manned two woks, making lomo saltado, Peru’s answer to steak and potatoes. The dish featured thick wedges of soft and juicy beef tenderloin fried with red onions and tomatoes. It was served with thick fries swimming in a salty soy-gravy that renders them soft and almost pudding-like, reminiscent of poutine. This was one of the earliest dishes he learned to make at home in Peru—a tried-and-true recipe.

Chef Artistoteles actually tried to pack all of Peru’s flavours into one suitcase for the Krave staff to use last week—think spices, sauces and half a dozen bottles of booze. (Seriously. If he had more than one change of clothes it would have come as a surprise.) He brought over Tabernero’s La Botija Quebranta Pisco, a liquor made from distilled grapes—specifically from Quebranta and Italy—to complete the authentic Peruvian experience. Although it’s processed like wine, at 40% alcohol, Pisco reads more like a rum. At brunch, the bartender served up Pisco sours: a cocktail completed with egg whites, orange juice and bitters poured over ice. You would have never known it was made with egg whites unless you saw it come together behind the bar.

Even though the dining room was physically packed, it never felt that way. The service was friendly, efficient and attentive—with everyone from the managing director Damion Persad and the executive chef Dominique Beens (hailing from Belgium and France) to waiters and waitresses checking in on customers, bringing dishes, clearing plates and refilling glasses of water. We sat at our table for five hours and didn’t feel rushed. Not once. At Krave, you—the customer—come first.

Brunch was priced at $333 per person (including Vat and Service Charge), but on an average weekend, the breakfast buffet clocks in at $200 per person. It’s worth every cent.

 

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