Peruvian restaurants aren’t hard to come by lately in Chicago, especially since Stephanie Izard’s decidedly non-traditional spot Cabra burst onto the scene this month. But at Noyane, the rooftop lounge at the Conrad Chicago hotel known for sushi and sake, celebrity chef Richard Sandoval is changing the menu to introduce diners to a Peruvian take they might not have seen before.
It’s called Nikkei cuisine, a genre created by descendants of Japanese immigrants who settled in Peru at the turn of the 20th century that has grown and flourished over time. Noyane chefs will officially re-open the more than 4,000 square-foot space that seats roughly 200 for the season and launch the new menu on May 13.
“Nikkei” is a general term that refers to generations of people with Japanese ancestry around the world, but over time the word has also become associated with a marriage of Japanese techniques and Peruvian flavors. At Noyane, this is perhaps best captured by the “acevichado roll,” a spicy tuna maki with avocado, salmon, and hamachi ceviche.
The ceviche is made with a traditional leche de tigre, but chefs integrate Nikkei elements like soy, yuzu, and sesame. Skewers are still on the menu but the Peruvian influence is apparent: Japanese eggplant skewers include miso, nori parmesan, and aji “mayoneizu,” and Nikkei piri-piri chicken is served with Fresno chilis and cilantro.
Larger “to share” items may be more familiar to Chicago diners, such as pork belly buns with pickled chili and cilantro, tuna and salmon poke, and a wagyu burger with rocoto aioli and American cheese. The menu tells a brief, fairytale version of Nikkei’s origins through manga-style cartoons by Denver-based Narwhal Creative, and introduces diners to Japanese-influenced cuisine beyond ramen, traditional sushi, and bento boxes. See the full menu below.
Emilio Gonzalez, chef de cuisine at Noyane, said he is bringing a local element into the mix by bringing in as many ingredients as he can from Green City Market, where he picks up fresh produce every Wednesday. Japanese ingredients aren’t especially difficult to find, he said, but the Peruvian components present a challenge. He has to import rocoto peppers from Peru, and is working on bringing in choclo, Peruvian corn, to use as a bar snack.
The Nikkei theme loosens a bit on the drink menu, bringing in a range of Latin American flavors paired with Japanese touches. These include boozy snowballs (with flavors like bourbon peach and dragonfruit strawberry rum), and cocktails such as a yuzu margarita with reposado tequila, cointreau yuzu, and shiso. Beer, wine, and sake are also available.
Noyane opens for the summer on Monday, May 13 on floor 21 of the Conrad Chicago hotel.