Kjolle - Chef Pia Leon's Diamond in Lima
You don't need to spend much time in Latin America to find a collection of the worlds 50 best restaurants. Peru is undoubtedly one of the best places in existence for food. This has been echoed countless times by a multitude of experts and organisations from around the world. Due to the vast biodiversity, Peru provides the most eclectic range of ingredients from its wild collection of diverse eco-systems. 84 of the worlds 103 existing eco-systems are found in Peru, in addition to 28 out of the 32 climates in existence. Kjolle restaurant Lima (pronounced ‘koy-ay’) is a title that you need to remember. Following in the footsteps of its big sister Virgilio Martinéz’s Central, Kjolle uses research, knowledge and methods to explore the ingredients from its magical South American surroundings. Kjolle brings light to established and unconventional ingredients executing some of the most beautiful dishes you can find in Lima.
Chef Pia León is the heart and soul behind Kjolle. Since 2009 León has supported and contributed to husband Virgilio Martínez's restaurant Central, working alongside him to bring us the 6th Best Restaurant in the World to date. Both restaurants run off the back of culinary research teams who drive the inspiration for the gastronomic imagination and creation in the kitchen. The restaurant is surprisingly situated above Central in Lima’s bohemian neighbourhood, Barranco. With a light, pastel colour pallet and open space in the dining area, Kjolle creates a space of comfort for conversation and pleasure. Dishes are built with just as much attention to detail as the stunning building structure. Almost effortlessly finessed, each dish combines extracts from the Peruvian empire to reflect and show appreciation for the beautiful, native elements found in nature.
The very landscape fabricated around Kjolle is a pleasure to behold. This stellar restaurant is encompassed in its own little personal world. Tall white walls create a secluded space where diners and guests can completely lose themselves within the busy streets of Barranco. As you enter this tiny world you instantly lose yourself in all the view has to offer. The outside of the building is encircled by a beautiful plethora of heavenly plant life; the garden is sprinkled around the winding path leading you to the phenomenal home of Central, Mayo and Kjolle. The interior structure of the building is incredible. Layers of glass walls expose each venue separately, revealing just enough to tickle your intrigue for each place. Earthy tones are found all around you, as the lights positioned so quaintly lead you towards your destination - Kjolle. Situated upstairs, this dining area serves as a warmer section to the establishment, overlooking the other respective rooms.
Upon entry you will notice the kitchen is tucked away neatly to your left. It is quiet and peaceful, signifying harmony and balance that pours into the room. An elongated bar protrudes from this hidden section where you can see staff members hustling to create drinks and finished dishes. The synergy of the employees behind the bar is practically bewitching; mirrored by the waiters dancing between tables, juggling replacing silverware to flamboyantly presenting dishes of all shapes and sizes. For a true and extended experience of Kjolle, the absolute best way to get to know this place is through the extensive 9 course tasting menu. Accompanied by a wine pairing from countries all over South America, you will be anything but disappointed by this intimate food experience. For an analysis of this remarkable tasting, check out the breakdown below.
Before you begin your 9 course journey you are presented with a platter of beautiful breads, seasoned cream cheese butter mixture and spicy green pesto-like substance. This portion of baked goodness is warm, inviting, perfectly cooked and simply melts away in your mouth. The combination of accompaniments liven your palette for what is about to be in store across the next couple of hours (yep, this is definitely almost a religious expedition in itself). And so, we begin…
Dish: Sea Bass and Razor Clams with black mashwa, amazonian nuts and macre
Wine Pairing: Bouza
Notes: The freshness of the fish in this dish is verging on glamorous. Silky and soft, each element is in perfect balance. The textures of finely threaded vegetables and robust flavour in the base play off the seafood wonderfully. This dish is a fantastic, eye-opening starter to the whole sequence of dishes.
Dish: Scallops and Seeds with pacae, lime extract and ginger
Wine Pairing: Bouza
Notes: The texture of this dish is somewhat weird and also wildly satisfying. The scallops are cooked impeccably, with tiny segments of pacae giving bursts of flavour into the creamy dish. Larger portions of the Andean beans are sectioned and charred creating a blackened exterior which contrasts their infamous sweet flavour and soft internal texture.
Dish: Tubers with yucca, olluco and potato
Wine Pairing: Matias Ricetteli
Notes: This was hands down my favourite dish. A happy meat eater I was shocked to find a vegetable dish containing mainly potatoes and yucca could contain so much intense flavour. This dish truly showcases how far you can push ingredients if you have the know how. The bottom layer of this dish is a tart base essentially, created from a quinoa crumb. Inside you have a yucca purée, topped with layers of charred Peruvian potatoes and tubers. Each slice is fine enough to be considered delicate whilst possessing intense flavour and a compelling bite. Colourful, balanced and utterly spellbinding.
Dish: Cured Duck with squid, onion and kaniwa
Wine Pairing: Santa Maria
Notes: Duck in general is a fan favourite and Kjolle haven’t let it down. This duck tartare is so enjoyable to eat! Each dish at Kjolle is brought to the table with a complimenting feature, however this one is edible. Complimenting the dish are warm, squid-ink dyed, black bread pockets. Diners are encouraged to fill these pouches with the main and enjoy, which you can guarantee I did!
Dish: Vegetal Diversity with yacon, coffee broth, chonta and artichoke
Wine Pairing: Familia Queirolo
Notes: Hats off to another all veggie dish! This bowl contains strands of cooked artichoke topped with a mixture of crispy and soft elements. The flavours in this dish are so serene they practically cleanse your palette.
Dish: Pork Jowl with cocona, cauliflower and kiwicha
Wine Pairing: Villard
Notes: This was the first time experiencing pork cheek for me and I can tell you it will certainly not be the last! This portion of meat is cooked so eloquently it is a joy to devour. León has done a fabulous job of harnessing cauliflower into this dish as a real splendid addition of complimentary flavour and texture.
Dish: Beef and Corn with burnt corn, macambo and paico
Wine Pairing: Villard
Notes: This slow cooked beef has been braised for around 30 hours to generate its pull-apart consistency. The process of such cooking makes the meat practically doughy and downright delicious. Topped with a sweet, concentrated elixir and airy white foam each mouthful is a pure delight.
Dish: Lime Milk with cows milk, bitter orange and lemon verbena
Wine Pairing: Casa Marin
Notes: Possibly the most fascinating dessert I have ever had, this dish combines fresh slices of citrus fruits that cut sharply through a cold, milky base layer. This dish actually tasted exactly like lemon meringue pie to me, only with a bitter orange aftertaste on my tongue. Altogether quite fascinating, I feel I will totally crave this dish again in the future.
Dish: Cacao from Mil with chirimoya and amazonian honey
Wine Pairing: Martino
Notes: Last but not least dish number nine! Peru is known for its wonders of the Amazon and that includes the bountiful cocoa plant. The ingredient in this dish is harnessed in all of its glory into paper thin 70% chocolate shards, which are delicately displayed atop fresh chirimoya and amazonian honey. Classically Peruvian, chirimoya possesses a distinctly lovely flavour and texture; I was best pleased as this falls into my favourite fruit category by far. Fragrant and sugary this dish is the perfect ending to a long and gratifying culinary adventure.
The treatment at Kjolle is rapid and intense. The waiters ensure each plate is taken from your table the near second you finish it. This quick turnover allows you to enjoy breaks between the courses as well as not spend best part of your week in the restaurant - 9 dishes takes a long time! Each piece of cutlery is replaced with exquisite new versions for every dish, as well as presenting your following wine, dish accompaniment and of course the dish itself. For those of you who love the material things, the style and representation of the restaurant is paralleled in the tableware - each piece of crockery and cutlery corresponds to the dish and helps to simulate the atmosphere into the experience. Every wine is curated for each dish and selected from a range of countries across South America.
Fantastically, you will not have to book months in advance for a reservation at Kjolle and you will save yourself a few pennies here in comparison to her adjoining eatery Central. Experiencing Kjolle is what it is to experience the mind of an astonishing female chef gone wild; Roaming through her creativity, commitment and passion truly leaves a flaming imprint that borders on addictive. If you are interested in tantalising your tastebuds you can have a taste of León’s magic between 12:00 and 14:00 for a lunch service or between 20:00 and 22:00 for the evening’s dinner service.
How to Reserve This Experience?
If our expert review has your appetite brewing don’t hesitate to contact our team here at Rainforest Cruises for more information! Each of our Peru Amazon Cruises will be reached from a connecting flight into Lima. Adding Kjolle into your schedule is no problem in addition to a few days of fun checking out the other amazing sights around Lima. If you are interested in booking a cruise and seeing what other thrilling factors Lima has to offer please send us an enquiry or call 1-888-215-3555.