Those who enjoy following Mérito on social media often see beautifully plated dishes in a minimalist space. The reality is that its beauty combines with the comfort of flavor and ambiance. His work is recognized in Peru and beyond, with a contemporary proposal that blends his Venezuelan roots with Peruvian ingredients. That has earned him the 11th position on the 2022 list of the best restaurants in Latin America and 59th on the extended list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2023. What to eat at Mérito? Let us tell you.
Venezuelan chef Juan Luis Martínez studied gastronomy in Caracas before venturing out to explore restaurants around the World, with stops in Europe and a final chapter leading him to Central’s kitchens, where he worked until 2019. Then, he decided to create his own World, a “mestizo cuisine” that connected local products with flavors familiar to him. This organic encounter unleashed a constant creativity that draws inspiration from both his homeland and the seasonal ingredients he discovers in Peru.
As a result, he has achieved 11th position on the 2022 list of the best restaurants in Latin America and 59th on the extended list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2023. “We are no longer just a restaurant; we offer an experience that encompasses a 360-degree approach to food, design, service, ambiance, and details,” says the chef.
LIFE IN MERITO
It is seven o’clock in the evening, and the Mérito team has everything ready to open. The restaurant, located in a small house behind the Barranco public library, is small and minimalist, featuring wooden furniture that extends to cover the walls, exposed bricks, and disassembled light fixtures. In the space designed by Pamela Remy and Ghezzi Novak Architects, there is warmth, an embracing light that invites long conversations and extended enjoyment.
At the chef’s table, right in front of the open kitchen, we take our seats to try the new additions to the menu. The cocktail menu has undergone significant improvements, featuring alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks designed by the Lady Bee team, such as the Olluco, made with an extract of this tuber and soda or the Flan a cocktail inspired by the dessert in the menu made with rum from Venezuela, burnt butter and caramel that has allows you to feel the spirit and have a lingering after taste of the dessert.
The menu showcases an excellent play of textures and flavors, as evident in the popeye crab dish, where the creaminess of the crab filling contrasts with the crunchiness of the dried potato toast and hibiscus flower.
The ceviche toast with amaranth crisp and fish tartare, beetroot powder, and marigold petals offers a delightful and aesthetically pleasing combination of sweet and salty flavors. Additionally, there is a fish curry made with the catch of the day, featuring balanced flavors and layers that allow the spices to shine through in every bite, covered in a cream of coconut and cardamom with green sacha culantro oil.
The menu at Mérito showcases many of the wonders of the beautiful Peruvian coast because, according to Juan Luis, he believes it’s better to highlight the local produce that he considers ideal rather than relying on imported ingredients. This philosophy is further enhanced by his close relationship with the fishmonger at the fish market, where he sources fresh products daily.
As a result, the tiradito with cocona and oca is incredibly fresh and acidic, bursting with umami flavors. The thinly sliced oca provides a delightful crunchy contrast without compromising the freshness of the white fish. On the other hand, the seared scallops offer a sweeter note, accompanied by crispy potatoes and spirulina, chulpi corn powder, and a base of yellow ají pepper, creating a harmonious combination of flavors and textures.
The lamb with olluco is a finger-licking dish. The lamb is slow-cooked until it becomes tender and falls apart, yet it retains enough fibrous texture to engage your jaw. The demi-glace is rich in flavor, and the presentation with olluco balls adds a visual element to the dish.
Certain classics shouldn’t be tampered with, such as the symbolic grilled corn with huancaína sauce and “queso llanero,” a cheese from Venezuela, which has been on the menu since the restaurant’s opening. In addition, there are the arepas and the delightful combination of pancetta, always on point and flavorful. It’s a playful experience at the table, offering a cornucopia of flavors.
The desserts at Mérito are a must-try. Alongside the chocolate rock and the iconic Flan, you’ll find the mamey crystals with cashews and goat cheese ice cream, as well as the bienmesabe, a reimagined classic dessert from the Venezuelan recipe book that receives a flawless modern update using different parts of the coconut.
LA EXPANSIÓN: SE VIENE CLON Y UN NUEVO DEMO
During 2020, Mérito embarked on a research and development project, a kind of DEMOnstration class that gradually evolved into what is now Demo, the casual bakery and breakfast proposal by Juan Luis Martínez’s team. Yes, it’s where you can find one of the best croissants in the country, their alfajores, filled with dulce de leche that reminds us of the creamy dessert from the northern region. They are dangerously delicious.
As evolution is inherent in gastronomy, this has led to the opening of a new concept called Clon. It will encompass dishes that were successful at Mérito and the current culinary offerings at Demo. For example, the Sunday brunch will now have more space on Grau Street, just a few meters away from its older sibling. Demo itself is also changing, and by the end of September, the bakery and coffee offerings will be moved to Jr. Domeyer, a street where many delicious things are happening.
Mérito is located at Jirón 28 de Julio 206, Barranco, and is open from Monday to Saturday, from 12:30 PM to 3:30 PM and from 7:00 PM to 10:30 PM. Reservations can be made by calling 277-1628 or through the Mesa 24/7 platform.
Demo is situated at Jirón 28 de Julio 204, Barranco. It operates from Tuesday to Saturday, from 8:30 AM to 6:00 PM, and on Sundays from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM.
TAMBIÉN PUEDES LEER
DÓNDE COME EL CHEF SANTIAGO LASTRA EN LONDRES
Jue 22 de febrero de 2024
Es mexicano y ha conquistado la capital inglesa con sus sabores. Bajo el cálido cielo de Mérida, le pedimos al chef de KOL que nos comparta sus lugares favoritos en Londres.