Peruvian chef Daniel Chavez isn’t the type to sit still. The tail end of 2018 saw him revamping Ola Cocina Del Mar — his first Singapore restaurant — with an expanded space and new menu. Concurrently, he was also swamped with preparations to launch Tonito, a Latin American eatery that opened this April at Jewel Changi Airport. Not too long after, he unveiled several developments in the form of a new head chef and menus at Tono Cevicheria, his two-year-old sophomore restaurant.
The latter, which specialises in tangy Peruvian ceviches (raw fish cured in citrus marinade) and cuisine, is now helmed by female head chef Tamara Chavez Lopez and has rebooted its repertoire to include a greater variety of gastronomic delights — some of which are inflected with Latin American flavours in a nod to chef Tamara’s Mexican heritage. Innovative new items include Yukitas (crisp tapioca fritters sprinkled with mimolette cheese, and paired with a creamy and herbaceous Huacatay mint sauce) and Tiradito Negro — Hokkaido scallops immersed in a black “Tiger’s Milk” of squid ink and topped with salsa.
Not forgetting its Peruvian roots, Tono Cevicheria still serves its signature ceviches, which feature the likes of snapper, trevally and prawns jazzed up with ingredients such as crispy calamari, sweet potato, and canchita (toasted corn). These remain just as delicious as before, with their deft combination of fresh seafood, zesty marinade, and contrasting textures.
Another constant at Tono Cevicheria is its attentive and affable service, with the staff and chef Tamara coming by to explain the various dishes. Chef Tamara, who previously worked in the kitchens of El Mero Mero and the now-defunct The Latin Quarter, is a culinary star to watch, with her extensive repertoire, confident cooking and ingenious pairing of flavours. Here are 5 highlights from the new menu she has created at Tono Cevicheria.
Inspired by Nikkei cuisine — a blend of Japanese and Peruvian fare — chef Tamara’s new creation consists of salmon sashimi dressed in mirin, sesame oil and lime for a showcase of fresh, clean flavours. Blobs of wasabi mayonnaise impart a hint of spice that cuts the heaviness of the sesame oil.
Pulpo “Al Olivo”
Part of the restaurant’s tapas selection, this cold dish comprises tender slabs of octopus engulfed in a salty black olive mayonnaise and sliced olives. It’s topped with garlic bits and strips of sweet potato, which add crunch and prevent the mayonnaise from being too overwhelming. Every bite of this concoction is a flavour bomb in itself.
Traditional Anticuchos are typically made of beef heart, but Tono Cevicheria’s version features chunks of meat instead, to appeal better to diners who aren’t too keen on offal. It comes in options of chicken or beef, presented as a trio of skewers and served with fried potato slices. We recommend going for the beef, which is char-grilled till it’s gorgeously tender and juicy. It’s drenched in a smoky Anticuchera sauce made from aji panca (a Peruvian pepper), garlic and onions, and studded with fried lentils.
Chef Tamara excels at serving up punchy, vibrant flavours. But she does know how to hold back when the occasion calls for it — one instance is this simple yet tasty seafood dish which comprises grilled Argentinian prawns, clams and confit potato covered with pumpkin sauce. The sauce is light and delicate, and complements the natural sweetness of the clams and prawns.
Duck confit gets a South American twist at Tono Cevicheria, where a duck leg is deep fried till its skin is gloriously crispy, and set atop a bed of Tacu Tacu — a traditional Peruvian dish consisting of rice and beans mashed up into a patty. The latter is punctuated with crunchy bits of rice, and comes soaked in an aromatic coriander sauce infused with dark beer and chica de jora, a type of corn cider. This scrumptious, hearty concoction is also rounded off with a side of grilled vegetables.