“There certainly is a lot of corn on this menu” I laugh, as my eyes scroll up and down USQUYU’s chic menu card. With the restaurant’s namesake, an abstract mural of the Quechuan Usquyu wildcat depicted above me, I’m aware that this concept is something we’ve never seen before in Kuwait. The culture of the Andes-cradled nation, and the essence of Peruvian cuisine is highlighted beautifully at USQUYU.
The surprise that Kuwait even has a Peruvian restaurant has been the general consensus by the public as of late, but based on what we’ve learned about the cuisine from owner Ahmed Al Roumi, we’re anticipating this one to be a hit. Carb-heavy Peruvian cuisine features an abundance of starches such as potato, corn and quinoa, all of which are indigenous to its land.
“Peru has over 4,000 different varieties of potato, and 55 varieties of corn”, Ahmed tells me as we settle down onto the main stage area of the restaurant—a large communal table with comfortable, elevated chairs. The table overlooks the bar where you can watch a mixologist making artisanal mocktails, and is situated right next to the kitchen that features a grand, clear window that allows you to easily watch the chef create his specialties. Encased beneath dim, atmospheric lighting, the restaurant is small and exudes modernity.
What’s interesting about their menu is that there are no official “appetizers”. However, the “Street” section of the menu implies smaller, more shareable items that people eat in the city from roadside vendors, making it ideal as a smaller meal or snack. From this, to accompany our delicious, zesty handcrafted drinks “Wild Imaginations” and “Electric Feel”, we order a couple to get the party started. The drinks were extremely impressive, and were the perfect pairing to the complimentary in-house made root vegetable chips that are placed at the table upon your arrival.
Wild Imaginations was a concoction of passionfruit, lemon and basil, while Electric Feel was infused with raspberry, lemon and rosemary. The beautiful thing about these drinks was the simplicity of their flavor. Everything is crafted to perfection, garnished with delicious sprigs of rosemary, but most importantly they didn’t taste like they contained anything artificial. No grenadine here!
The menu, divided by sections, highlights the different parts of Peru where the dishes hail from. It is decently sized and offers a lot for vegetarian and meat eaters alike. The Market section is where most of their vegetarian fare resides, and my vegetarian dining companion was quite pleased with this.
We started off with the visually-appealing Causa (as seen in the featured image above), which makes use of Peru’s native root vegetables. A homemade sweet potato cake layered with chopped avocado and beetroot, topped with a homemade sweet potato chip. This was a masterpiece that we couldn’t leave alone. Served alongside a Three Corn Salad made with three varieties of corn atop palm hearts, truffle dressing and rocket leaves, we had a great start to our gastronomic journey to Peru.
Dishes steadily flowed from there. Highland favorites, a Quinoa Risotto and a plate of Lamb Chops were placed before us. Those lamb chops had the perfect char to them, and were compatible with a tangy panca sauce and fruity accoutrement. But the Quinoa Risotto won in this round. Truffle accents with mushroom and crispy parmesan galette set this dish aside, making it different than anything we’d ever tried before.
Speaking of different, their homemade Aji De Gallina Ravioli from The Capital was truly unlike anything I’d ever tasted before. This modern dish also was a revelation of sorts on how USQUYU’s ingredients are no-nonsense and extremely transparent. I tasted a nuttiness to it, and had immediately reverted back to my menu to check the making of the dish. Just as suspected, Pecans!
Similar to the Spicy Mushroom Empanadas that were set at the table, everything that the dish was made with was apparent in taste. The empanadas were as cheesy and mushroom-filled as the menu promised, with corn peeking out and offering some sweetness in the mix, all stuffed within a delectable pastry. But brace yourselves for their winning proteins. Chicken Antichucho skewers over coal served with a chili garlic sauce on the side made for an appetite whetting option to share, and their Slow Braised Short Ribs made it onto my list of the most tender I’d ever had. Placed atop a bed of corn risotto, it was perfectly complementary, however I would be lying if I said I’d paid much attention to the latter. The short ribs were so good, that its grainy accompaniment seemed decorative.
Generally, as a rule of thumb, I don’t like to clean my plate whenever I review a restaurant. Once in a while however, I’ll play the rebel and break my self-imposed conduct. This happened with two items at USQUYU, both of which are signatures on the menu. Peruvian cuisine is known best for its Ceviche, and USQUYU as a concept was able to embrace this beautifully with the Salmon Ceviche.
Though slightly heavier than other South American ceviche I’d sampled in my lifetime (thanks to the addition of coconut milk in the mixture) it still gave a taste so citrus-infused, fresh and tender, that the chunks of raw salmon were hard to ignore. I will time and time again recommend to anybody who wants to visit USQUYU to go for their ceviche – not solely, of course, but any of the range of offerings from seabass to salmon, prawns and Tiradito (all of which are listed underneath The Coast) offer a refreshing side to an indulgent dish, different than anything else we’ve seen so far in Kuwait.
We finish off our experience with Pastel De Choclo (or henceforth, my second clean plate!): Corn cake, mango ice cream and a raspberry coulis. Admittedly, as nice as they were, I ended up ignoring the coulis and ice cream altogether in favor of the slightly sweet, warm corncake that was reminiscent of the savory cornbread I’d have with my Thanksgiving feasts.
With a cup of their steaming corn tea, the corniest ever end to a meal was the perfect one. USQUYU is located in Al Nusuf Complex in Shuwaikh Industrial by Shuwaikh Market.
Call them at 2232 3155 or 9935 8515 for more information, and follow them on Instagram @usquyu for the latest updates.
Featured and Salmon Ceviche images courtesy of USQUYU. Photos by bazaar staff.