Q&A | Mitsuharu Tsumura, Chef: ‘We want to do something Peruvian Japanese’

Mitsuharu Tsumura

Combining traditional Peruvian cuisine with Japanese techniques, Chef Tsumura will open the first authentic Nikkei restaurant, Aji, at MGM Cotai in Macau.

Aji, meaning “chili pepper” in Peru and “taste” in Japanese, is a contemporary Nikkei restaurant that packs an exquisite flavor punch.

Chef Mitsuharu Tsumura, widely known as “Chef Micha,” is of Japanese origin, born in Lima, Peru. Chef Tsumura was encouraged by his father to turn his passion for cooking into a profession. After studying culinary arts in the U.S., he went to Japan to learn about his cultural and culinary heritage. He took a job at an international hotel on returning to Lima and in 2009 opened Maido, which rose to number two in Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2016 and currently ranks number eight in San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017.

Aji restaurant rendering at MGM Cotai

Talking to the Times, Chef Tsumura expressed his enthusiasm for opening his first restaurant in Macau, and explained what he envisages will be the expectations from his customers.

Macau Daily Times (MDT) – What do you expect from your first restaurant in Macau?

Mitsuharu Tsumura (MT) – First of all, I think it is very interesting to open here in Macau inside the MGM, because we share the same philosophy. […] We have the perfect partnership to do something unique because we are all focused on excellence. We want to do something – maybe new – for the local market. […] We want to do something Peruvian Japanese.

When I come to Macau and I eat here, I feel sometimes that I am eating at home for many reasons, for the flavors, for the way the condiments are used. With Peruvian flavors and techniques, I think it’s going to be exotic in a way, but it’s going to be something very familiar to the local [customer base].

MDT – How do you see the restaurant competing with other types of cuisine Macau already offers?

MT – The exotic part, maybe. We are going to use many ingredients that people in Macau haven’t tried before. We are going to be bringing, for example, many different kinds of Ajis, or chilies. We are going to be using a lot of Peruvian chilis. We are going to be using those ingredients. I think that’s going to make the difference. Also many Peruvian fruits, using the Pisco drinks. It’s going to be unique. As I said before, there are many things that local people have tried, but there are many other things that are totally new. […] We are going to be bringing the seasonings from Peru, which I am going to say is one of the tastiest foods in the world.

MDT – What reaction do you anticipate from your customers?

MT – I think they would say the same thing they say in Peru. […] I like to refer to my cuisine as slapping your face. Besides all the visual stuff, you know, the plating and everything, I like strong flavors. I hope they become addicted to what we do.

MDT – How does Japanese cuisine play its role in your food?

MT – Techniques. Mostly techniques. For example, techniques like curing with combo, fish […] with Peruvian sauces, using all the sushi techniques but giving Peruvian flavors. That is very strong in what we do – we do Peruvian-style sushi a lot. That’s when the Chinese and Japanese influence comes.

MDT – You studied in the US, how did it help with your cooking?

MT – Most of my teachers were from other countries.  They were French, they were from the Philippines, Thailand, China and from Japan. So I learned a little bit of the basics of [each] cuisine; the way to use a knife, the correct way to cut a fish. I think in school you learn the basics of the cuisine you are going to develop afterwards. […] I learnt how to manage myself in a kitchen, how to make simple things good.

Ceviche Nikkei

MDT – What attracted you to come to Macau and open a restaurant here?

MT – First of all, Macau, […] I believe it is one of the cities with this kind of merging of cultures – a fusion – and maybe one of the first cities in the world to have this kind of merging of cultures. So having said that, I think nowadays Macau is growing, the tourism in Macau is growing a lot. […] I think everything is coming into place right now, and it is a good moment to show our cuisine to China and Asia.

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