Exclusive Ceviche + Pisco Sour Recipes From PUBLIC Hotel Chef Diego Muñoz
After more than a year with the doors closed, Ian Schrager’s uber cool PUBLIC Hotel at last reopened on New York’s Lower East Side last month, and it’s now sporting a high-profile new flagship restaurant. Indeed, the Peruvian fine dining eatery POPULAR (a confidently chosen name, obviously) looks poised to set the tone for Downtown NYC’s post-pandemic nightlife renaissance, especially its Cantina & Pisco Bar, which is serving up Peru’s most famous spirit, along with oysters and champers, to the trend chasing set. Schrager, of course, knows a few things about New York nightlife.
The real reason everyone is buzzing about POPULAR, though, is the two culinary stars who are at the helm, the twice Michelin starred Chef John Fraser (of the Times Square EDITION), and Chef Diego Muñoz, who most recently headed up Lima’s Astrid y Gastón, which was named the Best Restaurant in Latin America by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
Inspired by the fusion of Asian, Spanish and Latin American cultures embodied in Peruvian cuisine, Muñoz seamlessly blends these vibrant flavors for a well-curated menu of exotic yet approachable small plates that distinctly tantalize the palette. Some of his mouthwatering mini-masterpieces include the ahi tuna ceviche Nikkei, ceviche classico with red snapper and octopus, ‘melt in your mouth’ 40 hour short rib with tamal sauce, sticky prawns over chow mein, and the Peruvian papa huancaina (boiled yellow potatoes) with aji Amarillo and botija olives.
Perfect for those still skittish after this long and fatal pandemic, these dishes can be taken al fresco in the Bowery Garden – though the lushly tropical main dining room, adorned with palm frond wall coverings, is really not to be missed.
We caught up with Muñoz to chat about his unique culinary vision, and he was kind enough to slip us the recipes for the recipes for his own pisco sour cocktail, and Peruvian Essential Ceviche.
What first inspired you to become a chef?
I always had an interest in food, even though my family and relatives are not big gastro-fans. My aptitude to transform ingredients has always been there. I quit university after three years of trying to catch up with my friends in industrial engineering. From there I followed my feelings of becoming a chef, and I turned from being the last at university class to being the first at culinary school.
What unique Peruvian influences are you bringing to the culinary scene in New York?
Peruvian gastronomy is a multicultural mixture expression, and we have brought some of our most iconic techniques to recreate our beloved street food heroes and traditions for Popular. We have a whole ceviche program that will change and adapt seasonally to the produce and ingredients. Some of our favorite techniques can be seen in our anticuchos, wok saltados, papa huancaina and rellena, as well as our a fantastic Pisco Bar program.
What are some of your favorite ingredients?
I love to work with fish, seafood, beef, selecting the best quality and building my menu based on the seasonality of different fruits and vegetables.
What are some of your signature dishes that you are bringing over from Astrid y Gastón?
In Peru, it was a different scenario and moment. But the amount of care and dedication in every dish is something that remains and something that I translate to the whole team.
What makes for the best Peruvian ceviche?
The versatility of a Peruvian Ceviche comes from its simplicity, from a basic and essential recipe you can explore and make your own versions of. The most important thing to have in mind is to find the balance on the flavor and textures. Acidity should be there but never overpowering, saltiness needs to be there to enhance the dish, spiciness just enough to bring up the aromas, and temperature – it is really important to serve any ceviche cold. With this in mind you can add different seafood, work with blue or white fish, algae, vegetables and even fruits. Master the basics and then be wild and explore.
Chef Diego Muñoz’ Exclusive Recipes for the Pisco Sour and Peruvian Essential Ceviche
2oz Pisco puro Quebranta
.75oz lime juice
.75oz simple syrup
.50oz egg white
3 drops Angostura bitter (for garnish)
Dry shake first, add Ice and shake, double strain into a beautiful glass, finish with 3 drops of angostura bitters
Peruvian Essential Ceviche
½ lb white meat fish filets (snapper, grouper, flounder), skinned, deboned, cut into ¾-inch cubes and kept cold
½ tablespoon fine sea salt
1 cup lime juice, freshly squeezed, but not pressing too hard
2 tsp fresh red chilis, deveined and deseeded, cut into small dice
½ red onion, sliced, and placed in ice water
1 ice cube
In a cold mixing bowl, place the fish cubes, season them with salt and stir. Add the diced chilis, being mindful of the level of spiciness. Add the lime juice and stir again, adding an ice cube to reduce the acidity of the lime juice a bit. Add the sliced onions and stir gently. Check the seasoning again and it is ready to serve.
1 sweet potato, cooked and sliced
½ cup simple syrup
1 star anise
4 cilantro sprigs with leaves, 4 inches long
4 fresh lettuce leaves
4 red chilis, with veins and seeds, finely sliced
Bring the simple syrup to a boil, along with the star anise. Slice the sweet potato and add it to the syrup to absorb the sweetness. Allow it to cool, then chill. Place the cilantro sprigs in ice water to revive them. Wash the lettuce leaves and trim them to fit into serving bowls.
Assembly of the Dish
Take 4 bowls and place a lettuce leaf in each. Ladle a serving of the ceviche on top of each leaf, add sweet potato slices and top with cilantro and red chili slices to the preferred level of spiciness.