The whispers started last spring: A tidy storefront in Southwest’s Lair Hill hood serves killer ceviche, with mounds of pristine fish marinated in electric lime leche de tigre, adorned with the crunch-pop of Peruvian corn nuts and fat choclo kernels. But that was just the opening volley from Lima-born chef Jose Luis de Cossio, whose MO of marrying Peruvian go-to’s (sweet potatoes, Andean beans, a rainbow of chile peppers) to Portland farmers market finds yields some of the city’s most wildly plated, out-of-the-box dishes.
When the scruffy, soulful chef’s pescatarian and vegetarian ideas work, they soar—like spiced skewers of Hawaiian opah, expertly grilled and arranged in a sunset landscape of miso-enriched spuds, spicy watermelon, and rocoto chile swoops. Or humble quinoa enlivened with puffed corn and shreds of radicchio and squash, every bite punctuated by a sweet gush of wine grapes and smoldering chiles. Other experiments are utter face-plants: a dish of salty, seedy blueberry sauce with raw salmon looks like a patchwork quilt of corpse flesh. But at Paiche, now serving dinner only, you accept the potholes in the name of progress. A man who proudly tosses off statements like “I believe a salad should be 40 percent quinoa and 60 percent playful things” is a man I want to have dinner with.
(Plus, check out our August 2016 review of Paiche.)