First Look: Kay Pacha serves up cosmopolitan Peruvian cuisine at St Clair West


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IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI

Those who frequented Rush Lane on Queen West won’t be strangers to chef Elias Salazar’s food — he was operating his pop-up Limon Modern Peruvian Kitchen before opening up Kay Pacha in the space that was formerly Catch.

While Salazar received former culinary training from the likes of the Culinary Institute of America and Liaison College, “everything I know is from the women in my family,” he says, reminiscing of the fond memories of his 10-year- old self in the cocina with his grandmother. “Everything is their flavours with a modern spin,” he adds.


IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI

Salazar and business partner Ricardo Chico met while working at King West hotspot Lavelle. The duo is a powerhouse of both front and back of house. The pair hope to bring “modern and elevated Peruvian cuisine” to Midtown to mirror the culinary trend that’s going on in Peru.

Peruvian food is “inherently cosmopolitan cuisine,” says Salazar. “Unlike other parts of Latin America where you’re constrained by traditional cooking styles,” Peru has an openness to immigration which draws influences from Japanese, Chinese and Italian cuisine. The country’s diverse landscape from the Amazon jungle to the coast also factors in to the diversity of the food here.


IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI

At Kay Pacha, “there’s an honesty in the diversity of everything,” says Chico. Like the Causa de Cangrejo, a riff on a traditional potato-based staple that is infused with squid ink, topped with Dungeness crab with a yuzu mayonnaise, avocado, Aji Amarillo sauce, and quail egg. The Tallarin Saltado Kay Pacha is an Italian-Peruvian dish that sees fresh linguini topped with striploin and tiger shrimp, sweet peppers, tomatoes, with a soy-vinegar glaze.

While ceviche is a trans-Latin American cusine, the Tiradito is another raw fish dish which is unique to Peru by way of Japan. The Tiradito Nikkei features chunks of yellowfin tuna with Japanese cucumber, radish, nori and passionfruit-infused Nikkei sauce. Be sure to pair that with one of Will Publow’s (Rush Lane) delicious liquid concoctions.


IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI

There’s a an extensive pisco menu made with premium Pisco Porton from Peru. And while Salazar serves up his menu without modifications, by contrast, Publow can have some fun at the bar. There is no other cocktail list aside from its signature pisco offerings, but all it takes is a brief 30 second exchange of information before a spirit forward Vieux Carre shows up in front of me, playing to my love of boozy, brown liquor-based cocktails.

Should you happen to leave room for dessert, there is plenty to indulge in. Try the Picarones — squash and sweet potato donuts rolled in cane sugar and doused in a fig leaf syrup —or the Tiramisu + Lucuma, which combines the eponymous nectarine-avocado hybrid super fruit with ladyfingers soaked in Peruvian chocolate, espresso, pisco, mascarpone and lucuma ice cream.


IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI

The room itself is old meets new. An arched, dark, wooden ceiling blends with Emerald-green banquettes and Peruvian street art in the kitchen. It’s a breath of fresh air for Midtown, with the feeling of being downtown without ever leaving the neighbourhood. And the colours that show up on each plate are just as vibrant as the people and the cuisine it represents.

Kay Pacha, 744 St Clair Avenue West, 416-658-0568


IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI


IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI


IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI

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Yvonne is a freelance food and drink writer by night and PR Manager at TouchBistro by day. She's always in search of delicious — decor and service be damned, food is king. Follow her @life_of_y.

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