First Look: Chef Stuart Cameron serves up ceviche and good times at new Peruvian spot Mira


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Arroz Con Mariscos at Mira restaurant.

Image: Tiffany Leigh

Located at Wellington and Spadina is a new restaurant called Mira — but you'll have to find it first. The Peruvian eatery, which opened in February, is tucked down an alleyway with a small sign that bears it name, along with a secluded entryway. The hidden element was no accident, according to Hanif Harji, CEO of ICONINK. In fact, it was an homage to the Miraflores district of Lima.

“This is a passion project at least three years in the making between myself and Chef Stuart Cameron," says Harji. "In our travels, we found that Miraflores was this hip cool area (not unlike the west end of Toronto) that always had these nooks and alleyways that allowed for unique discoveries. Turn a corner and you find a lively bar or hideaway restaurant. We wanted to recreate that here.”

In fact, this was once Harji's nightclub F-Stop, transformed into an intimate restaurant. Gone are the club beats, replaced by 80s and 90s hits. “In Lima, when we were bar hopping, we’d notice a slew of these old-school songs being played by cover bands.” It was another takeaway experience from their travels that Harji wanted to bring to Torontonians. Moreover, the space is conducive to relaxation; “If you don’t want to go home or to a bar after dinner, we’ve set the mood so you feel welcomed to stick around and enjoy a late evening here,” he says.

Step inside and you’re immediately greeted by the open kitchen. There’s no grand reception area; in fact, it almost feels like the backdoor entrance. A glance around the intimate space and you’re struck by the cozy moodiness and warmth. A deep ocean blue acts as the backdrop; along with exposed brick and herringbone flooring, large distressed mirrors line the wall and are etched with pinup girls and tattoo icons.


(IMAGE: TIFFANY LEIGH)

 


(IMAGE: TIFFANY LEIGH)

 

“It was something we noticed when we were in Miraflores — the art and edginess, and so we wanted to bring a taste of that inspiration to the restaurant,” Harji explains. Serving dinner seven days a week, the main dining room seats 61 and is a mixture of tables, high tops, and banquettes along the back; the small outdoor patio which set to open in April, seats 24. There’s also a semi-private dining area for 14 guests.

Drinks are spearheaded by bar manager Alex Bohman, who takes a thoughtful approach to crafting all 15 of cocktails on offer. Peru is the overarching inspiration but sips hone in on complementing flavour profiles of Chef Stuart’s dishes. For him, it doesn’t just end with flavour. He’s also cognizant of temperature and viscosity. “Peruvian cuisine is very delicate and typically you find a lot of brash, bold elements in cocktails  but here it’s matching the needs of a dish; for instance, making drinks that pair well with things like ceviche.”


(IMAGE: TIFFANY LEIGH)

 

Presentation is minimalist in an homage to Nikkei cuisine in Peru. The Garden Cocktail ($15) is exemplary of this — it sees coconut oil infused pisco with sake, maraschino and bitters; with a rounded body, it has delicate sweetness and a clean finish. For something with a bit of bite that would pair well with proteins such as rib eye and suckling pig, opt for the Victoria ($15). A pisco base sees splashes of fresh lime and pineapple juices, then a delicate measure of house spiced pineapple infused honey gets added along with aji amarillo puree; the drink is finished with a sprinkling of crushed red peppercorn — it’s like getting a sip of spicy sunshine. For something fruity, fun and a touch sweeter, try the Villa Maria ($15): vanilla liqueur, lime, sugar and bitters gets added to a strawberry infused pisco base. The fruity finish on this pretty-in-pink drink lingers on the tongue.

The approach to food mirrors that of the drinks at Mira. Having successfully created menus for Patria and Byblos (in Toronto and Miami), Executive Chef Stuart Cameron is able to successfully weave the soul of a global cuisine into the Toronto landscape. The seasonal menu and concept is indicative of this approach and proven to be a successful formula. “It’s my interpretation of Peruvian food — some dishes honour authenticity, whereas others are the tastes and memories from my travels to that country that I wanted to showcase on the menu. I don’t think you could ever say you're truly Peruvian unless you’re eating dishes in that country, so for me, the foundation is Peruvian (where I source ingredients from that country directly) but offering my modern interpretations on it."

The menu is meant to be shared and is divided into appetizers, ceviches, meat and seafood, and sides. A few of the features include Concha ($18) where plump bay scallops are seasoned and draped with atomic butter (a mixture made from parmesan cheese, pisco, aji amarillo pepper, butter and lime), then blitz cooked under the broiler. Chef explains that it is something you’d typically enjoy in Lima.


(IMAGE: TIFFANY LEIGH)

 


Chef Stuart Cameron (IMAGE: TIFFANY LEIGH)

 

Mango Ceviche ($14) is a vegan and vegetarian dish; it features gooseberry tiger’s milk with mango cubes piled on top. There’s a sweet and tart interplay between the citrus and the sweet fruit (which is sourced from Peru). The dish is finished with wafer-thin radishes, pomegranate seeds and crispy mango. One of the classics is the Mira Ceviche ($17) featuring tender pieces of fluke, leche de tigre (tiger’s milk), criollo, fat crunchy concha corn, cubes of sweet potato, and finished with chive oil. Arroz Con Mariscos ($28) is a hearty dish; bomba rice is turned a midnight hue thanks to the use of squid ink, it’s fashioned into a crispy rice cake and topped with plump seared scalloped and open-faced snap peas.


(IMAGE: TIFFANY LEIGH)

 

Dessert will please the palate and the stomach; portions are generous and chocoholics will enjoy Amore Con Coco ($12) which spotlights Peruvian chocolate from different regions in various sweet manifestations. Appearing as a pebbly stone slab is a dark chocolate delice base sprayed with black chocolate. It's stacked with cubed mousses and the plate is then scattered with chocolate-coated amaranth; nestled in the centre is a quenelle of vanilla ice cream, topped by a delicate, crispy chocolate rope.

Mira, 420A Wellington Street West, 647-951-3331


(IMAGE: TIFFANY LEIGH)

 


(IMAGE: TIFFANY LEIGH)

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