Tuesday, August 1, 2017

TONO Cevicheria: Peruvian Food and Cocktails in Singapore

We finally have what looks to be an authentic Peruvian cevicheria for the first time in Singapore. It's TONO Cevicheria at DUO Gallery near Bugis.

TONO means "party" in Peruvian; the stunning dishes, salsa music and cheerful energy of the Latin American staff certainly feel like a party with bold flavours. I love the logo of the fish dancing with the maracas, with a chili in its mouth and big hearts as its scales.

photo courtesy of TONO Cevicheria, credit: daphotographer
TONO is opened by Peruvian chef Daniel Chavez (left) who first came here when Santi opened at Marina Bay Sands. He then went on to open OLA Cocina del Mar at Marina Bay Financial Centre. He and Executive Chef Mario Malvaez (right) serve not just ceviche but a fascinating selection of Peruvian cuisine.

The chefs have all been trained in Lima, Peru. They bring in Peruvian ingredients like the chilies that you can't get here, but also source sustainable seafood such as line-caught fish from New Zealand. The kitchen will use local or regional ingredients where it makes sense.

Ceviche - Classico
This is their Ceviche Clasico (S$25) which comprises tangy cubes of raw fish, thinly sliced onions, sweet potato chips, lettuce, coriander and chili, all dressed in white tiger's milk. Tremendously appetising, to say the least.

Four basic elements go into ceviche – seafood, citrus (usually lime), chillies, and onions – and the resulting liquid coalesces into Tiger’s Milk, or ‘Le Leche de Tigre’, which cures the seafood.

TONO's white tiger's milk contains housemade fish stock, fish meat and garlic in addition to lime juice.

Ceviche - Nikkei
Ceviche is widely heralded as the national heritage dish of Peru. It is also the most democratic dish there, as cuts across cultures and societies.

This is their Nikkei (S$24) or ceviche with Japanese influences. Peru has had a pre-war influx of Japanese and Chinese immigrants. The Asian community now takes up about 20% of the population.

Sorry you can't really see the fish here but it's raw yellowfin tuna dressed in a tiger's milk that contains soy, mirin, chilies, hondashi, celery, onions, leeks, olive oil and sesame oil. For me, the familiar flavours of Japan lend themselves well to the raw fish dish, so this was mouthwateringly good.

Avocado Teradito
Avocado Tiradito (S$22)
Another dish with Japanese influence. This is purely vegetarian but it tastes so good you won't notice there's no fish or meat. It's avocado, mushrooms, palmito (heart of palm, very common in Amazonian Peru), and sweet potato chips.

Peru has Causas, a dish of whipped potatoes, ají pepper, limes and many different flavourful toppings. The selection includes tantalizing Lima, Solterito (S$22 above) and Escabeche. Crispy white fish is placed above the potato mash, fava beans, canchitas (air-dried Peruvian corn) and feta cheese with tomato and
black olive mayo. I really liked this one. Next time I'm having one all to myself.

More deep-fried goodness comes in the form of Jalea (S$34): Crispy calamari, fish, prawn, octopus, with tapioca chips, salsa criollo, and smoked chilli mayo. This hot dish contrasts beautifully with all the tangy cold raw fish earlier.

This is part of the Picqueos shareable nibbles. Other choices include Anticuchos (marinated chicken or beef skewers, chalaquita sauce and panca chilli); and
Plancha de Mariscos (grilled mixed seafood, red quinoa and huancaina sauce).

Another sharing Picqueos plate is the Chicharron (S$24), a well-executed dish of crispy pork belly, smoky chilli and amarillo sauce. The sauce is designed to be a little spicy but you'll notice more the smoky aspect than significant heat. The white sauce is made with parmesan cheese and almonds.

Amongst the Peruvian specialty mains is this excellent Huaita (S$32): Slow roasted pork, mint and coriander sauce, served with white bean stew and quinoa. This sauce also features smoked chillies to good effect.

The Aguadito (S$28) may not look as vibrant as the other dishes, but the flavours are no less rich. This coriander and cumin soup has a fish stock base and is cooked with long grain rice, crispy fish, marinated chicken, pumpkin and canchitas.

Lomo Saltado
The Lomo Saltados (S$40) is almost Chinese-style in its flavour profile. Dark and light soy feature prominently along with tomatoes, onions and coriander. However the unmistakable sourness of red wine vinegar stops this from being completely Asian. My tastebuds felt a little confused at first. They still voted for the pork dishes in the end.

Arroz Blanco
The beef does go well with the Peruvian-style Garlic Rice (S$4) which I found quite tasty on its own even.

Desserts are pretty low-key.

Alfajores (S$12): Butter cookies with 'Dulce de Leche' filling and mango mousse. If you still yearn for something with a sourish note, the mango here will do the trick. Dulce de Leche is often associated with Argentina, but Peruvians adore this too.

Combinado (S$12): Vanilla rice pudding and 'mazamorra' (made from ground purple corn boiled with pineapple skin, cloves, star anise, apples and quince).

Bomba rice is cooked with milk, cream, sugar, orange peel and vanilla. Some coconut puree is added at the end. These two are placed side by side and then topped with grapes and apple cubes. Reminds me of fruity oats.

TONO has various cocktails including this Chilcano made with Pisco, ginger ale, fresh lime and Amargo Bitters. Ceviche is typically eaten accompanied by Pisco Sour, the representative drink of the cevicheria, made of alcohol, citrus, egg white and Angostura bitters, with a foamy head.

In all, this is a fabulous find. The dishes themselves are conversation worthy and the big-hearted hospitality will make you want to return.

7 Fraser Street
#01-49/50 Duo Galleria
Singapore 189356
Tel: +65 6702 7320 / 9452 1008
Instagram: @tonocevicheria
Email: tono@tono.com.sg
Opening hours
Monday – Friday: Lunch: 12 pm – 2.30 pm (last order); Dinner : 6 pm - 10 pm (last order)
Saturday Dinner: Dinner - 6 pm – 10 pm (last order)
Closed on Saturday lunch & all day Sunday

Many thanks to TONO Cevicheria for the invitation. Photos (except where credited) taken with the Canon EOS M6 kindly loaned by Canon Singapore

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