Unassuming 1111 Peruvian Bistro quietly opened last year in the shadow of the Metromover’s Brickell neighborhood stop, but its fresh, progressive menu establishes it as an informal, affordable equal to high-end Peruvian standouts La Mar at Mandarin Oriental and Coya Miami.
Together, the three restaurants comprise an impressive triumvirate that secures Brickell as Miami’s beating Incan heart.
Peru’s much-talked-about emerging fare, nueva comida, puts a more sophisticated spin on traditional dishes while continuing to diversify one of the world’s most multicultural cuisines. At 1111, some of the latest evolutions occur courtesy of globe-trotting Peruvian chef Diego Muñoz, who without fanfare opened the casual spot with restaurateur Martin Monteverde and partner Bernhard Scholl in early 2016.
Muñoz’s up-and-coming reputation is bigger than the bistro’s ground-floor cranny in the Axis Brickell condo building, formerly occupied by Bistro BE and BoxPark. With a large-screen TV behind the same sleek bar and Eames-style chairs around the same dozen tables, the only hint of change in the nondescript space is a black-and-white mural above the open kitchen. The graphic art depicts Muñoz’s travels, which won the El Bulli alumnus praise last year from New York Times Magazine as one of four nomadic international chefs to watch.
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Muñoz’s compelling menu is divided into 11 starters, eight raw bar choices and 10 entrees that party around Peru’s incredible biodiversity. Seafood is fried, baked, steamed, marinated as ceviche in tangy citrus and cut sashimi-style into raw tiradito. The country’s 5,000-year-old bond with potatoes is showcased in causa dishes that top seasoned mashed yellow potatoes with king crab, poached chicken and tempura corvina. Shoe-stringed sweet potatoes web across sushi; fried yuca strips for dipping perch on the side of steamed mussels in tamarind-aioli sauce.
There are anticuchos — skewers of grilled octopus and veal hearts — along with chaufa fried rice entrees, but these traditional dishes turn refined with layers of complex flavors and a precise attention to detail. In the lomo saltado, for instance, buttery tenderloin is tossed with lightly fried yellow potatoes, snappy red onions, cherry tomatoes and a perfectly balanced glaze of oyster sauce, vinegar and blended chiles. It’s served with fluffy rice pilaf on the side and two fried eggs on top. It’s one of the best versions of the stir fry I’ve had in Miami.
Top main dish honors, however, go to the confit duck, a classic from Peru’s North Coast that is served here with a hearty helping of cilantro rice and an avocado salad with slivers of watermelon radish and onion. An amarillo pepper vinaigrette adds sweet tangy heat to the plate when it’s poured tableside over the slow-cooked tender duck leg.
Pescado a lo macho, a thick seafood mix of corvina, large shrimp, calamari and mussels in a pepper-tomato sauce, also was a favorite. It’s served with a side of creamy rice juane steamed in a heliconia leaf and topped with a fine cilantro-tomato salsa.
Snappy starters and crudo bar plates that pop are a delicate contrast with the hearty, big-flavored depths of entrees. A complimentary bowl of toasted cancha corn invites nibbling while you ponder.
Elegant chilled scallops in their shells are served on shaved ice and topped with a lime-spiked, crunchy salsa of corn, limo pepper, red onions, cilantro and tomatoes. It’s an alarm clock for every taste bud.
A row of six sashimi-style tuna slices marches across a long, thin platter, with eel sauce and a crown of thin white radish threads. Grab a spoon to get every drop of the tamarind leche de tigre, a tangy, tart “tiger’s milk.”
Our table was not enamored with the soupy rice and purple corn pudding dessert, but chocolate a temperaturas, a log of chilled chocolate mousse with a crunchy, powdery rubble of chocolate chunks, warm chocolate syrup and cocoa-coated twigs of chocolate was pure textural pleasure.
Co-owned by the former proprietors of Trattoria Sole and Mixt Sushi in South Miami, 1111 Peruvian Bistro has casual, at times unpracticed, service by staff who are predominantly Peruvian and knowledgeable about the fare.
Monteverde and Muñoz were childhood classmates in Lima until Monteverde’s family moved to Miami. They reconnected after Muñoz’s parents and two sisters also made Miami home. When he’s not here, head chef Carlos Enriquez capably mans the kitchen.
“It’s a perfect excuse to visit my family. I realize how many Peruvian restaurants there are in Miami, but there is still a gap in the market for an everyday, simple bistro that uses the best quality produce,” Muñoz said from his home in Peru. “I try to go every one to two months to work on the menu, change flavors, look for new vendors.”
Trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Canada, Muñoz apprenticed with legendary Spanish chef Ferran Adrià at El Bulli in 2007. He racked up recognition in the kitchens of Mugaritz in Spain, Bilson’s in Australia, Le Grand Véfour in France and Astrid y Gastón in Peru. Muñoz dedicated 2016 to travel, cooking and collaborating with chefs in Israel, Russia, Macau, Finland, Spain, Denmark and Germany. (He lived Anthony Bourdain’s life without the camera crew.)
In 2017, he plans to “slow down,” spend time with his wife and two young sons in Peru, and work more on 1111 in Miami. He’s considering opening a second South Florida restaurant, and a food truck and sandwich bar in Lima. On Feb. 24, Muñoz appears at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival’s “Best of the Best” tasting at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, at $350 per person.
Want to try his food without the high price or lines? Head to Brickell.
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If You Go
Place: 1111 Peruvian Bistro
Address: 1111 SW First Ave., Suite 106D, Miami (Brickell)
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆(Very Good)
Contact: 786-615-9633, 1111peruvianbistro.com
Hours: Noon-3 p.m. and 6 p.m.-10:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, until 11:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, closed Sunday.
Prices: $10-$16.75 starters, $14.50-$26.50 entrees, $9-$11 desserts
FYI: VS, MC, AmEx; full bar; street parking or within walking distance of Metromover Brickell Station
What The Stars Mean: 1 (Poor) 1.5 (Fair) 2 (OK) 2.5 (Good) 3 (Very Good) 3.5 (Excellent) 4 (Exceptional)