Restaurant review: Kay Pacha

This new Peruvian restaurant on St. Clair West is a well-executed demonstration of the cuisine's Spanish, Italian and Japanese influences. 

What’s the vibe?

After a series of successful pop-ups and private events under the name Limon Modern Peruvian Kitchen, chef Elias Salazar’s creative Peruvian cuisine has found a permanent home at Kay Pacha. Salazar, a Peruvian native, moved to the St. Clair West area with his family in the 1990s, making the neighbourhood a fitting location for Toronto to get its long-overdue introduction to well-executed Peruvian fare.

Furnished with vintage Hoffman chairs, simple quartz tables and the bar from the seafood restaurant that previously occupied the space, Kay Pacha’s understated decor keeps the focus on the food. Barely a month after opening, it’s already generating enough hype to draw diners from all corners of the city.

What to drink?

Portón, an imported Peruvian pisco, is the foundation for Kay Pacha’s stellar cocktail menu. Pisco is an unaged brandy produced in Peru and Chile and its light, herbal flavour makes it a lovely base for cocktails.

The restaurant’s signature cocktail is the Purple Rain, a mix of pisco, lemon, sugar, egg whites, angostura bitters and chicha – a complexly-flavoured Peruvian drink made from purple corn that Salazar produces in house. The Nori Not Sorry tips its hat to the Japanese influences in Peruvian cuisine with wasabi nori syrup and a dried nori garnish, while the Chilcano incorporates Peru’s famous soft drink, Inca Kola.

Wines stray from Peruvian boundaries, with around half a dozen whites and reds from California, Italy and France available by the glass (and a larger selection by the bottle).

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What to eat

Salazar’s take on Peruvian cuisine strikes a pleasing balance between traditional and modern. Peru’s cuisine has been shaped by centuries of immigration from Spain, Italy, China, Japan and West Africa, so you’ll notice influences from these diverse regions throughout the menu.

We started with the tamalito verde, a soft cake made from Peruvian choclo corn infused with cilantro that had a lovely, earthy flavour. Order at least two of the Concha a la Parmesana (it's too good to be shared), a jumbo sea scallop covered in aji amarillo and pisco butter, parmigiano cheese and panko that’s baked golden.

Causita, a layered potato dish, comes in vegetarian and meat varieties. We tried the Causita estilo Lima, a colourful and creamy combo of pulled organic chicken breast, yuzu mayonnaise, whipped potatoes, avocado and tomato topped with a quail egg. There are numerous wonderful types of ceviche to try and, for dessert, go for the Alfajores, which sees gooey dollops of dulce de leche sandwiched between Peruvian-style shortbread cookies.

Dinner and drinks for two: $120

744 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-658-0568,