10395 NW 41st, Doral, Miami
(305) 629-2929

At Don Ignacio, the chef and his students do justice to the exquisite Peruvian cuisine with the skills, care and love that they are taught to cook with at the school. A drive worth taking to the Doral area for lunch, dinner and eventually a cooking class!















by Simone Zarmati Diament

I never thought I’d drive all the way to Doral for lunch. And I never thought I’d find in the sprawling city of Miami, of all places, a kitchen-incubator for young talents in authentic Peruvian cuisine.

I’m talking about the restaurant school of the Don Ignacio Culinary Arts School in Miami. A branch of one of the most important universities of Peru, Universidad San Ignacio de Loyola, the small boutique-like, but highly modern university, not only offers a curriculum taught live by teachers from Peru, France, Spain and the US, but courses in oenology and videoconference classes with chef instructors from the Institut Paul Bocuse in Lyon, France, The Hofmann School of Hospitality in Barcelona, Spain, Don Ignacio in Lima, Peru and Apicius in Florence, Italy.

Expecting a cafeteria-like in-campus restaurant, I was surprised at the décor and at the level of entrepreneurship and professionalism. With a little under 60 students this first year, Don Ignacio trains students individually to taste and appreciate the subtleties of a wide variety of foods, to introduce them to the world of ideas and to develop their palates and service skills. Peruvian cuisine is one of the most varied in the world thanks to its roots in Inca and pre-Colombian cultures, to the Spanish conquest and to the Spanish, African, Cantonese, Japanese and Italian immigrations in the 19th century. The coast of Peru alone counts over two thousand different types of soups! So needless to say, it is a rich and exquisite cuisine that is constantly evolving.

Thanks to Peruvian chef instructor Christian Salinas, this reflects in the food – taste and presentation - at the restaurant. The menu generously lists a short translation of terms.

In Peruvian tradition causa limeña is usually stuffed with poultry, seafood or avocado and tomatoes. At Don Ignacio’s restaurant “Cangrejo Cevichado” or crab salad was served over causa, which according to the “dictionary” is mashed potatoes with oil, lime juice, aji amarillo or yellow peppers paste. The lime-marinated fresh chunks of crab were set terrine-like over the delicious puree with a brush stroke of avocado and huancaína – made with queso freso or fresh cheese, milk and ají Amarillo – sauces on the plate.

Then came a Yuquita frita with lomo saltado and salsa anticuchera. Grated yucca thickened with Serrano cheese is formed into a cylinder, fried to a crisp and topped with a stir-fry of tenderloin of angus beef, caramelized onions and red peppers. A marvelous contrast of textures perfectly combined into a classical Peruvian dish.

Tacu Tacu, one of the simplest and tastiest Peruvian dishes, is made with sautéed beans and rice seasoned with onions, garlic and hot peppers and is usually a side for beef. “It can be made with any type of beans,” said Peruvian consultant Marcos Rodriguez with whom I was sharing this lunch. Chef Salinas’ take on tacu tacu was a slow “sous vide” cooked calamari tubes – some of the most tender calamari I’ve had lately – cut in half and stuffed with green pea tacu tacu and shrimp and set over a bean tacu tacu and macho sauce – made with shrimp stock and tomatoes.

While Tuna Tataki - slabs of black and white sesame crusted high grade tuna slightly seared and set over mirin and soy-steamed baby vegetables and sprinkled with crispy dough strips – was adapted from the Japanese side of Peruvian cuisine, chef Salinas recurred to the best of the cuisines of world to make the next fabulous dish: Lomo or beef tenderloin marinated in pisco and cooked sous vide to a moist and tender perfection over risotto huancaina made with queso freso cheese – the Peruvian version of mascarpone - and aji amarillo. The small and elongated aromatic pepper – yellow, orange or green - is frequently made into a paste before cooking.

Some of the other dishes of the menu that I plan to taste when I return are the classic ceviche, a fresh fish lime marinated with sweet potatoes, choclo or corn, canchita chullpi (a large corn from the Andes) and of course aji amarillo; an acorn squash soup with aji amarillo chutney; strip loin of beef with locro (a vegetarian squash stew with Andean potatoes and cheese) foam and spiced Peruvian potato salad; pork leg with yucca mousseline and candied watermelon and braised tenderloin with red beet puree and mashed potatoes.

Desserts still have to be perfected presentation-wise, but the plain arroz con leche or rice pudding in a martini glass is tasty and well made and so are other Peruvian-inspired desserts such as suspiro limeño – a meringue like cake with dulce de leche and syrup - and chocolate mousse.

At Don Ignacio, the chef and his students do justice to the exquisite Peruvian cuisine with the skills, care and love that they are taught to cook with at the school. A drive worth taking to the Doral area for lunch, dinner and eventually a cooking class!

Don Ignacio Culinary Arts School Restaurant
Doral, Miami

Address: 10395 NW 41st, Doral, Miami
Phone: (305) 629-2929
Hours: Monday through Saturday, closed Sundays
Lunch, 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Dinner, 6 to 10 p.m.
Wine: Small selection
Prices: Appetizers $8; entrees $16-$21
Ambiance: Sophisticated Restaurant School
Cuisine: Peruvian
Service: Excellent
Credit cards: All