There's not an empanada in sight at Ekeko, South Yarra's newest restaurant and one of few in Melbourne dedicated to Peruvian cuisine.
Skipping dishes that commonly crop up on Latin American menus, former Harley House chefs Luciano Vanini and Jose Narvaez are going heavy on ceviche (the menu offers six variations on the citrus-infused raw seafood dish) and celebrating Peru's diverse communities.
There are anticuchos (beef heart skewers) dating back to the arrival of African slaves in Peru in the 16th century; sashimi in ponzu leche de tigre inspired by Japanese Peruvians, known as Nikkei; lomo saltado, a beef stir-fried Chiga dish that fuses Chinese cooking and Peruvian traditions; and Amazonian swordfish wrapped in banana leaf.
"We know our roots. We don't want to be just Latin American food," says Vanini.
Along with a third partner, the chefs put their savings into getting the restaurant off the ground during COVID-19, taking over the former Mopho Canteen beside Cosi on Toorak Road and designing the fit-out themselves.
Ekeko's entrance is dominated by a high-energy open kitchen and what's been dubbed "Lima summer", a lounge area decked out in emerald tiles.
The restaurant seats 72, with room for 40 in the courtyard, which features murals of Peruvian Carnival and the restaurant's namesake god of abundance, painted by Melbourne-based Colombian street artist Camilo Delgado (aka Refuz).
Amazonian fruit pulp is imported to shake and stir 10 pisco cocktails, including a chicha morada (purple corn) sour and a spiced chancaca (sugarcane) sour.
Open Tue 4pm-11pm, Wed noon-11pm, Thu-Sat noon-1am, Sun noon-10pm.
74 Toorak Road, South Yarra, 03 7306 7643, ekeko.com.au