Ever tried Peruvian purple corn, jicama, aji chillies or prickly pears? Stay tuned. Nuevo Latino restaurant Lady Carolina will be billing ingredients such as these when it opens in Brunswick East. British chef Paul Wilson, who's having a passionate, south-of-the-border epicurian love affair (he recently published Cantina: Recipes from a Mexican Kitchen) intends to give some lesser-known produce star billing at the ambitious 160-seat restaurant.
Expect creative takes on Peru's national dish, ceviche, perhaps involving wild hibiscus and finger lime; inventive salads using pulses, grains, jicama and cassava; and lechon asado, suckling pig smoked over aromatic wood.
Out back, a lively bar with a separate open-air kitchen will deliver Latino street food (think soft-shell tacos, bao-like flatbreads and Cuban sandwiches), with lashings of rum and pisco cocktails and canned beer.
"The menu will be very unstructured," says Wilson. "You can come in and order three things or 10 things. It's not a new style of eating – it's something we've all embraced over the last five years in Melbourne."
Owner Alby Tomassi, who's also involved with Feast of Merit cafe in Richmond and the YGAP charity, says a share of the profits from the business will help the homeless through Pay a Sack Forward.
Lady Carolina, at 175-177 Lygon Street, Brunswick East, is tipped for a July opening.