First Bites

Coya in Brickell: An Incan Palace with Peruvian Food for the Masses (Photos)

After much anticipation and a soft-opening phase that turned into a part-time shudder, Coya in Brickell is open for sustainable business (except on Sundays when it closes for rest day). The product of restaurateur Arjun Waney (responsible for bringing Zuma to the world), Coya is a London-based ode to Peruvian concept.

The gargantuan space is decked out in gold (a tribute to the Incan golden age) and actually resembles an Incan palace. There's a private club lounge where members can store their bottles and cigars, as well as attend exclusive signature events that blend live art, music, and culture for a lofty annual price.

For the rest of us common folk, however, the pisco bar or dining room will have to suffice. There you can try one of their 20 house infused pisco's chockfull with natural fruits and spices such as black currant, aji panca, and cinnamon orange, or nosh dishes that marry Peru's indigenous and scared ingredients with modern, fresh approaches.

New Times was invited in for taste of the award-winning (it earned the coveted London Lifestyle Award for Restaurant of the Year 2014) Latin American concept's first U.S. outpost.

Here are some examples of the chow.
Cocktails are divided by a plethora of categories, from the "el espiritu del pisco" (spirit of pisco infusions) to Coya signatures by flavor profile: classics with strength; light and mild; rich and bold; and hot, spice, and smoked. We sipped on the krack N' spice from the rich and bold section. In it: Kraken Black spiced rum, ginger, lemon juice, agave nectar, and pineapple ($15). 
Tuna nikkei tiradito bathes sliced yellowfin ahi tuna in ginger chili salsa ($14). Other iterations include swordfish with dashi, truffle oil, and chives, as well as salmon with with aji mirasol, quinoa, and onion escabeche. 
No visit to a Peruvian joint wouldn't be complete without some ceviche. Coya's got plentiful of options including snapper with truffles, ponzu, and chives; salmon nikei with celery juice, ginger, daikon, and wasabi tobiko; Mediterranean sea bass with red onions, sweet potato, and white corn. We sampled the dorada criollo ($12) that tosses sea bream, aji amarillo, crispy corn, and cilantro. One of native Peruvian's favorite things to chow on are anticuchos (who doesn't like skewers?). Cooked on a charcoal grill and seasoned with Peruvian spices, they range from tiger prawns with aji panca and chives to forest mushrooms with aji panca and parsley. The one must-try, however, is the "traditional", which put ox heart seasoned in aji rocotto and parsley on a stick ($7).  
A veggie section lets you gets you daily dose of greens in a delectable way. Think shitake mushrooms in soy tamarind butter, sprouting brocoli with chili and garlic butter, and Peruvian asparagus with tomato dressing ($9). While Coya gets points for originality (when have you seen asparagus with tomato dressing) it falls flat in execution. Although not a veggie, the patatas bravas a la peruana (crispy potatoes with spicy tomato and huancaina sauce) jumped off the menu. Maybe try that instead.
Corn salad cooked in a Josper grill tosses the yellow specks in red chilies ($12). 
Corn fed baby chicken with aji panca and cilantro is cooked on the same special grill (Josper) that seals food with a nice char and smoky flavor ($25). Although definitely not one of Coya's more exciting or innovative dishes, it's representative for what the restaurant is aiming to do: make Peruvian food enjoyable to the masses by dumbing it down. 
Hence the salmon, aji panca, and cream cheese roll ($11). We're pretty sure there's nothing authentically Peruvian about cream cheese in sushi, even if you throw in some aji panca. Still, this is sure to be a bona fide hit at Coya amongst the American population who love the dairy spread in anything and everything. 
Peruvian's have about 3,000 potato varieties, so it only makes sense that you'd get to try some. You can do so with the iron pot, which includes Peruvian dried potatoes, butternut squash, and a poached egg ($19). 
Fortunato No. 4 chocolate cake with roasted white chocolate ice cream ($11) was the best thing we ate. Probably thanks to the rare Peruvian cocoa beans that make the 68-percent bittersweet Fortunato No. 4. 

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Carla Torres found her inner gourmand voice while writing for Miami New Times in 2012. She has also worked with Travel & Leisure and Ocean Drive and today is involved with a tech startup. She balances passions for wine, sweets, yoga, and kayaking.