Art is an organic way of living. When you do some form of art, your sensory organs are active at all times, whether you are engaged in an artistic activity at the moment or not. It might be the tip of your fingertips drumming on the steering wheel or your eyes discovering mountainous landscapes and heavenly faces in cloud formations. It could be your ears listening for the musical pattern in the radio host’s speech; or perhaps it is your taste buds remembering flavors from your life’s milestones while your nose sculpts new shapes with the aromas flashing back in your imagination. The latter is the only way I can picture a chef’s mind at work, especially, when that chef used to be a painting student, like Arlette Eulert.
Defining her culinary approach as Creative Cuisine, Eulert is the symphony conductor at Matria. While she draws up seasonal menus maintaining some flagship dishes (ones she “can’t take off the list or habitués will get disappointed”), she sticks to the use of seasonal ingredients and polychromatic platings where every element is a brushstroke in a flavorful canvas. In spite of her young age, Arlette has staged different kitchens under famous chefs such as Rafael Osterling, to name one.
(Photo: AmaraPhotos/Living in Peru)
But Matria’s approach is respectful not only of off-season species —they work with sustainable fishing co-ops, for instance— but also of patrons’ dietary needs. The list includes options for gluten-sensitive, lactose-intolerant, vegan, and vegetarian lifestyles. Plus, you can order half a serving of anything at half the price.
Stirring up an appetite with Matria Camomila and Bloody Matria (Photo: AmaraPhotos/Living in Peru)
The current Spring menu gives us Arlette’s first pointillism piece: My Tuna Tartare, a complex demonstration of Arlette’s use of color. The textures are robust like impasto, and the minced radish plays the role of highlights. Our chosen drink is a Bloody Matria with enough intensity and spiciness to enjoy until the last sip.
Still with the starters and we have already been wowed by the grilled scallops with yuzu sauce and the grilled scallops with yellow curry butter and crispy quinoa. The shellfish watercolors are still wet when we taste the pisco-sautéed mussels. The sauce is again so creamy and savory we had them in half a sitting.
The fine cooking exhibition continues with the Spaghettini Nero Bombay Style. A light sweetness acting as a primer for the palate, the flavors are layered as each bite includes pasta, jumbo shrimps, and cashew nuts.
Savory pasta tossed with shrimp and cashews (Photo: AmaraPhotos/Living in Peru)
Come to cleanse our taste buds is the Matria Camomila with its citrus, bitter, gentle, and refreshing notes.
That was indeed necessary as now we prepare to walk down the alley reserved for Matria’s masterpieces. First, we get a taste of the Wild Black Rice. This main dish comes topped with steamed, mild-flavored fish wrapped with collard greens. There are black scallops providing color and supporting flavor whereas the chewy, crunchy texture belongs to the rice. The highlights this time come from pickled onion petals; a palate cleanser per se.
Next is the Chupe de Camarones (shrimp chowder), a marvelous soup conceived to taste like shrimp and take you for a ride. It is definitely one of the best in town as it respects the traditional Peruvian recipe. The flavor palette is made up this time by a generous amount of jumbo shrimp, peas and beans, and some local cheese. There is also a poached egg in the soup, and that makes me want to try something. Scooping some boiled rice and corn kernels with my spoon, dipping them into the soup, tearing the egg membrane to get the runny yolk, spooning some of the soup, making sure I get all of that together, and finally tasting. Wonderful. At this moment, the flavors were building a playground in my mouth.
Creamy shrimp chupe, a classic inspired by Arequipa (Photo: AmaraPhotos/Living in Peru)
We are almost done, but before it ends let us sample the Pork Confit with Black Beans. The caramelized and roasted flavors and aromas sketch up a picture that needs no more words. Except maybe for the superb tenderness of the pork and the little segments of tangelo —another great way to cleanse the palate— creating a sensory chiaroscuro.
Our magnificent send-off cue is a flight of gelato. Tasting like the real thing and made with the real thing, these scoops of gelato are just like the signature every confident painter writes on a finished fresco. Apple, mango, and tumbo are just what we need to call it a day.
Artisanal gelato to top off the meal (Photo: AmaraPhotos/Living in Peru)
Visiting Matria, you will find the décor is in keeping with Arlette’s contemporary cuisine. Her cooking style is faithful to the way she sees her surroundings and how she wants to interact with them. Sharing it with us is what drives her to innovate and change her lists. Try a bit of her inspiration, and let the colors walk you through. If you need further reason to go, every Saturday in December from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm brunch will be served. Great coffee by Harrison Neira, high-end baked goods by Renato Peralta, and live music by a French accordionist sound more than inviting. Add Matria’s food and you will be on your way.
Painting with flavors, aromas, and textures is easier done than said when you have the talent to make food happen. Take a self-guided tour or let the waiting staff lead you through. Either way, the tasting snapshots will remind you: art is best enjoyed with a spoon, fork, and knife.
General Manuel Mendiburu 823, Miraflores
Tuesday-Saturday: 1 pm – 4 pm, 8 pm – 11 pm, Sunday: 1 pm – 5 pm
Brunch every Saturday: 10 am -1 pm
Starters: S/ 31 – 42
Pastas: S/ 38 – 48
Fresh Catch of the Day: S/ 53 – 58
Meat Dishes: S/ 48 – 53