Botany has classified nori as a type of seaweed, but Japanese cuisine has turned it into the essential ingredient that holds everything together. Of course, I am talking about sushi, and more specifically about the Japanese-style of sushi known as makizushi, where the rolled sushi is wrapped by nori. Western-style sushi, on the other hand, uses nori to contain the core of the roll while it leaves the rice to be the outer layer. This is called uramaki or ‘hidden roll’, a popular example of which is the California roll. But in the heart of San Borja, Nori is a sushi bar specializing in the American style of sushi-ing and mixing it up a little with the local flavors of Peruvian cooking and some elements of international cuisines.
(Photo: Caroll Ortiz/Living in Peru)
Before sampling the uramaki, we get a taste of their Gyoza, deep-fried dumplings filled with ground meat and served with a dip of soybean sauce, sesame oil, and minced ají limo. The mild spiciness is just what we need to awaken all our senses and prepare them for the flavors that will be coming next.
This is when our eyes get wide open and become aware of how busy the tables around us are getting. We got here just ten minutes before opening time, and now the place is packed. Looks like the public already knows where to get good sushi for their money.
Enters Kani Furai, with a core of crab meat and cream cheese, where the rice has been sprinkled with tempura chips providing a great texture to the top of the rolls. Another order of rolls on the sweet side is Kori Challma. Here creativity has yielded a good fusion of Japanese sushi and Andean ingredients. Kori Challma features smoked trout and avocado, with cream cheese in the center. The outer layer of rice has been bathed in a sweet passion fruit sauce yet the smoky tones prevail in the aftertaste.
To finish the sweet streak, we sample the Dragón rolls. These are filled with fish tempura and cream cheese and topped with shredded yams marinated in passion fruit. But enough pleasing our sweet tooth, it is time for the deep flavors.
(Photo: Caroll Ortiz/Living in Peru)
We begin with the Strogonoff rolls. Beef tempura and cream cheese is the heart of the matter here, whereas the topping is the classic beef strogonoff. Perhaps the rice out-tastes the topping, but the end is well-balanced. No sweetness this time but we welcome the savory flavor in our mouths.
Strogonoff rolls (Photo: Caroll Ortiz/Living in Peru)
Moving on to the Aile, prawn tempura and cream cheese inside the nori ring. This gets wrapped by rice and topped with a thin cut of avocado, a spicy sauce, and some tenkasu (crunchy little bits of deep fried tempura batter). This is definitely more in our comfort zone, in spite of how good everything else was.
And now my favorite: El Ché. These are intensely-flavored rolls of beef tempura and cream cheese. The rice this time wears a thin blanket of beef, topped in time with chimichurri (an Argentinian-style garlic sauce often paired with asado). The texture, the character of the garlic, and the tenderness of the beef cuts make me believe it is possible to find exceptional quality sushi at an affordable price in Latin America. Even at an all-you-can-eat sushi bar.
El Che, topped with chimichurri (Photo: Caroll Ortiz/Living in Peru)
With these flavors and these approaches to the classic Japanese staple food, it is almost impossible not to indulge. Besides, there is no such thing as too much food when you can order a whole teapot of good green tea.
The Japanese meant for their food to be wholesome and nurturing. Here at Nori Sushi Bar, you can always find those two elements are easy to reach if you close your eyes to the traffic out the window and open your senses to the flavors, colors, and textures on your table. Ours has just been replenished with some Chicken Teriyaki. Wholesomeness and nourishment are back. And we will be, too.
Nori Sushi Bar
Av. San Luis 2145, San Borja
Monday-Thursday: 12:30pm – 11:00pm
Friday-Saturday: 12:30pm – 11:30pm
Sunday: 12:30pm – 11:00pm
Check Facebook and website for special offers and prices of all-you-can-eat weekday deals, or call 296-9310.