Down the road from the touristic Plaza Serrano turnabout, SIPAN has taken over the bottom level of the Palermitano Hotel, whipping up Peruvian-Japanese fusion delectables. Upscale Peruvian seemed a bit oxymoronic to me. Dropping a hefty centavo on a plate of fancy ceviche just isn’t right when you can get a version just as delicious for half the price at a more traditional spot. But there’s a reason Sipan is mentioned as having some of the best Peruvian food in the city, so that time had arrived to finally check out what all this Sipan hype was about.
I guess there’s a few things that have made Sipan a Buenos Aires upscale Peruvian restaurant classic: it was originally the creation of masterful Peruvian chef José Castro Mendivil (of Osaka and Mullu), modernizing the way BA did Peruvian cuisine, mixing it with Japanese flavors and offering a full sushi bar with fresh fish and purely Peruvian ingredients, top of the line cocktails, carefully chosen wine list, all with an inventive twist on Peruvian specialties in a playfully designed space.
The menu consists of piqueo-type mini appetizers for sharing, larger sized portion of cold plates (ceviche, tiraditos, sushi rolls), main course larger dishes and desserts. The fresh fish and sushi bar is especially impressive, and they say the high quality fish is delivered straight from Peru.
First thing to be dropped off at the table, a killer one-bite wonder, this crunchy bite sized bouche of wonton greatness was filled with salmon and smothered in a sweet and savory passion fruit tamarind sauce.
I am pretty much addicted to these lil’ crunchy, salty, corny popping canchitas. There ain’t no shame if you want to squeeze it with a lime and eat it with a spoon.
I’d strongly advise to start your meal with a duo of perfect piscos: original pisco and passionfruit maracuyá pisco. Jump on it.
Once you guzzle down your sweet pisco nectar, you’ll need to pair your meal with some vino. What goes better with seafood than a hot citrusy sandy blonde? This Doña Paula Estate Sauvignon Blanc was a fabulous Peruvian pair.
It’s a bit obligatory to order at least one type of ceviche at Sipan. It is cevichería for heaven’s sake (or is it cebichería?). Despite my strong love towards cheap Peruvian restaurants, I can strongly attest that Sipan’s ceviche kicks most other cheaper BA ceviches out of the cancha. Like for serious. The Ceviche Mixto is packed with fresh octopus, white fish, huge chunks of salmon and clams, all showered in a special sauce, poured table side. In fact, all the sauces are poured by the mozo right at the table – talk about being serviced.
The Ceviche Clásico is another winner. Super spicy, the ricoto pepper hat on the top will really make your mouth sweat. They serve it with my favorite REAL sweet potatoes that are actually orange, where can I find these sweet potatoes in BA?!
Moving onto some delicious pickings, the spoons of pulpo al olivo or olive octopus, aimed to please. A wonderful big mouthful bite of fresh Spanish octopus topped in a creamy black olive sauce and served with an avocado mash and crunchies. Oh yes.
I wasn’t as impressed with the CONCHITAS Parmesana (insert your own joke there). While I like the idea of Parmesan bruleed scallops served on an eye stimulating flaming hot plate, the meh flavors, blah cheese and watery mushy scallops just didn’t rock my concha.
But things turned around with the Tiradito Nikkei, a total winner of starry fresh fish and bright sunny mouth flavors aka thinly sliced white fish doused in the nikkei sauce (oyster sauce, sesame oil, soy sauce and lime).
Another house favorite is the Tiracuyá de salmón, thinly sliced pieces of salmon in a passion fruit honey and Dijon sauce, it’s seriously the absolute awesomeness in pescado sweetness form, if you’re into sweet maracuyá syrupy sauce nonsense.
The menu also includes a few sushi rolls, each with a different Peruvian spin. The first roll that stood out on the menu had ají de gallina incorporated into it, a super interesting way to fuse the two cuisines. Just my luck that the day I went the shipment of ají didn’t make it to Buenos Aires, so no ají de gallina at all — because apparently there is no other place in the city to get it. Almost every other roll included the infamous sushi no-no Philadelphia cream cheese, so I went with the one roll that didn’t have the creamy white splooge: Roll Costa Verde with salmon tartare, a dash of sesame oil, lettuce and avocado wrapped with thin slices of salmon marinated in salsa Nikkei. Really delicious to try once, but I probably wouldn’t order again — especially since there are other rolls that look munchable.
Usually I steer clear from the hot plates at Sipan, since I’ve always had such good luck with the ceviche-tiradito-piqueos-rolls, but on this trip I wanted to try their ají de gallina. And I wasn’t disappointed. It was a massive plate of creamy, bright yellow, cheesy, condensed milk love. Probably one of the tastiest ají de gallina I’ve tasted, at a hefty price tag, I probably would skip this dish and order it at a cheap Peruvian spot.
Usually I don’t order dessert at Peruvian restaurants, I find suspiros just too sweet, and the rest just not really interesting, but holy limeño! I could have done without the lemon pisco (far top), but I’m sorry suspiro limeño — I take back all the shit I talk about you, your yellowy custard insides sure are something special.
The space is as if a pop art Mexican taquería with a fluorescent color theme mated with Moche adobe style artwork. The interior, equipped with a comfy seating area, sushi bar and a loud graffiti-like art wall, that keeps customers visually stimulated – especially with the word CHOTA written on the wall, which is probably referring to the city in Peru, but I couldn’t stop giggling while thinking it means a less appropriate slang word (#3, of course).
Sleek design, natural light fills the restaurant at lunch with massive sky lights that are covered with beige panels. Cool, elegant, a place where you’d want to lunch for hours.
The outdoor loungy patio should make some top ten list of the best outdoor eating areas in the city. It’s heated in the winter, al fresco in the summer, and adorned with these baby sculptures all year round.
So, bottom line: Sipan deserves all the hype. While it’s definitely one of the more expensive restaurants in Buenos Aires (starters $100 pesos, mains around $200, desserts and cocktails $60 pesos) the interesting flavors of Peru-Japo fornication, extremely high quality fish and bomb-licking cocktails bring it up to the major leagues.
Sipan Cevicheria Peruana – The Palermitano Hotel
Uriarte 1649, Palermo Soho
Monday – Sunday: 12pm – 4pm, 8pm – 1am
Average price per person: AR$300
Lunch specials start from AR$95
**Updated from original review on 10/29/12