Our meal at Llama San initially felt like an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Little annoyances started to pile up and threaten our dinner. We sat down and the banquette wasn’t quite comfortable. We asked for a wine recommendation, and the sommelier picked something from Greece, which was not that exciting to us. The wine was then served in cups, as opposed to wine glasses. We all know that the wine glass makes a difference, right? That’s how Zalto makes its money. And when we looked at the neighboring table, somehow they were given wine glasses and we weren’t. So then we felt paranoid, that maybe our economical choice of Greek wine wasn’t worthy of a wine glass, so then we demanded that they switch our glasses, only to learn that these cups were how Peruvians traditionally drank their house wines.
Before our inner Larry David took over, out came the hamachi tiradito with uni in this creamy coconut matcha sauce. There was a hint of lemongrass in that foam that gave it a little southeast Asian kick. All the complaining came to a screeching halt and we were speechless. It was that good.
Llama San specializes in nikkei cuisine, a special type of Japanese and Peruvian hybrid cooking. Sashimi with some spicy peppers, or chicken thigh wrapped up in a nori roll served with a mole-like sauce are just some examples of nikkei food. Maybe you’ve had an inkling of that at Nobu back in the day with its yellowtail sashimi with jalapenos, which is actually a pretty good dish. Otherwise this cuisine is hard to come by, and Llama San shows us that we were really missing out.
One of my favorite dishes at Llama San was a non-Nikkei, straight up Japanese pork tonkatsu. They certainly referred to it in more fancy terms, as a panko-crusted Iberico pork, but there was no arguing that it was a fried pork cutlet. There are great renditions of pork tonkatsu in New York, and a lot of them are probably cheaper than $36, which is what Llama San charges, but they also will not taste as good. It is the best, and most expensive, tonkatsu in the city.
I wanted to like the duck nigiri more than I did, but I didn’t see what the big deal was in placing a banana on top of a piece of duck meat. We did order the lobster with beef hearts, and although I remember liking it, I don’t remember specific things about it. I do remember the specifics of the chicken thigh maki, particularly in its heavy handedness, and that I didn’t like it that much. And what I will never, ever forget are the tiradito and pork tonkatsu.
359 6th Ave (between West 4th St and Washington Pl)
New York, NY 10014