Austin siblings Maribel and Carlos Rivero are bringing their take on Peruvian food to the capital city. Maribel, a chef, intended to go South America and learn all about its myriad culinary traditions for a year and ended up staying for three years. Restauranteur Carlos is a veteran of the local food scene, with El Chile restaurant and the El Chilito taco stands under his belt. At Yuyo, their new place opening on October 30, they Riveros figure that Peruvian ceviches, corn nuts, and crispy plantain chips will be a slam dunk; that grilled beef heart on a skewer will go over if people just loosen up and try it once; and that guinea pig won’t fly even after a round or two of pisco sours. Still, they might introduce it in a year or two, if they can find a source. (In case you’re wondering, it tastes like rabbit.)
Here’s a first look inside the colorful Yuyo.
With a fresh coat or three of white paint, plus imported artwork and baskets, this former gas station on Manor Road is part of a slowly growing South American food movement in the U.S. Born in La Paz to a Bolivian father and a Mexican-American mother, Yuyo’s operators figure they have an inside track.
“I found this contemporary painting in La Paz,” Maribel says. “It’s not Peruvian, but both countries have shared traditions and emblems, like drums and stringed instruments and pipes and musicians and llamas. It made us laugh.”
The owners went back and forth about how to blend traditional and modern art and furniture. “These baskets are similar to woven market bags,” Maribel says. “They’re new, but we liked the soft colors.”
Peruvian food works well with cocktails (although Yuyo has well-matched beers and wines, if you insist). The world-famous pisco sour is made by shaking the hell out of Peruvian pisco, key lime juice, simple syrup, egg white, and ice cubes, then garnishing it with Angostura bitters.
And what, exactly, is pisco? It’s a colorless or yellowish-to-amber colored brandy produced in the winemaking regions of Peru and Chile (the two countries have slightly different piscos). The basic ingredient is fermented grape juice, which is then distilled. Sixteenth-century Spanish colonists concocted pisco as an alternative to brandy, which they had to import from Europe.
Beef plays a leading role in the Peru’s cuisine. The ubiquitous lomo saltado is basically a soy-seasoned stir-fry that derives from Chinese culture. Yuyo’s version uses beef tenderloin, which is then tossed with onions, red bell peppers, and a soy and aji (Peruvian chile) marinade, and served with fries.
Anticuchos, or skewered beef heart, are a signature Peruvian dish that Yuyo serves on an olive-wood platter. Says Maribel, “In Peru, they like their anticuchos chunky; here we decided to cut them thin so each piece would be tender and have a strong grilled flavor. Beef heart is great but it can be a little daunting the first time you try it.”
Chifles are golden plantain chips, cut lengthwise and extremely thin. They’re great dipped in a salsa made of ahi Amarillo, a sweet yellow South American chile. Served beside chifles is choclo, a huge variety of corn is often sliced in sections and grilled.
Maribel Rivero, executive chef, cooked at top kitchens in Lima for several months in order to immerse herself in the culinary community. Her second in command is chef de cuisine Enrry Silva and chef de cebiche (Peru’s preferred spelling for ceviche) Marilyn Morales.
At Yuyo, raw fish will be the star of the menu, with nine different styles made to order at the ceviche bar. This mixto offers drum, octopus, and shrimp in a citrus marinade called leche de tigre (tiger’s milk), along with aji amarillo and sweet potato slices.
Yuyo is located at 1900 Manor Road and will be open starting October 30 for happy hour and dinner service Monday through Sunday from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, visit yuyoaustin.com.