The triangular East Williamsburg restaurant sits along the BQE (not so picturesque) but once through the wide wood doors of Llama Inn (50 Withers St), the wrap around windows, hanging garden and welcoming bar will make the location escape you. Just named one of the Top New York restaurants of 2016 by The New York Times and honored with Michelin Bib Gourmand status, this just year-old restaurant is making its mark beyond Brooklyn and putting this overlooked corner on the map.
Chef Erik Ramirez is also having some personal recognition. He began the year with a sold-out culinary appearance at the Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD) “Brooklyn meets Peru.” Attendees enjoyed a demonstration and Carapulcra, a sun-dried Andean potato and pork belly. This recognition has not come overnight. Ramirez has worked in the kitchen at the famed Eleven Madison Park and developed skills in traditional Peruvian cuisine at Raymi, also in Manhattan, before creating his own interpretations at Llama Inn.
The year is already shaping up as a busy one for Chef Ramirez. It begins with a quick trip to Madrid February 20th to cook with Chef Virgilio Martínez of Lima, Peru’s Central Restaurante, then quickly to The Broken Shaker in South Beach, Miami on February 23rd for an event during the busy South Beach Wine and Food Festival (SOBEWFF). In April, he will have a main stage presentation at the Worlds of Flavors Conference conference at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Napa Valley.
Llama Inn is also receiving notice from chefs around the world. Chef Alex Atala was in for brunch over the summer, and there were also visits from Chef Yianni Arhontoulis from Philadelphia’s Mica and Chef Mitsuharu Tsumura “Misha” from Maido in Lima. “We’re doing something new with Peruvian Cuisine and we’ve actually put it on the map in New York City. It’s pretty cool, everyone is pretty proud.”
What makes authentic Peruvian cuisine so challenging in Brooklyn is that it’s 3,000 miles away from its natural origins. Chef Ramirez is up to the challenge, blending his Peruvian heritage with a New York innovation. “So it’s a New York restaurant, like a Brooklyn Neighborhood restaurant with Peruvian Influences. When I say New York, I mean the freedom of interpretation, the art, the culture, how restaurants operate, being seasonal, local, so we try to do as much of that as we can integrating Peruvian flavor and ingredients, as much as we can find.” The scarcity of native ingredients allows for room for creativity and for Chef Ramirez to truly make the cuisine his own.
The menu is intentionally approachable allowing for the diner to taste the variances on a traditional dish once it’s served, and have a little discovery and surprise. Uncover the contents of the Corvina Ceviche and you find a bright, modern dish under plantain chips, not too spicy and based in a Japanese broth. There has also been some fun with the traditional Peruvian pisco spirit, incorporating it into a sangria type drink, the Llama Del Rey, served on draft, and several specialty cocktails that go beyond the Pisco Sour.
The 65-seat restaurant plus roof-top bar will expand to add an additional 40 seats to an outdoor patio slated to be open by summer. Chef Ramirez would also like to try a tasting menu at the chef’s counter starting with one seating a month. “A little more plated, a little more technical, I want to be able to show how diverse the food is, it can also go from something like this, that’s beautiful and rustic to something that’s very refined and pretty.” There’s a lot of good things ahead for Llama Inn, and there will surely be some new surprises with spring just around the corner.
LLAMA INN | 50 Withers St (at Meeker Ave.)
Saturday 11AM-3:30PM, 5:30PM-12AM
Sunday 11AM-3:30PM, 5:30PM-10pM