A restaurant with a greater purpose – The Mil experience
When you open a gourmet restaurant that seats just 20 people at a site located at 3400m above the sea level an hour flight from a big city followed by more than an hour drive out of which a big part is in dirt roads there must be a greater meaning to it all. For chef Virgilio Martinez there is a greater purpose to opening Restaurant Mil at Moray.
The restaurant is located overlooking the ruins of Moray which is the site where the incas experimented with the effect of different altitudes on vegetables. The site was for me a significant of eating at Mil. Driving there you pass by some landscape which which surely should take your breath away and hereby living up to its name Sacred Valley.
When you arrive at Mil you pass by their potato and quinoa fields, you smell the munia which is growing everywhere. Before entering the restaurant, you should take the time to enjoy the view from the restaurant. The restaurant is made of clay with a straw roof drawing distinct lines to the historic buildings in the area and an old farmhouse.
There are 3 main buildings. One occupied by Mater Iniciativa and two others by the dining room and bar.
The dining room is minimalistic but still very cozy at the same time and hereby not taking away focus from the food. With the big windows the nature is drawn in making it almost an integral part of the experience.
The menu pays tribute to the produce in the surrounding areas which is off course is the high Andeans Mountains. Because you are at 3400m above the sea level the menu has little meat and the pairing consists of different infusions and distillations with little alcohol.
This day the menu consists of 8 dishes and kicking it of was a small snack of freeze dried potato with, a corn tortilla and a dark maca cream. I loved the texture and sweetness of the maca cream.
The second dish was probably the most “normal” of them all. A nice lamb tartare and a salad of quinoa and kanichua grains. True to his style the tartare was off course decorated with a few flowers.
The next dish was a simple piece of pork belly served with a “corn bread” and rocoto pepper and avocado salsa. The pork belly was juicy and delicious and a few crunchy bits on top was a great supplement. I wasn’t a big fan of the texture of the bread though.
Diversity of corn has always been one of my favorite dishes at Central so I was extremely curious to see if Mil could live up to that. As in the dish at Central you had corn chips in the most vibrant colors imaginable accompanied by grilled fresh cheese, fresh corn and a delicious avocado salsa. The combination with the grilled cheese was very delicious. A simple dish where the guest yet again had to assemble the dish from different elements presented to you. I liked that idea as it made the experience more relaxed.
Similarly, the next dish also had two big components to it. A duck “stew” with chili and a very delicious quinoa salad. By far the best quinoa dish I have ever had actually. I think the secret to that was the combination of the green algaes, dried cabbage and very small bites of crispy pork skin. Then again crispy pork skin is always a winner.
Since the reason we were at Mill this day was to start the harvest of potatoes it was only natural that potatoes were on the menu and in a prominent place. The last main dish was therefore simply 3 different potatoes/tubers which had all been prepared in the traditional huatia and served with a munia salsa. They serve a similar dish at Central and I love them both for their extreme simplicity while paying homage to one ingredient.
I had mixed feelings about the first dessert. A wild muna granite with mint and a sweet tuber cream. If you had just the right amount of each ingredient on your spoon it had great balance between the sweet tuber and the muna. If that was not the case there is a large probability that you will taste nothing but muna.
They produce their own cacao at Mil so off course the last dessert had to star cacao. Here served with a mashwa coca leaf and sacha inchi. The cacao was delicious as always in South America and the crunchy mashwa was a great supplementary.
I absolutely loved the space and the total experience. I felt a much stronger connection to what I was eating because of the surroundings and because they take their time to show and explain how they work with Mater Incentiva to discover new ingredients while working with local communities to develop the produce and give them a purpose as well. The restaurant therefore involves a large part of the communities of Sacred Valley.
That kind of experience is just not possible in the hectic and chaotic Lima. The food is simpler than that of Central while some dishes still have avant-garde presentations and the flavors are off course still spot on.
For anyone making the trip to Peru you owe it to yourself to enjoy the surroundings if Sacred Valley, the relaxed atmosphere and delicious food of Mil. I suggest to arrive a bit earlier than your reservation so you have time to take in the scenery and perhaps even get a tour of the fields or visit a nearby community with one of the people from Mater Incentiva which I know they would love to do if it has been arranged in due time.