Ian Schrager is a legend of New York City nightlife. When he announced the opening of the PUBLIC Hotel, his personal PUBLIC Hotel, in the year 2017, the expectations were high. The hotel with 367 rooms located in the city’s Lower East Side did not fail to live up to the promise to offer elegant and fashionable luxurious amenities at a reasonable cost. The hotel has undergone a unique renovation, including The Popular–the city’s top new spot for Peruvian food and drinks.
A relaxing oasis covered in lush foliage, the venue showcases an exciting collaboration among Chef Diego Munoz, the visionary of Astrid & Gaston in Lima, Peru, and Chef Michelin-starred John Fraser, frequently a Schrager associate. The menu offers a variety of highlights that include bright and acidic dishes at the ceviche counter and succulent, tender meats that are steamed off the wood-fired grill.
The lovers of the indigenous spirit of Peru are likely to want to spend an extensive amount of time at this Cantina and the Pisco Bar. There are shelves lined with an array of vibrant flavors and include possibly the largest selection of Pisco anywhere in the city. The idea fills a specific taste niche that was unsurprisingly neglected in the borough.
Forbes conducted a candid interview, Ian Schrager and chef Diego Munoz shed some light on what brought them to each other as well as what to expect at one of Chicago’s newest and most intriguing restaurants.
What prompted you to select Peruvian cuisine as the restaurant that is the signature of the hotel?
Ian Schrager: Peruvian food can be confusing, as it’s actually a global cuisine and is truly an international food. It’s due to the waves of immigration that Peru has experienced over time and the influence they’ve received from Asia and China, including Japanese and Chinese and European-like Spanish, Moorish and Italian. When you mix all these factors, Peruvian food is a global food. In addition, it’s also well-balanced and based on fresh fish and vegetables and foods that are contemporary with what people need today but executed deliciously. It was an innovative and appropriate food (for the region). It didn’t appear to be making any significant influence on New York City, which is among the most famous food cities in the globe. I thought it was a great idea to introduce it to New York; instead of the standard suspects, go out of the box to find something fresh and unique.
What are the reasons why this particular cuisine is appropriate for New Yorkers and tourists?
I believe that everybody is worried about their overall health, wellbeing, and eating well, and rightly so. It’s hilarious; during the summer months, when I was walking along the beach–it’s a long stroll–I would be witnessing very few slim people. It was somewhat depressing to me. When I got home in New York City, downtown, I finally saw thin people. I believe that everybody is highly concerned about health, eating well, and living a healthy lifestyle. I think this type of food is perfect for this because it’s very beneficial. This is a benefit we didn’t know about.
What is it that makes the collaboration between Chef José Munoz and Chef John Frazier special?
IS: It’s an excellent and straightforward idea. Every great chef will focus on the uniqueness of their food and how it is made by sourcing the best ingredients and the most nourishing ingredients and locating all of them available in local markets, as well as knowing how to find the best of them. Like chef Diego will be required to complete an education curve in that. Hiring an operations manager to manage the front of the kitchen isn’t going to be someone who will perform with the same enthusiasm and enthusiasm as a chef working in the kitchen, preparing the menu. It’s to help Chef Diego to concentrate on meals, and that’s the main reason the reason we brought him here and to then get another fantastic chef in John Fraser, to be capable of implementing it, implement and expand the concept of food into the restaurant as well as how it’s served, and then present it to the guests gives a seamless, complete experience. It’s one of those simple ideas that are so obvious; however, I’m sure people don’t think about it. I believe that a good chef serving a great chef’s menu is one plus one equals three. It’s as if it’s the ideal recipe for the restaurant. It’s an opportunity that’s once in a lifetime, and we’re sure to keep doing for the foreseeable future.
What is it that sets Peruvian cuisine from other food styles?
Diego Munoz: I believe the thing that makes Peruvian cuisine distinctive is the combination of many elements. In chronological order, I will mention the depth of the documentation and appreciation of pre-Hispanic Peruvians to food throughout the country’s diverse landscape. It varies from an abundant Pacific Ocean coast with two distinct sea currents to the long and dry desert, then up into the Andes and across to the giant Amazon. They cultivated and processed products from across the entire empire, starting from south present-day Colombia up to the Maule River in Chile.
The Spaniards brought new products and their tastes, which were already heavily influenced by the Moors and African tradition with its culinary heritage. Then, the Chinese came in and brought new flavors and cooking techniques. Following them, some Japanese came to the mix. Finally, tiny but mighty waves of Italian immigration arrived in Peru during the latter half of the century. This all adds to the food heritage, a blend of these diverse cultures in a highly varied and prosperous area.
What have your guests thought of your culinary concept?
DM: We attempted to introduce our version of our classic food ideas as a basis and then proceeded from there. Naturally, there was plenty of fine-tuning and adapting to local tastes, reducing the overpowering of the flavors and making the idea more adaptable to local ingredients. I believe that our guests have responded to the concept very well. I’m sure our excitement and excitement are evident throughout every meal. We are grateful and humbled by this fantastic chance.
What are the top five loved food items at POPULAR?
The DM is Ceviche Clasico Ceviche Elegante; Chicken & King Crab Causa Pork Char Siu Fried Rice with Prawn Tamagoand Lomo Saltado.
What was the inspiration behind the formation of a bar that only has Pisco-based cocktails?
DM: The source of inspiration for Pisco Bar was DM: The inspiration for Pisco Bar came from Lima’s tabernas and cantinas from the latter half of the century, where Pisco was poured straight into the glass or blended into drinks. Some are operating located in the capital of our country. Others are in various regions.
What have people thought of these drinks?
DM: I believe that the reception has been excellent. It’s been a great experience. Pisco Sour is an easy order, but we’ve also created a unique Chilcano program as well as other Pisco cocktails, which our customers have highly appreciated. Our staff is continuously taught to share their knowledge of various Piscos and make great cocktails to help our guests increase their appreciation for the spirit. The majority of the producers of the Piscos our bar serves have visited our bar and provided the staff with excellent training. An understanding of the essence of Pisco can be about.
What are the reasons why you believe Pisco is going to be getting its moment of glory?
DM I’m a DM. One of my greatest desires is that Pisco plays a significant role for Pisco in The New York City bar scene. I think we’re at a key instant in terms of the caliber of Peruvian restaurants performing well in the city at present and with fantastic bartenders in places such as The Mission Ceviche, Llama Inn, Llama San, and the recently opened Contento as well as great Piscos are currently available through distributors of spirits across New York State. I believe that we all are driven to promote our culture and encourage our guests to experience the experience.