After over 15 years working in Lima, Diana Matute has taken to the Maldives to head up the plush twin-island hideaway Raffles Maldives Meradhoo. Accrediting her passion and talent to her father and grandmother, Ms Matute has lived and breathed Peruvian Nikkei cuisine since the 80’s, bringing authenticity and fusion to overwater haven Yuzu Restaurant and Yapa Bar.
The only restaurant of its kind in the Maldives, fine-dining Yuzu and adjacent pool bar Yapa are set for a menu overhaul that includes world-class cocktails inspired by the spirits and verve of South America and Japan. Enthused by the Maldives’ local produce, Ms Matute exclaimed – “there are so many types of fish… I’ve never seen so many. So, I’m playing with new flavours and textures and I’m enjoying discovering more every day.” As with most the restaurants she has headed up, Moreno intends to change up the menu every 2-3 months, with the current situation calling for a set menu, which is virtually the same as the final menu that we hope to see post-pandemic.
When asked about flavours, Matute expressed the important of the fresh Maldivian fish. With the fish as a star, she enjoys playing with colour on the plate, a fusion of traditional Peruvian ingredients and Mexican Nikkei, as well as local fruits. Bringing from Peru more than five types of chillies, she expressed her love for Amarillo chilli, a medium-hot chilli that, when the seeds are removed, is sweet – “it is the base of all recipes”. More than this, the menu utilises other Peruvian specialties such white corn, amaranth – a type of quinoa sourced from the Andes – and algarrobina, a mix of coffee and chocolate which makes the base for some of the cocktails served at Yapa Bar. Describing her cooking style as ‘Latin spirit in Japanese recipes’, she too makes use of a lot of cucumber – “I use too much cucumber.”
With the Maldives home to an abundance of fish, Matute is working with tuna, lobster, wahoo, giant trevally… and the list goes on. When asked about her favourite dish, she was quick to remark – “Wahoo ceviche. When I tried wahoo fish, I swear, you can season with only salt and it’s amazing!” Her blend however is lime, salt, Maldivian chilli, coriander, garlic, and red onion. And, to add her Peruvian touch, she adds sweet potato and Peruvian corn.
Expressing the importance of sourcing local, she recounts her time in West Africa where she tried to source octopus, quickly learning this was not sustainable due to her current location. It is since then that she has become passionate about using what’s fresh and local, swapping out chilli to favour West Africa’s finest pineapples in Conakry.
Growing up in hospitality, by the age of five, she had found herself becoming part of the furniture at several of her father’s restaurant(s), mixing up a blend of lime, Rocoto chilli and salt for his ceviche. From there, it was inevitable – “my grandmother and father taught me everything I know. I call my grandmother every day. She sends me recipes and tips all the time.”
Yuzu Restaurant is the perfect fusion of Peruvian Nikkei cuisine, with a touch of Mexican. With breath-taking views and sublime sunsets, guests can look forward to delicious Nigiri with yuzu, onion, avocado, tacos, tempura, and chilli. Meanwhile, at Yapa Bar, expect to dine on a delicate tapas menu alongside Pisco Sours and other unique cocktails, utilising purple corn juice and Japanese cucumber.