Restaurants / Openings

New Houston Restaurant Focuses On Nikkei Cuisine With Serious Chef Cred — Pacha Nikkei Is Here

Anything But the Same Old Food

BY // 08.15.22
photography Marco Torres

If you haven’t tried Nikkei cuisine (or can admit you have never heard of it), Chef Masura Fukara aims to show you what you’re missing at his new Houston restaurant called Pacha Nikkei. For those uninitiated, Nikkei refers to the descendants of Japanese immigrants who emigrated to countries all around the globe. While “Pacha” loosely means “world” in the Quechua language.

But Nikkei cuisine denotes a cooking style specifically influenced by the Japanese who migrated to Peru during the turn of the 20th century. They often came to find work on the sugar plantations there and naturally, they brought the foodstuffs they were familiar with to their new South American homeland. That includes miso, wasabi, ginger, soy and rice vinegar, along with centuries-old culinary techniques. In time, they integrated it with the native fish, aji amarillo peppers, tomatoes, corn and Andes potatoes prevalent in Peru to create the culinary style now known as Nikkei cuisine.

Nobu Matsuhisa, the Japanese-born chef whose worldwide chain of Nobu restaurants and hotels bear his name, was an early proselytizer of Nikkei cuisine, having lived in Peru during his twenties. In his career, he’s deftly woven the Peruvian influence with his strict Japanese training to create a version of Nikkei all his own.

Chef Fukuda first introduced Houstonians to his brand of Nikkei cuisine at his outpost in the now-shuttered Rice Village food hall dubbed Politan Row. Now, he’s taking the leap to his first brick-and-mortar restaurant (at 10001 Westheimer, South of the Beltway 8 intersection in Westchase). Fukuda opened Pacha Nikkei on Friday. He is teaming up with veterans of the hospitality industry Sebastien Laval and Kellyn Ferman, who will be the new restaurant’s general manager.

Fukuda learned the workings of the restaurant business from the ground up, cooking under the skilled Peruvian chefs at Latin Bites, then under master Japanese chefs at Kata Robata. All while moonlighting all over town by hosting Nikkei pop-up dinners.

Equipped with a full ceviche bar that seats 10, a dining room that can accommodate 64, as well as a bar and lounge, the new Pacha Nikkei restaurant serves sharable dishes reflecting Peru’s diverse history, bringing in indigenous ingredients melded with Japanese flavors.

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The menu leans heavily on seafood featuring ceviche clásico ($20), lobster ceviche ($28) and pulpo al olivo ($20). In addition, Fukuda’s menu includes red meat dishes like Lomo Saltado, a Peruvian classic made with beef tenderloin ($30) and parilla (grilled dishes) such as Anticuchos de Corazon made with beef heart threaded on skewers ($15). It also incorporates Nikkei sushi rolls ($12 to $17) like Picante Maki with spicy tuna, cucumber, avocado and aji panca with a wasabi vinaigrette and Pacha Maki made with shrimp tempura, tuna, mango and acevichado sauce.

Behind the bar is a union of Japan and Peru too. The drinks at Pacha Nikkei feature a broad selection of Japanese whiskeys, piscos, pisco infusions, sakes, and Peruvian and Japanese beers.

Dining area at Pacha Nikkei (Photo by Marco Torres)
Part of the dining room at Pacha Nikkei features a mural created to highlight the Japanese immigrants who fled to Peru, like Chef Fukara’s own family. (Photo by Marco Torres)

The interior decor is a clean, modern design with a blend of natural wood finishes and a palette of blue tones throughout, with huge murals depicting the four generations of Chef Fukuda’s family and hundreds of Japanese who immigrated to Peru in the late 1800s. Fukuda has also curated the music to add to the ambiance of Pacha Nikkei. The playlist has been years in the making, dating back to when Fukuda worked as a DJ in local nightclubs around Houston.

Pacha Nikkei is open from 4:30 pm to 9 pm Mondays through Thursdays, and 4:30 pm to 10 pm Fridays and Saturdays.

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