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Five minutes with ... Chef Harris Mayer-Selinger of Bar Paya

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We chatted with Chef Harris Mayer-Selinger of the new Peruvian restaurant Bar Paya.

How would you describe Peruvian food to someone who’s never eaten it?
Peruvian is the original fusion food. The heart and soul is ceviche and tiradito — both are preparations of extremely fresh fish and seafood marinated in lime juice, fresh herbs and, much of the time, native chilies. Their native chilies, like the aji amarillo and the aji rocoto, are a major part of their cuisine, and they are not simply hot — the chilies have complex flavors.

What makes it ‘fusion’?
Peruvian food is intrinsically a mixture of many cuisines because the country has absorbed the culture from so many countries. You will find influences from Italy, Japan, China and the indigenous foods of the Incas. Yet it still feels like a true Latin American cuisine — it doesn’t seem contrived like fusion can sometimes.

Which menu item should everyone try?
Our tuna ceviche with pineapple, peanuts and aji amarillo. It has it all — it’s sweet, spicy, salty, sour; it has umami and varying textures.

What’s your favorite way to end a meal at Bar Paya?
I'm partial to our panna cotta with fresh tangerines tossed in pisco.

Any tips for people who want to try Peruvian cooking at home?
Find some incredibly fresh fish, slice it with a very sharp knife and toss it in some freshly squeezed lime juice. That’s your base. From there you can add whatever you like — another citrus, some diced crunchy vegetables, olive oil or nothing.  It will still be fresh and delicious as is.  

Bar Paya is located at 65 Second Ave., at E. Fourth St. (212-777-6965). Entrees range from  $19-$25.

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