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Peruvian Food with a Texas Twist

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Executive Chef Maribel Rivero is bringing the best flavors of Peru to Austin with her new restaurant, Yuyo.

By Madison Matous, Photos courtesy of Yuyo

Yuyo may sound like the name of another fancy sushi restaurant, but it’s not. The name of new Peruvian restaurant Yuyo—led by Executive Chef Maribel Rivero and her brother, Carlos Rivero, also the owner and founder of El Chile Group—means “seaweed.”

In the past, when Peruvian fishermen still traveled town to town by foot to sell their fish, they would carry and showcase seaweed to show how fresh their fish was.

“[It’s] kind of symbolic of us bringing something fresh and vibrant to the Austin dining scene,” Maribel Rivero says.

It’s also a nod to one of the chef’s favorite dishes, ceviche, which is sashimi-cut fish mixed with lime juice and aji sauce. It’s a dish that, at Yuyo, can be made to order at a bar dedicated to the dish.

Alongside seafood items, various grilled dishes can be found on the Yuyo menu, including anticuchos, or skewered meat and vegetables; pollo a la brasa, grilled chicken with salsa criolla; and Maribel Rivero’s own spin on traditional Peruvian corn, choclo.

A meal at Yuyo isn’t complete without a cocktail featuring pisco, a liquor popular in Peru. While there are a total of eight cocktail libations on the Yuyo menu, the most celebrated is the pisco sour.

“I guarantee you that our pisco sour is the best [in town],” Maribel Rivero says. “And I’m not just saying that. … I’ve learned from the bartenders in Lima and the secrets and trades in making it just right and how it should be.”

Another perhaps more approachable beverage is the Purple Drank, the base of which is chicha morada, a traditionally non-alcoholic drink made from fermented corn, and a common drink to have with lunch in Peru.

“It’s really sweet and they boil the purple corn, which gives the beautiful purple color, and then we just mix it with pisco and it makes a really nice cocktail,” Maribel Rivero says.

The chef’s passion for Peruvian food and the culture comes from two years spent living in the country’s capital, Lima, and cooking in some of the city’s top kitchens. She got a taste for Latin cuisine through a culinary course that brought in chefs from throughout South America.

“After the program, I decided to officially kind of immerse myself into Latin cuisine, and that’s why I basically moved to South America for what I wanted to be a year and ended up being three,” Maribel Rivero says, laughing.

Both Maribel Rivero and Carlos Rivero were captivated by the Peruvian culture and food scene.

“When I visited Maribel in Peru, I was amazed by the cuisine and warmth of the people,” Carlos Rivero says. “I returned to Texas and searched for Peruvian restaurants, but nothing came close to what I experienced in Lima.”

Soon after her brother’s visit, Maribel Rivero moved back to Texas, where the duo started Yuyo, the only contemporary Peruvian restaurant in Austin.

Maribel Rivero credits her brother for much of the design in the restaurant. The neutral tones, wood accents and vaulted ceilings give the space an open, airy feel, which Maribel Rivero says is perfect since it makes the restaurant feel more like a patio in Peru than an indoor space in Austin.

Yuyo is located at 1900 Manor Road. yuyoaustin.com

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