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A Journey Through Nikkei Cuisine with Chef Sandro Medrano

A Journey Through Nikkei Cuisine with Chef Sandro Medrano

Sheila Manalac
10 November 2023


At the heart of the iconic Padma Resort Legian is an inviting spot to discover Peruvian-Japanese fare at TENKAI Japanese Nikkei Restaurant


“Nikkei Cuisine is the confluence of Peruvian and Japanese cuisine, brought about by Japanese immigrants arriving in Peru 100 years ago. It combines Japanese techniques and ingredients with Peruvian traditional dishes,” explains Chef Sandro Medrano, the executive chef at TENKAI Japanese Nikkei Restaurant, comfortably nestled at the heart of the iconic Padma Resort in Legian.

A brief explanation, it may seem, but a long history and rich culture is found in every dish at TENKAI, with Chef Sandro as the narrator of such a colorful story on every plate. Here, he invites guests to experience Peru, and the story of the Japanese diaspora in Latin America, resulting in the perfect blend that is the now-popular Nikkei cuisine.

Growing up in Lima, the Peruvian chef was no stranger in the kitchen. He was always with his mother who ran a restaurant business, shopping for ingredients in the local market, stirring, slicing, and serving guests on a regular basis.

He tells the story of his mother’s culinary creativity through the ‘Arroz Con Pato’ main dish, a delectable marinated duck magret, Japanese rice with coriander, pumpkin and carrot purée, and onion chalaquita. 

“This is the dish my mom used to cook every time I went home to Peru. It’s the dish I miss the most. I always remember her with this dish, and now I try to represent this at TENKAI.”

Not only is he the executive chef, but he also promises to tell stories and be a guide to guests at TENKAI, through his culinary creations he takes guests on a personal journey of his family, experiences, travels, and culture—all told through the plates served at the restaurant.

Although he initially entered university to become a doctor, life had other plans for Sandro, leading him to become a chef. While in school, he was faced with an opportunity and a decision—to study medicine or gastronomy—and ultimately, he found love, comfort, and passion in the kitchen.

“I chose to become a chef because I feel love when I am in the kitchen, I feel I can develop my creativity. I can give a nice experience to other people, and meet other people who are happy with what I do. But ultimately, the big motivation and inspiration for me was my mom.”

And when he finally decided to study Gastronomy and later on become a chef, he found boundless opportunities to travel all over South America, working in Chile, Mexico, Uruguay, Qatar and Brazil, before coming to Indonesia to open up Henshin, a Nikkei restaurant at The Westin Jakarta, where he stayed for 5 years.

He now calls Bali his home with his growing family, heading the TENKAI kitchen, and developing himself, his culinary creations, and his team to deliver an impeccable experience to guests.

One of the challenges of his journey, he mentions, is his transition from South America to Asia, where ingredients, flavors, and cultures are somewhat new to him. Although the use of spices and herbs may be similar, authentic Peruvian flavors are challenging to come by.

But without a doubt, he feels at home in the kitchen, far from his earlier dreams of being a doctor and working in the hospital.

“I feel like I made the right decision. Until now, I have never regretted my decision. I am happy and I enjoy and love cooking. It is my passion. The kitchen is my second home and I try to enjoy that every day.”

TENKAI, the Japanese translation for ‘expansion,’ truly lives up to its name. Primarily serving authentic Japanese cuisine, has now diversified to the punchy, tangy, spicy, and colorful Nikkei cuisine.

Welcoming guests to TENKAI, Chef Sandro recommends the slightly spicy Peruvian-style skewers Anticuchos, and the three kinds of Ceviches made with salmon, catch of the day, or tuna. 

“These are traditional dishes in Peru and we make it here in our way,” he quips, sharing that he overcomes the challenge of finding the perfect Peruvian taste of chili and lime by making their own chili and mixing different kinds of lemons. 

Other dishes that represent Chef Sandro’s journey are the Nikuseco, a short rib stew, with black beans, jicama and mushroom, representing his travels in Brazil. “One technique I used in this dish is similar to the Brazilian Feijoada which contains black beans, and we also add Japanese curry.”

And finally, the sushi—which Chef Sandro is particularly proud of, as TENKAI sushi does not necessarily require soy sauce or is topped with excessive mayonnaise. “Our sushi has different sauces—sweet, sour and spice.”

With his specialty and interest in Nikkei cuisine, Chef Sandro is fond of creating flavors using Japanese broth such as ichiban dashi or kombu dashi. He also likes cooking with alcohols such as sake, and uses tubers as potatoes. “In Peru we have more than 2000 kinds of potatoes which is why I like to use this ingredient a lot in TENKAI.”

He combines ancestral products like cassava, chilis, and corn with punchy herbs and sour fruits. Truly finding the balance of Peruvian food, Japanese flavors and techniques all blending perfectly on each plate.

Chef Sandro presents his light, fresh plates to share, with vibrant umami, citrus, with hints of spice in his dishes, all representing the essence of Nikkei cuisine, with his own personal touch, and his own story to tell.

TENKAI Japanese Nikkei Restaurant

Padma Resort Legian
Jl. Padma No.1, Legian, Kec. Kuta, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361

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