Peruvian-Asian Restobar Ruka Exemplifies the Inventive Downtown Spirit
Ruka stuns the moment you walk in the door. A gorgeous Chihuly chandelier sprinkles color across the lobby. Ahead you’ll catch a glimpse of the woven ceiling, comprised of thick strands of multi-colored yarn, and the wall-to-wall murals that depict scenes of Peru. I momentarily forgot I was in a restaurant and thought I had stumbled into the city’s hippest art gallery. The clinking of silverware brought me back to reality, but thumbing through the kaleidoscopic cocktail menu had me questioning again.
Ruka was born of a partnership between Tim Yeng of Oishii Sushi Bar and the team that brought Yvonne’s and Lolita Cocina to Boston; Tom Berry, Chris Jamison, and Mark Malatesta. Together they created an unexpected fusion of Peruvian, Japanese, and Chinese cuisine at Boston’s first nikkei restobar. Its location on the ground floor of the new Godfrey Hotel at 505 Washington Street adds to the declaration that Ruka is fresh, beautiful, and the first of its kind.
The cocktail menu at Ruka is split into sections depicting landscapes of Peru; the sea, the city, and the mountains. I chose the Jesuit, a ‘city’ drink of vodka and sweet citrus fruits that came in an interesting hookah glass. My waiter admitted the Jesuit is the bar’s most popular drink. Little did I know the cocktail was my first foray into an entirely novel dining experience.
The menu is divided along food types, such as chilled, raw selections and hot wok dishes. My waiter suggested ordering items from left to right, as the dishes get more involved as you move along the menu. He also said the crunchy salmon tacos were one of the best menu items and I’d be remiss not to order it. I followed his expert advice and ordered the tacos along with the halibut ceviche from the left side.
The salmon tacos blew away the already high expectations set by my waiter. The “shell” of the taco was a crispy and light fried leaf, the perfect bed for the melt-in-your-mouth salmon inside. While raw, the salmon differed from a traditional salmon sushi in that it was multiple pieces of soft fish rather than one solid piece of meat. The small dots of avocado perfectly rounded out the dish’s light freshness. The halibut ceviche was also an experience unique to Ruka. Traditional white fish sushi relies on sauces for flavor, but the halibut ceviche was served on a paste of burned bread that combined a grilled element with raw fish, which is confusing at first bite but ultimately delightful.
Next began my journey to the right side of the menu, where wok grilled small plates awaited. After much deliberation, I selected the crispy papas chongo, smoked quinoa sourdough, and sichuan king trumpet mushrooms. A play on the popular patatas bravas, the crispy papas chongo were fried to perfection and topped with a creamy garlic rancho and sesame honey sauce. The smoked quinoa sourdough alone was a delicious crusty treat, but the accompanying ginger brown butter made it excellent for munching. The sichuan king trumpet mushrooms were aptly named, as they crowned all the dishes of the evening. With a slight char and hot mustard mayo, these mushrooms captured the Peruvian-Japanese flavor fusion that Ruka aims to cultivate. I was so impressed that I ordered a second round.
Ruka’s creators took a gamble when bringing an unfamiliar fusion cuisine to Boston and it paid off. By combining unique Peruvian-Japanese-Chinese dishes with inspired cocktails and an artsy atmosphere, Ruka proves that Downtown Boston is the home of innovation and creativity.