Once the entrées are hoisted to the table, however, a weary sense of battle fatigue begins to set in. “Do they always eat like this in Peru?” whispered the demure fashion executive to my right as we contemplated her heaping plato of grilled quail, which was piled with roasted peaches, a generous mound of quinoa, and a pat of seared foie gras for good measure. There’s also a hefty fusion version of hanger steak (with chimichurri sauce and excellent hash browns made from yuca root), and a modernist rendition of classic Peruvian “causa” (a coastal specialty made with layers of potato and seafood) done here with big chunks of Alaskan king crab. My portion of suckling pig ($65 buys a quarter of a hog) had a dreary, almost plastic quality to it, so if you’re in the mood for an extravagant meat feast, order the rib eye for two (with large, curving marrow bones, for $90) or the grandiose arroz con pato, which consists of numerous well-cooked duck products (gizzard, liver, leg, egg) arranged on a pan the size of a bicycle tire, over drifts of crunchy-bottomed paella rice.
Nuela seems to have been designed both as an ambitious gourmet destination and as a scene restaurant, although what that scene might be, at this early date, is not entirely clear. On the evenings I dropped in, groups of party girls dressed in tottering heels mingled uneasily at the sparsely populated bar with knots of sweaty tourists who looked like they’d just disembarked, en masse, from the Circle Line. They sipped baroquely named cocktails (Summer Wind, Devil’s Sweat) and listened to the restaurant’s echoing sound system, which features a distressingly heavy rotation of thumping Latin club music. Some of the fusion desserts (a twist on tres leches with caramel popcorn, goat-cheese cheesecake) have a similarly contrived feel. So stick to the simpler dishes, like the ice creams—dulce de leche, Peruvian coffee—or the puffy, pumpkin-flavored picarrón fritters. These may not be exactly like the ones you get on the streets of Lima. But if you don’t feel like hopping that flight from JFK, they’ll have to do.