Paiche Converts to Lunch-Only Cafe

"I don’t see myself as this chef only making colorful food for a specific kind of person."

(Christine Dong)

Sometimes those that burn brightest, burn briefest.

The ceviche WW named the finest in Portland is now going to be a lot tougher to get—Paiche, our restaurant of the year, is transforming into a lunchtime casual restaurant.

Casimira Tadewaldt and chef Jose Luis de Cossio's Peruvian restaurant has always been an experimental restaurant in the broadest sense—changing its hours, its prices, and even the type of restaurant it wants to be. It has also been home to wonders, not only ceviches stunning in their depth and acidity but deeply comforting pastel de choclo or saltado—a playground for a talented chef who, twice at Gaston Acurio's La Mar restaurants in Lima and San Francisco, and twice at Peruvian money-palace Andina, has struck out again and again to find a new path.

(Thomas Teal)
(Thomas Teal)

The restaurant has been full every time we've been through, but for de Cossio something is missing.

"We have a narrow kind of customer," says de Cossio of Paiche, who also cites difficulty finding time to raise his family. "This narrow customer does not allow us to grow. I would like to be more of a business person and not a chef with tweezers. I don't see myself as this chef only making colorful food for a specific kind of person."

Instead, de Cossio and Tadewaldt will focus on a breakfast lunchtime cafe to serve the neighborhood, with savory and sweet pastries for breakfast and lunch, and coffee all day. He says sometime after August, he hopes to start doing multi-course pop-ups as well. But for now, he'd rather focus on his neighborhood.

"We will be open to a different kind of wallet, a different budget," de Cossio says, adding that the ceviche will return, but only sometimes. "I have no doubt that some people will be curious about it. I can have my ceviche again—but I can't force it, to be a person I'm not. I don't want to focus on only fine dining. I don't want to be a superstar chef in town."

(Thomas Teal)

This, of course, was Paiche's original goal when the restaurant was started in late 2015—a small, casual place open only at lunchtime, with a minimal staff, built around the needs of both the neighborhood and their own family. Although from the evidence of the food they were serving even from the beginning, there's reason to believe that however humble, it's going to be delicious.

“There is a chef here with heart,” say de Cossio. “We’re going to see what happens. It’s gonna be fun. I don’t care what people think about me being a crazy person.”

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.