At Maty’s in Midtown Miami, Val Chang Speaks Through Her Grandmother’s Cuisine
It’s a Monday in Miami, and chef Val Chang is having a pinch-me moment. Maty’s, her restaurant in Midtown where she’s putting her spin on traditional Peruvian dishes, is entering its second week to rave early reviews. Chang takes a moment from the frenzy to report that she feels cohesion among her team, a heightened sense of leadership and accountability from herself, and pure joy from the food coming out of Maty’s kitchen.
“The whole vision is coming alive, and sometimes it’s just hard for me to believe,” Chang says. “I’m trying to lead by watching first, letting my whole team show me what’s going on before making any decision. So far I feel like that approach is working, because I’m not just imposing my style on anyone. I’m watching, I’m listening, and then I’m trying to find a middle ground that is best for us and best for Maty’s. No egos.”
Here’s a rundown of what to know about Maty’s before you visit:
Maty’s tells Val Chang’s story, through food.
Named for her late paternal grandmother, Maty’s is Chang’s ode to the woman who raised Chang and her brother, Nando Chang (Itamae), in Peru before the siblings moved to the United States. Val Chang says she chose to call the restaurant Maty’s as a nod to her grandmother and to the other strong, influential women who have left a mark on her life.
“Maty’s is all about tradition, and for me, it’s a love story about what it’s like to be an immigrant, to be Latina, to be Asian, to be a woman,” Chang said. “Every immigrant knows the feeling of leaving your country and wanting to show the world where you came from, of missing it so much that you could eat that food every single day.”
You’ll see Maty’s life through pictures on the restaurant’s walls.
Chang sourced photographs of Maty through family members to hang throughout the restaurant. The photos run from the 1940s all the way through the ’90s, showing Maty’s journey as a first-generation Chinese immigrant and the way she incorporated her culture into her home in Peru. Chang says the images and other documentation that Maty meticulously kept offer a glimpse into her social and even romantic life.
“She saved every letter that she and my grandfather wrote to each other during their courtship,” Chang says, hinting that excerpts from those love letters may make an appearance at Maty’s in some way. “There’s just so much history, so much character in everything she touched. It’s the reason why I wanted the look and feel of the restaurant to be like her: easy to look at, natural, with a big heart.”
The menu is big on bright flavors and comforting dishes.
Chang says to expect seasonal changes to her menu starring Peruvian flavors and local ingredients. A pristine tuna tiradito over creamy beans with an ají limo leche de tigre has won praise from early diners, as have Chang’s opening salad offerings: ensalada rusa with chicories, beets, and a lemon vinaigrette, and French Farms tomatoes tossed with avocado, huacatay, and Maty’s tomato vinaigrette. Two cebiches — traditional with black grouper and an amped-up version with lobster, longfin squid, and octopus, both with corn fritters on the side — connect Chang’s Peruvian roots to her track record serving some of Miami’s freshest fish and seafood.
From the menu’s larger offerings, Chang says guests have been enthusiastically ordering her dry-cured, bone-in short rib, which comes over pepián de choclo and cilantro stew with pickled onions on top. Ditto a whole-roasted dorade over ají amarillo beurre blanc sauce, which plays well with a side order of garlicky Carolina Gold rice and peas.
“We’re still making lots of little adjustments to get where we want to be, but honestly I couldn’t be happier with where the menu is so far,” Chang says. “I realize I can’t demand perfection right away, but that doesn’t mean it’s OK to accept mediocrity. We’re all working together — cooks, FOH, me, everyone — to bring our best every day.”
Start with a drink — and stay for dessert.
A no-name lineup of cocktails — No. 1 through 6 on the menu — created by Maxi Luque and Kevin Hoagland also leans into Peruvian flavors. Chang’s favorite, the No. 1, combines pisco, huacatay, cucumber, and lime. “I’ve never had a drink that is so huacatay-forward,” she says. “I love that.” Non-alcoholic options include chicha morada, Peru’s famous drink brewed from purple corn with apple, cinnamon, and clove.
A childhood staple of Chang’s was eating fresh strawberries and condensed milk for dessert. At Maty’s, she riffs on that with a plate of local strawberries that she serves with lucuma and lime dulce de leches and a sabayon on top.
It’s a love story about what it’s like to be an immigrant, to be Latina, to be Asian, to be a woman.— Val Chang on Maty’s
Lunch is coming next from the women of Maty’s.
Currently open seven nights a week for dinner, Maty’s will expand hours to include lunch service in the coming weeks, Chang says, “once we see what the finances are like.” The mention of finances makes her note that the restaurant has recently brought on a Peruvian woman to oversee its accounting, one of several female leaders in the operation.
“Natalia (Davis), our GM, is a woman. We have two female sous chefs. Sam (Gettis) is our service director,” Chang says. “There is some serious lady power here, a lot of strong, smart, supportive women, and I couldn’t be prouder.”
Maty’s is located at 3255 Northeast First Avenue, Miami. Book through Resy.