Final Peru Dispatch: My Lima food orgy.


Classic ceviche, made with flounder, red onions and hot peppers and served with sweet potato and Andean corn at El Veredico de Fidel, in La Victoria. (Photos by C-M.)

Now it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty: The food. Lima, hands down, serves up the best food in the Americas. I’m not even gonna debate it. I’ve been to Mexico and eaten the seven moles of Oaxaca and sucked down tacos as if the world were about to end. I’ve worked my way through menus at all kinds of places, both high-falutin’ and not, in spots such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami. But, Peru, at every level — from the corner lunch joint to the A-List world-class eatery — offers such a mind-melting variety of spectacular dishes, that you could literally spend a month in the country and still not begin to cover everything there is to eat. Not convinced? Well, I’ve prepared a little photo essay…

Special thanks to my buddy Howard for flying to Lima to consume many of these dishes with me. And to Arturo Rojas for leading me to some of these spots in the first place. You guys rock. Hard.

Click on images to supersize. C-Monster.net is not responsible for any damages incurred to your keyboard as a result of involuntary drooling. Vegetarians: You might want to stop reading here.


The super leche de tigre at El Veridico de Fidel: a seafood ceviche, with flounder, calamari, shrimps, scallops and octopus, bathed in a chilled cilantro-laced broth, topped with sea urchin and served with sweet potato. A total aphrodisiac. Eating this may cause you to hump something. Anything. (Note: Fidel’s is in a rough part of La Victoria. Take a taxi. Lunch only.)


Conchitas a la parmesana at Pescados Capitales in Miraflores: Fresh scallops baked with white wine and cheese. Also excellent, but not shown here: The 3X3 ceviche. Three types of fish (tuna, salmon and flounder) with three types of onions (scallion, red and white) and bathed in a creamy rocoto pepper sauce. Divine! (Lunch only.)


Fresh roast pork sandwich with salsa criolla (marinated red onions with cilantro and yellow hot peppers) on a French bread bun at El Chinito, in downtown, a nearly half-century-old outpost renowned for its roast meat sandwiches. Best when paired with an ice cold, nuclear-yellow Inca Kola. (Open breakfast, lunch and dinner. Be wary in this area at night.)


Batayaki Maki at Matsuei in San Isidro (a restaurant that was, at one point, co-owned by Nobu). Maki rolls made with lettuce, a touch of cream cheese and shrimp are drizzled with a lightly-spiced butter-sake sauce and then topped with grilled salmon, calamari and shrimp. If you go: absolutely positively order a roll called the “encevichado,” a shrimp tempura maki with avocado topped with house-made mayonnaise infused with ceviche broth. It will make all the right parts of your brain tingle with joy. (Lunch and dinner. Closed Sundays.)


Standing in line for anything in Peru is generally an exercise in frustration. People push and shove and try to cut the queue. But not at this famous cart in Miraflores. Run by the venerated Doña Grimanesa Vargas Araujo (in the photo to the right), everyone here waits respectfully for one of the finest renditions of typical Peruvian street food: the anticucho, or beef-heart skewer. The wait on any given night can be more than an hour. But it’s worth it, because these anticuchos, served with a steamed potato, boiled corn and a duo of fresh hot sauces, are so tender and juicy, you’ll wonder what type of voodoo she’s performed on the meat.


Anticuchos, high-end edition. The celebrity chef of the moment (or more like the decade) is Gaston Acurio. His photograph appears in more Peruvian restaurants than the Virgen. This lovely platter was inhaled at his newest spot, Panchita, and came loaded with deftly-marinated beef hearts, chicken hearts, choncholi and pancita (intestines) and was grilled to such staggering perfection that the meat dissolved the moment it arrived on the tongue. Accompanying the cholesterol-fest? Andean corn, roasted yellow potatoes and two types of hot sauce. (Reservations recommended. Dishes are huge; best to share.)


Finally: a little somethin’ somethin’ for the veg-heads. Among the many delectables Peruvians are renowned for, it’s these sculptural potato salads called causas. Two layers of chilled, smashed potatoes surround a filling — in many cases, vegetables, seafood or chicken. At Mi Causa, in Miraflores, where they serve 50+ types of causa, these dishes are taken to the most colorful, staggering heights. Above: a spinach-potato causa is stuffed with Andean corn and queso fresco, topped with an artful wedge of avocado and served with a marinade of red peppers, olives and artichoke hearts. Yes, this is the kind of thing that makes an American potato salad look totally hurtin’. (Lunch only.)


Another spectacular dish from Mi Causa: A pink smashed potato salad (made from the puca sonqo variety; the potato is naturally pink) is topped with a fried pejerrey (a type of fish) and salsa criolla.


A three potato causa from Mi Causa: made with purple potato (top), yellow potato (middle) and papa añil (the pinkish potato at bottom). In between: Fresh crab salad, avocado and steamed shrimps.


At Chala in the genteel old beach community of Barranco, just south of Miraflores. Here’s where things get a little fusion: Chicken raviolis are doused in aji de gallina, a spicy Peruvian chicken stew made with yellow peppers and walnuts, and then topped with seared crawfish, hard-boiled quail egg and micro-greens. A winner all around — especially since some of the restaurant’s other dishes were somewhat overwrought. (Lunch and dinner.)


And now, from high to low. The hamburguesa a lo pobre (the ironically-named poor-style hamburger) at Bembos, a Peruvian fast food chain. Comes with onions, tomato, fried egg, fried banana and is doused in a hot sauce made with yellow peppers. Naturally, I had an Inca Kola to wash the whole mess down with. In the event that you haven’t figured this out by now: Peruvians love the color yellow (it’s good luck).


No meal would be complete without cocktails: The dreamy aguaymanto sour (made from a light, citrus-y Amazonian berry) at Gaston Acurio’s high-end ceviche restaurant La Mar. To all you NoCal types: there’s a branch of this restaurant in S.F. What are you waiting for?


The cocktail the DEA doesn’t want you to have: The coca leaf sour at La Mar. A base of pisco and fresh lime juice is mixed with crushed, pisco-soaked coca leaves for an earthy touch.


A degustacion of leches de tigre (shots of ceviche broth with ceviche) at La Mar. From left to right: ceviche de conchas negras (a type of riverine mangrove mollusk), classic ceviche, with yellow peppers, with rocoto peppers, and Bloody Mary style. So good que le puede levantar la pinga a un muerto.


La Mar, again: The leches de tigre were followed by a degustacion of ceviches. From left: calamari, fish and octopus with a yellow pepper cream, mixed seafood with a rocoto cream, conchas negras, nikkei-style tuna ceviche with a dab of sesame oil, and finally, the classic ceviche. So fresh, so clean, so irresistible on the tongue. (Lunch is first come, first served. Get there early. And expect to be seated somewhere in the vicinity of various government ministers.)

Cuy pekines//Peking cuy at Astrid y Gaston, Lima
Seared Peking-style cuy with pickled vegetables, house-made hoisin (very nice; not to sweet or salty) and chicha crepes at Astrid y Gaston in Miraflores, Gaston Acurio’s most renowned and longest-running eatery. All I want to know is: Why isn’t there one of these restaurants in New York?


Salpicon de pollo at the Hotel Duo Boutique in San Isidro, with a kitchen ably administered by Chef Javier Paredes. Fresh chicken salad on a bed of smashed yellow potatoes with olive oil, with a wedge of avocado and drizzled with a sauce of aguaymanto. Ay, ay, ay so good. (Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Hotel guests only.)


At Fiesta, a northern Peruvian restaurant serving up Chiclayo-style cooking on Av Reducto in Miraflores, where you find decadent Spanish omelettes stuffed with manta ray (think somewhere between crab and fish) and Lima’s best arroz con pato (duck and rice cooked in cilantro and dark beer). They also have a ceviche a la brasa (a quick-grilled ceviche) that will blow your taste buds away. Above, find their volcan de chocolate, a warm chocolate torte accompanied by wedges of ice cream made with lucuma, an indigenous Andean fruit that is dry in texture and tastes like a very earthy mish-mash of butterscotch and sweet potato. (Lunch and dinner.)


Warm churros stuffed with caramel sauce, with dark chocolate for dipping. So fresh they crumbled the minute they hit the palate. At LA 73 in Barranco. Must return to Peru just for these. (Lunch and dinner.)


From Tanta, Lima’s answer to Dean & Deluca. A cheesecake mousse tort topped with a passion fruit glaze. Incredibly light with just a dash of sugar — a welcome surprise in a country where desserts are so overly sweet they can induce diabetes.


And last, but not least, chocolate from Xocolatl, by Giovanna Maggiolo, in Miraflores. Dark and white Peruvian chocolate stuffed with a variety of local fillings, from pisco, to aguaymanto to one inspired by a vintage local dessert called ranfañote (a molasses-y concoction with coconut and pecans). Again, they’re not too sweet, so you can really savor the fillings. The perfect palate-cleanser.

Belated update: In looking this over, I realise that I did not include Pedro Miguel Schiaffino’s Malabar in this round-up. This is due to the fact that I was so busy experiencing one of the most orgasmic meals I had in all of Peru at his restaurant that I forgot to take a single picture. If you’re in Lima, consider it a must-eat.

 

15 comments

  1. Brian

    I don’t smoke, but I feel like i should have a cigarette after scrolling through these photos. Thanks for sharing.

  2. frigg

    EVIL WOMAN!!! Have you no shame?

    It’s 1 AM and now I’m starving. I was thoroughly sated at 8 PM after polishing off some pretty decent leftover red-lentil dal and rice I made last night. I even mentally congratulated myself for getting it down right. Dal is solved!

    Then I see this load of malarky you claim is a blog post. I call you out on this obvious “enhanced blog-terrogation technique.” I wanna taste all dem tings. Now.

    I’ve really enjoyed your posts from Peru, you lucky bastard. And hey, welcome back to the US of A. Thanks, and damn you for making me all hungry and stuff. Dem taters are all so crazy!

    Cheers!
    frigg

  3. ELMER

    I am writing from somewhere in central America on the “Panamericana’, the highway that links Vermont with Buenos Aires. After reading your blogs, I could not resist the temptation to try those kitchen delights.You just confirmed what the great chefs have been saying for years, that Peruvian food is as good as it gets. Plan to arrive in another week or two. Sold the house, the thriving business, the three cars, the 200 inch TV plasma set, my collection of Civil War poems by Glenn Beck and my CD’s of American Idol. Can’t wait to settle down in Miraflores and eat, and eat, and eat, and eat and. . . .
    Love you! Are you married?

  4. Lucia

    Omg, I was in Peru weeks ago, and yes! the food is exquisite! And I love Inka cola haha. Here in the U.S. they sell it too, so I don’t get to miss it.
    Did you try “Papa a la huancaina”? It’s delicious, too!

  5. giovanna

    Well, if you come to Peru someday, add to the list and don´t miss to taste:

    Ceviche mixto (fish)
    Lomo Saltado (meat, tomatoe, chilli, fried potatoes/chinese style)
    Ají de Gallina (chicken)
    Choritos a la chalaca (sea fuit)
    Pulpo al olivo (octopus)
    Pepian de choclo (mashed corn guise, delicious, my favourite)
    Cayhua rellena (vegetable filled with meat, eggs, olives,…mmmm)
    Rocoto relleno (hot pepper filled with meat,onion sauce,…mmmm)

    Desserts:
    Arroz con leche – Rice with milk
    Mazamorra Morada – Boiled purple maize with honey
    Crema Volteada – Cream of milk and honey
    Leche asada – Cream of milk and honey gilded
    Picarones – Mashed gourd and sweet potato fried with honey

    My country is friendly, and have many diversed places to know, all regions are in 1 country, coast (desserts, beaches), mountains (snow sports practicing) and jungle (you can explore virgin jungle with no risk).

    See you!!!

  6. robby

    the food is incredible..i myself have lived in peru and have enjoyed the spectacular dishes they offer…the seafood is awesome and i also love andean style food from arequipa in particular.chupe de camarones (shrimp chowder) is spectacular..i actually went from lima, cusco, arequipa and the amazon on a culinary tour provided by a friends agency http://www.perumagicaltravel.com if anyone is interested by the way..i agree def the best place in the americas for people that love to eat