Lima! Is a good place to visit if you like food

H and I just returned from a week in Lima, Peru (which was supposed to be eight days, and thanks, JetBlue, ya bastahds). I had a list, and we followed the list, and the list served us very well.

Our first meal on our first day was lunch at Merito, which gets a lot of acclaim, and rightly so. It’s a small, very popular place in the fashionable Barranco neighborhood, and their thing is interesting new uses for traditional Peruvian ingredients. Mucho kudos to them for actually paying attention to the note I put in the reservation about what H can and cannot eat; we were very well taken care of.

Possibly you’ve heard the term “the fajita effect” bandied about, which refers to a dish that makes its way across the dining room, inspiring everyone to order it. As we are followers, our first course was just that – a grilled ear of corn with a chili cheese sauce. The corn in Lima is not like the corn at the USQ Greenmarket. It is not sweet corn. It is workhorse corn. It is very good corn.

corn

This was followed by an amaranthus chip topped with fish tartar (I’m not gonna bother with the Spanish names unless they’re absolutely necessary, because why should you have to look anything up?), scallops with sanki and jalapeño, fish with (more) corn, and flan. I also had an alcoholic drink before 5pm, which is not like me, but I was on vacation, so there. It was called a sachatomate, and to be honest, I wasn’t that crazy about it. I kinda thought it would be like a bloody mary – a good pre-5pm drink! – but it wasn’t.

amaranthus

scallops

catch of the day

flan

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We made a stab at getting a table at La Picanteria the next day and were shot down (don’t worry, we got there eventually), and thus ended up at Punta Azul. Which was just okay. The food was very big, as was all the food in Peru. And cheap, as was all the food in Peru (even the fine dining). I had a ceviche mixto. People love this place, so maybe there’s something wrong with me. But I thought the fish was over-ceviched.

ceviche mixta

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I’ll also mention here that we went down to the beach - no easy task, as you have to climb down like 15 flights of stairs, and I have exactly zero good hips. I saw some guys snorkeling and diving for something, so I stalked them and asked what they were hauling out of the water: pepino de mar, aka sea cucumber. I did not once see this on a menu, and I read A LOT of menus. Where the hell is it served? I like sea cucumber!

sea cucumbers

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Good stuff. We’ve been talking about Lima and Machu Picchu for quite some time now but keep postponing. Thats what happens when too many cooks. Hope your hip gets better very soon

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Continuing! Our second fancymeal, at Rafael, was unfortunately a disappointment, especially after Merito set the bar so high. For one thing, it was the kind of fancymeal you can get anywhere, so not all that special (although the food was Peruvian). For another, despite my written (ignored) and oral (ditto) requests to guide our ordering to accommodate H, he ended up with a muy picante dish that he had to send back for replacement. Also the menu does not warn that you will be charged for bread. I don’t mind - it was good bread! - but I prefer transparency. Anyway, tuna tiradito, very nice.

tuna tiradito

And sea bass with prawns and rice. This was very heavy, salty and buttery - even with H’s help, I couldn’t finish it. And this is why I don’t usually go in for “this type” of restaurant: I always feel super-sluggish the next day.

sea bass

We didn’t even get dessert. It didn’t seem worth it.

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Back to awesomeness! I went for a solo lunch at La Mar Cebicheria because someone “wasn’t hungry yet,” and he is still kicking himself. I hadn’t yet figured out the bus thing, so I hoofed it quite a ways, on a hot day, in the bright sunshine (not a given - Lima’s very cloudy). Along the way I convinced myself that I was going to the wrong address, or the restaurant would be closed, or it would be so crowded I wouldn’t be able get a seat. None of this happened. And I was rewarded with this beautiful tiradito of a grouper-type fish, the name of which escapes me (something akin to “fortunato” or “fortuna” or like that).

tiradito

Next up was uni and scallop and onion and avocado and pepper, absolutely spectacular and I felt like dancing.

sea urchin

Was I gonna give these folks, with their very professional servers and their airy spacious room, my dessert business? Damn right. This is lucuma ice cream. Lucuma is a fruit that (according to one of our tour guides) is liked by only 85% of the people who try it. I am in the majority. It is custardy and a little chalky and not too sweet.

lucuma ice cream

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More, more!!!

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By now it should be obvious how I arrived home toting several extra pounds, even after walking a minimum of 7 miles a day. Our final fancymeal was at Astrid y Gaston. I was prepared for lovely food. I was not prepared for dining in a gigantic hacienda that kinda reminded me of Leonard’s of Great Neck, if Leonard’s was actually a classy joint. This was the only place where, when we said we were from New York (and EVERYONE asked), the guy who led us to our table wanted to know Mets or Yankees. So we knew we would have a good time. Service was excellent here, and Astrid herself made the rounds and chatted with us for a bit. See? Classy.

Corn vichyssoise with churros. And just as an aside, to emphasize how freaking cheap eating in Peru is, this was $4.50.

corn vichysoisse

Korean-style cold pasta with crab. So refreshing! The cylinders are some kind of potato. Did you know that Peru cultivates 5000 varieties of potato? Probably, you’re smart people.

pasta with crab

H got cuy. Ish. I guess if you have to eat an adorable rodent, it might as well be here.

cuy

Some kind of grilled fish with clams. I was nearly comatose by this time. It was the weakest course, as entrees often are. But still good!

fish

And continuing in my quest to eat fruit I’ve never had, custard apple marinated in gin (yass!), with sorbet.

custard apple

Okay, almost done!

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When I am on vacation I try to be respectable and wait until at least noon before I start drinking. :beer::wine_glass::tumbler_glass::cocktail::tropical_drink:

You show remarkable restraint.

More please.

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Hah! Gimma a minute!

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The trouble with me (well, one of them) is that once I start drinking, I usually continue. So the rest of the day is shot. This is bad enough at home. It’s fatal on vacation, unless I’m just gonna be lazing around the beach. But this was not that! Need wits about me!

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Our last day, we made another stab at La Picanteria. This time on a weekday. This time at 4pm (not entirely on purpose - our cabdriver got lost), so not a popular meal time. Success! I did not understand the ordering system (I do now, but too late), and thus was somewhat grievously upsold, so this ended up being an absolutely vast meal, more appropriate for four - or even six - than two. Where were you when I needed you, @DaveCook?

You choose a fish. You choose two preparations of said fish. One board shows the weight of the fish. Another shows the price per kilogram. Our fish - a chita - was 1.9 kg. Which is a pretty big fish for two people. Did we want an appetizer, perhaps some uni? Did I not yet understand how big this fish was gonna be? Or how big the uni appetizer was gonna be? I did not!

The uni, which was the most uni I have ever consumed at a single meal. Or 10 single meals, even.

uni

Soup with rice. No indication this was part of the proceedings. Okay, then!

rice soup

Half of the fish, ceviche’d. With fried squid, why the hell not.

chita ceviche

The other half the fish, grilled. With yuca. And the fried head of the fish.

grilled fish

And more soup! Broth made from the bones of the fish.

fish broth soup

Should we have dessert? In for a penny, in for a pound. This is called misti, and it’s some kind of ice cream cake with cotton candy on it. The crust was very tough, which reminded H of his mother’s apple pie. Which is to say he was more of a fan of that crust than I was. You needed an ice pick to get through it.

misti

We made a friend. He insisted we live in Queens. We do not live in Queens.

Another little aside - I pushed open a door, thinking it was the ladies room, and spied a red neon sign that said Adults Only (in English). So I backed out quickly, thinking I’d stumbled upon a brothel or a strip club or something. Naturally, H wanted to check it out. I made him ask a server what it was. It was a brewery! Behind a restaurant! Shades of OG Angel’s Share, kind of.

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This is it, I swear. Just some odds & ends that would be a shame to not post. Causa was a DOTM on Chowhound, or maybe here, I forget. I made one, and it was a good effort, but not as pretty as this:

causa

From the restaurant at Parque de La Muralla ( I know I said I was gonna use English names, mostly, but Wall Park doesn’t really have :dancer:flair :dancer: The causa was purportedly crab and octopus, but the octopus was not much in evidence. No matter.

From the restaurant at the Larcos Museum (erotic pottery! :astonished:), a lucuma pudding. I also had a soup which may have been loche squash, but I forgot to ask.

lucupa pudding

Breakfast was included at our hotel, the Miraflores Colon. Very well situated, extremely helpful staff (so helpful that I wrote them a love note when we got home). Our favorite desk clerk, Carla, called all our cabs for us and did her best to get me up to speed on the buses. No easy task, because they are not consolidated like the MTA. More like when NYC had separate BMT, IRT and IND lines. Anyway, this is what I mostly ate:

hotel breakfast

And of course, Pisco sours. First is from the Gran Hotel Bolivar, which has a Pisco Sour Catedral. It’s on the somewhat raffish Plaza San Martin, which also features a lot of folks preaching about Opus Dei and indulging in contraband. I felt somewhat at home with the latter, not so much the former.

And our favorite, from a serendipitous discovery right near our hotel, Rocco’s Trattoria. We cruised in one evening just because the lights were on, and we weren’t ready to hit the hay yet. Parked ourselves at the bar and had a couple, or maybe more than a couple, very nice drinks, this being the first:

pisco sour

The best part? They just brought us bread. And olive oil. And whipped ricotta. Free for nothing.

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What a fun and yummy trip you had!!!

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We love finding/establishing a relationship with a neighborhood cafe or bar that you can fall into before finally heading into your hotel or apartment.

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Pisco Sours! Oh… My… Goodness…
I had forgotten how much i enjoyed those drinks!

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Wonder if it’s being exported to points 'cross the Pacific

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I can’t think of another explanation. But we didn’t get to any Chifa restaurants, and perhaps it’s to be found there (although I’m having trouble finding evidence of this).

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No.

Most of the sea cucumbers in the world are from SE Asia, and primarily Indonesia.

For better or worse, any sea cucumbers outside of SE Asia are viewed as inferior by most Asian consumers, think Hong Kong and Malaysia (which are the primary market for these critters)

This. Most likely.

Or they’re simply being sold at markets for home consumption.

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Ah, that makes a whole lot of sense.

Thanks! We didn’t get to any cool markets. Just the supermarket kind, when I needed more toothpaste, and some small packets of pepper sauce to take home in my carry-on.

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