After a fairly busy couple of days on Easter Island, we decided to take a little break during our first day in Lima. We had a wonderful lunch at El Veridico de Fidel, managed to check into a pretty nice upgraded room.....freshened up, then took a nice nap. It was starting to get dark when we awoke.
So, it was time for dinner! We headed out, taking our time......
We passed this fountain looking thing on Tarata Street. It's called the Monument Paseo de la Solidaridad.
We ambled our way to our dinner destination. Right before walking to Maido the night before heading to Santiago, we stopped by a restaurant to make reservations for our first night back in Miraflores at Restaurant Panchita Sazón Criolla, part of the Gaston Acurio empire. Pachita celebrates Perivian Criollo (think Creole) cuisine; the multi-national influenced dishes that equates to comfort food to many in Peru. The Missus headed to Panchita with a bit of apprehension after our so-so meal at Gaston Acurio's celebrated cebicheria La Mar. Still, I was looking forward to some anticuchos. The Hostess had remembered us from the evening we dropped by and made reservations.
We were lead to our table, passing trays of skewered meat....various parts of different creatures.
The woodfired oven looked ready for action.
The customers were a mix of Peruvians and tourists. The service was decent....some bumps in the road but good overall.
I started with a Cusquena Dorada Golden Lager, slightly sweet, mild malts, very nondescript.
Of course the Missus got a Pisco Sour, requesting it not too sweet. This was good, but nowhere near as good as what we had at Maido.
We were asked about bread and had initially thought about skipping it. But decided on getting it after all. If I recall 7 S/ (about $2) per person. This wasn't very good...very much like typical heat and eat stuff.
The Missus was fascinated by the various braised dishes and is a fan of Seco, the traditional beer-cilantro sauce. so She ordered the El Ossobuco Entero (88 S/ - $26), which featured "seco gravy".
We actually had to send this back initially because it was below room temperature. When heated properly, this was quite nice. Rich, a complex, mild herbaceous-sweet-savoriness, and the Missus loved those beans. The ossobuco was very tender and mild in flavor. This is total comfort food. The rice was meh......
I first ordered the Sweetbread Anticuchos (36 S/$10.50).
The sweetbread were lovely, very creamy interior, smoky, rich. Very nice. The Missus loves the potatoes in Peru and this was no exception....and of course, She could never get enough Choclo, the crunchy, large kernel corn, of Peru which She plowed through in a matter of seconds. Starchy instead of sweet crunchy, Choclo differs from Hominy in that it is not dried and treated with lye.
Still, I needed my Anticuchos de Corazon (39 S/ $11.50), beef heart, one of my favorite Peruvian dishes.
This might be the best anticuchos I've had. It had obviously been grilled, but not to the point of getting too firm and chewy. The texture was very nice; firm to the bite, but also quite tender. The marinade was nice, as it wasn't too salty. The Missus wiped out the Choclo again; though I got the potatoes this time. I'm not sure what it is about potatoes in Peru; but they always seem to taste better than what we have here in the states.
While we were eating, this older couple sat at a table nearby. The Missus told me, "they look familiar.....you know, that painting?" Good lord, She was right; give the guy a pitchfork and they'd fit perfectly in a Grant Wood painting!
We really enjoyed our meal at Panchita and the Missus has the place on Her list for a return visit if/when we're back in Lima.
Restaurant Panchita Sazón Criolla Calle 2 de Mayo, Miraflores, Peru
We rolled back to the Courtyard bellies full. The night was getting a bit chilly. We'd had a great day. It was Friday, so the main streets of Miraflores were full of people and cars. But the area around the hotel were much less hectic. We'd have a nice night of sleep.
As much as I enjoyed Easter Island, I was thrilled to be back in Lima, as I really enjoy the food in this city. For the Missus it was all about Cebiche. For me, it was noticing the interesting way that the cuisine has changed here since we first visited back in 2007. Back then, it was places, which are still around like, Astrid y Gaston, Pescado Capitales, and El Fayke Piurano. On this trip, we'd already seen the evolution of "Nikkei" cuisine at Maido, but were on the fence about our meal at La Mar. The Missus wanted Her Cebiche....a good and pure cebiche, which for Her is the ultimate taste of Peru.
We landed at Jorge Chaevez airport ontime at a shade after 11am. Like before, our driver from Taxidatum was waiting for us as we cleared immigration. It was too early to check in at our hotel, we were staying at the rather new Courtyard Miraflores. So we dropped off our bags and headed out to find some lunch. I knew the Missus really wanted cebiche, so we headed off to one of the places on my list. A place named El Veridico de Fidel.
Located rather close to Maido, Calle Colon is fairly quiet, as was this place when we arrived.
No English menu, just one very sweet young lady who spoke English, I guess she gets any tourist who visits. It was our kind of place. An unfussy menu, which started off with some canchita.....which was decent, but not as good as what we had earlier at La Mar.
On the menu, it said....in Spanish of course, that the "Nuesto Plato Bandera" was Leche de Tigre.....leche de tigre? Now, I love the liquid used as the base for classic Peruvian cebiche....but a dish based around that? I had to try it. I saw "erizo" on one of the versions of this and had to get it, the "Leche de Tigre Super Especial" (28S/$8.50). In case you don't know what "erizo" is, the picture is worth a thousand words.
Yes, it's uni...and a nice fresh and sweet scallop with roe, and nicely marinated lenguado, whitefish, in an interesting broth. Not quite as sour as chugging straight leche de tigre; but creamy, tempered, flavored with cilantro...this was so refreshing, I just loved it. The Missus poached the camote (simmered sweet potato) which She enjoyed. Man, this was good.
The Missus got the Ceviche Clasico (38S/$11.30 US).
The Missus loved the lenguado; She said it was perfectly prepared and flavored for Her taste. We told the nice young lady that we do enjoy "picante" so she brought us some aji limo, which were spicy, but quite sweet and floral. I gotta get my hands on some plants. The Missus of course enjoyed the camote (sweet potato) and the corn. She was less enamored with the concha negras, which were a bit too bitter for us. Still, She loved that ceviche.
I also wanted to try the Causa, so we ordered the Causa Langostinos.
Which we really didn't enjoy too much. The potato portion was a bit too dry for our taste and there was too much mayo.
On the funny end, I hadn't tried Chicha Morada in years! This "Kool-Aidish" style drink was quite sweet, but we still enjoyed this as it made us feel like we were really in Peru.
The place filled up fast. What we noticed was the customers in this faux patio were all limeños having lunch.
Simply put, this is the kind of place we enjoy. It's really no fuss, no muss, straight forward food. Quite good...the Missus loved the place. So we made reservations. We'd have our last meal in Lima here at El Veridico de Fidel.
El Veridico de Fidel Calle Colon 246 Lima 18, Peru
So....we managed to finally get into our room at the Courtyard rather late. And they did a nice thing and we got upgraded to a corner suite.
And in spite of not everything making sense in the room; for instance, the "espresso pod" machine was on a shelf that didn't pull out, so you had to actually unplug the machine, then put in on some table, then plug into run........it was quite a comfortable room.
And when it came down to location, this was great; a nice convenience store across the street, a nice view at night. Or even during the day......
We always try to plan at least one "special" meal during our trips. Lima, being one of my favorite food cities has some difficult choices, but Maido, without a doubt was the one place I just wanted to experience. The chef Maido Mitsuharu puts forward a "Nikkei" menu....inspired by Peruvian and Japanese cuisine. Mitsuharu has a pretty good resume, having attended Johnson & Wales and even trained for almost three years in a sushi restaurant in Osaka. You can read his bio here. Being a Sansei from Hawaii, where we have our own spin on Japanese cuisine, much of it based on the lack of many traditional Japanese ingredients, I've always been fascinated by Nikkei Cuisine. And was really excited about our dinner reservations at Maido.
Located on the corner of Calle Colon and Calle San Martin, Maido was quite easy to find. The building itself is quite distinctive. It was 10 minutes before opening and there were folks lining up. Considering all these folks had reservations, it seems that I wasn't the only one excited about eating here.
The interior of the restaurant is somewhat austere, with a sushi bar area and tables. The one really interesting feature are the ropes hanging from the ceiling.....kind of cool and yet kind of strange. I believe it also helps to absorb noise since most of the areas are quite hard.
We had ordered the "Nikkei Experience" when making reservations. This is a 15 course menu of dishes, none of which are revealed until you receive them. You don't even get a listing of the dishes until your meal is complete.
But first, some cocktails. The Missus, in a genius move, ordered the Pisco and Tonic, a wonderful balanced, grown up drink. It was my favorite cocktail of the trip. In fact, I ended up ordering another later on in the meal! At a loss for what to order, I went for the Sakura; a Pisco, Sake, Strawberry, and Camu Camu juice. It was light, clean, refreshing....but was more of a "chick drink".
Lucky for me, the Missus really liked this and we traded. She was especially taken with the flowers in the ice cubes.
Soon enough, dishes started arriving. Things were really paced well, our Server described the basic dish, and seemed pleased when I recognized tastes, flavors, and even knew some of the ingredients in the dish. Service was very professional with nice, friendly touches....."un-stuffy" and perfectly suited to our taste.
Things started off with an interesting "snack". The stuff in the cone was delicious pressed and fried chicken skin dusted with shichimi togarashi. It was so very nice and crisp, with that wonderful "unfowl" flavor of chicken skin.
The other part of the dish were sausages, which seemed like a cross between a bratwurst and chorizo, layered on plantain, senbei (no kidding - senbei) with a sachatomate (tamarillo) emulsion. Nice, but nothing to really get excited about.
What really got our attention was that sauce at the bottom of the photo above. We put some on the chicken skin and cracked up! Pachikay Sauce......it's scallion, ginger, soy.....this tasted like the dipping sauce for for Kwai Fei Chicken! Basically, the sauce for what we call "Cold Ginger Chicken" back home. This had a more complex flavor, the ginger seemed to have been blanched or cooked taking the edge off the flavor, some smokiness, it was also a bit on the salty side as well. Still, we really enjoyed the chicken skin.
The next dish was simply called "Churos"....no not churros, but churos, an Amazonian land snail. The snail had been simmered in a soy based broth, with perhaps some sake and mirin. It was enrobed with a very tasty foam made of dale dale root, which I believe is a type of arrowroot and garnished with "chalaca", a basic topping made of corn, tomato, and onion.
The snail was so tender and full of flavor and the foam really tempered any strong flavors and refreshed the palate.
Next up, one of my favorite items of the evening; simply called Lapas Cebiche. Lapas are "limpets". So, the folks from Hawaii will understand; this is opihi! Really good opihi, served on what was described to me as aji-cilantro-lime juice frozen by liquid nitrogen.
Good lord, this was leche de tigre sorbet! I love leche de tigre.....when our Server heard me exclaim that, he came over, smiled, and said, "yes, it is frozen leche de tigre". Amazing flavors and textures.
Next up was the Paiche Sandwich. Paiche is the legendary Arapaima from the Amazon. It has a nice texture, delicate, yet slightly firm.
The bun, like a mantou was hard, crumbly, and not up to the task. The lulo criolla, strangely didn't register much flavor.
My friends know how much I love cuy (guinea pig)...but cuy gyoza? Well, that's a new one. The wrapper was decent, crisp, not gummy. The filling was interesting, like the filling for a croquette, very soft and mushy....give me this and tell me it's pork and I'd believe you. The sauce was delish.....soy sauce, probably rice vinegar...combined with the onions and chilies, this really tasted Chinese.....as did the Pachikay Sauce. It seems the strong Chinese influence on Peruvian cuisine was in play as well.
Next up, well Sushi de Mar......An ika and hotate nigiri. Now, of course I'd never expect anything say...the level of Sushi Iwa or Urasawa....
But for me, the rice did this dish in. The gohan was hard, dry, and very cold. It really detracted from any enjoyment of the very nicely prepared seafood.
While the color of the dish screamed "bland" the "Amazonic Cebiche" was much better.
I loved the "Nikkei leche de tigre", which had some soy sauce in it. It tasted like revved up ponzu. I'm also a big fan of the shaved hearts of palm, which looked like noodles in this dish. That topping, which I was told was made of yucca flour was delish. I believe there was some garlic in here somewhere. There was also some very mild heat from aji charapita.
The next dish was also very good; Cancho con Yuca. This looked like compressed cubes of pork belly and yucca, wrapped up in some kind of dough based wrapper and topped with fried pork skin.
It was served with a "ramen reduction" which was quite salty.
Next up was another dish which just blew me away; Sacha Soba.
The noodles were made from sachapapa an Amazonian tuber. Flavor and color was added via the use of various chilies, and no, this wasn't spicy. But the texture of the soba was perfect; nice pull, that slight smokiness and mild spice from the chilies, balanced by the sweetness of the crab. My goodness, this was so delici-yoso!!!
We just had to have some drinks to celebrate! I got another Pisco and Tonic and the Missus gave in and had a Pisco Sour, which I thought was the most balanced, in terms of booze to sweetness to sour of what I had during the entire trip.
Next up were the Sushi Tierra (Earth). These fared much better than the seafood; possibly because the fat tempered the textures for me.
The A lo Pobre, a wonderfully beefy piece of meat torched, then topped with a quail egg. As a bonus, the quail egg had been injected with ponzu sauce, which added the nice salty-acid component which meant all the difference to this piece of nigiri. The mollejas (beef sweetbread) was nice and fatty which aided the texture, but this was a bit too tame in flavor compared to other piece.
The Missus really enjoyed the "Regional Beans", which had some nice flavor components, the quinoa crisps were very nutty and the Missus, who loves beans, also enjoyed them when mixed with the avocado cream.
So, the Missus has always preferred my misoyaki to everything She's ever had....even to pointing out the failings of what was served at Nobu's and Matsuhisa (!). Until tonight. On this evening, She proclaimed the Gindara to be the best She's ever had. Now I take a back seat.
I have to say, the flavor of the miso sauce/glaze was perfectly balanced; not too strong. the nuts; which I believe were cashews and bahuaja (Brazil nuts if I recall) just placed another layer of texture and flavor. I thought the potato cream was much too salty to enjoy.
The flavor and texture of the Wagyu Shortrib, which they said was cooked for 50 hours.....I'm pretty sure via sousvide, was amazingly tender and the flavor was a nice balance of salty to sweet.....and the egg yolk just added more richness (as if it were needed) to the dish. We both found the Cecina (cured pork) fried rice wrapped up like a spring roll to be kind of odd as it was on the mild side in regards to flavor.
The Missus really enjoyed both desserts. The Cacao; 70% pure, with yuzu and all the nuts.....
And I even enjoyed the "Maduro", which had the odd combination of an ice cream made with plantain and shoyu!
All that really nice tapioca balls, water jelly, and rice milk.....along with some Amazonian fruits like camu camu really made for a nice way to end the meal.
We really enjoyed our meal at Maido. In fact, the Missus told me that this is easily one of the most enjoyable meals of Her life. Me? Well, I can easily say that my favorite dining experience is Suzunari, which we actually returned to on our last visit to Tokyo (I know...I'm really behind). But this was an amazing experience in terms of food and flavors. And while certainly not on the level of Azurmendi, there was one thing they had in common. While not every dish worked to our enjoyment, the "highs" were extremely high. We could relate to the flavors....the combinations of which weren't frivolous.....the cuisine and thus the customer was respected....you could detect the "soul" of the cuisine here, it wasn't some meaningless mash-up. And while I wasn't able to wrangle a reservation at Central; we were both very happy to have the chance to dine at Maido.
Maido 399 Calle San Martin Lima, Peru
This was a wonderful meal. We'd have to get up at 430 the next morning and get our ride to the airport. Next up....Santiago, Chile...even if it was just for a single night we were looking forward to it!
Man, time sure does fly, doesn't it? Would you believe it's been almost 9 years since we were in Lima? It was time for the Missus's annual "'birthday trip". This year, I really didn't have much time. Plus, I've got a couple of big projects coming up and probably won't be able to take extended time off for a while. And so, like I mentioned in my previous post, we decided on knocking a couple items off the Missus's bucket list. Since this was going to be a short one, with many early mornings and late nights....almost like a giant lay-over at times; we decided to go for the gusto on several legs. Starting with our round trip to Lima, in which we flew Delta One. This meant that we'd actually manage to catch a short nap (I really have a hard time sleeping sitting up) and be able to use the lounges, both in San Diego and Atlanta.
Our flight got into Lima at 11pm, so basically our entire day was spent travelling. Taxis and such in Lima can be hit or miss and I really didn't want to have to deal with all that stuff, so I used a wonderful transfer service named Taxidatum. These guys were awesome; just $20 from/to the airport, the drivers were always on time, things were such a breeze. During our previous stay in Miraflores, the Missus loved the JW Marriott. Great service, comfy bed, all rooms had an ocean view, so this we were we stayed inbound to Lima.
We'd noticed that Lima had changed slightly since our last visit almost a decade ago. But one thing had gotten worse, the traffic......man, I thought it was bad before!
Though there were new things that captured our attention. Like when did Paddington Bear get here?
According to Atlas Obscura, this was a gift from the UK. I guess Paddington was returning to his roots; though Miraflores is far from "Darkest Peru".
The grey and hazy skies were quite familiar and in a way comforting. We'd later learn, from our driver "Benjamin" that they call the skies in Lima, Panza de Burro, because the grey reminds them of a "donkey's belly". Such a perfect description.
We decided to walk along the 10 kilometer path along the cliffs overlooking the Pacific called "El Malecón", taking our time to enjoy the sights.
Near the Villena Bridge, which also has a path to the beach below, you'll come across two of Lima's most well known sculptures, the "Intihuatana" (The Sun Anchor) on one side and Parque del Amor (no translation needed, right?) with the sculpture known as El Beso (The Kiss) on the other side. I was told that on Saturdays, at around 7pm, you'll see many folks taking wedding photos under this iconic piece of public art.
For some reason, I've always been fascinated by the feet of this sculpture....well, TMI perhaps?
If the rest of the park looks familiar to you, I heard that it was inspired by Gaudi's Park Guell in Barcelona. Though it doesn't have the same "Tim Burtonesque - Walt Disneyfied - Dr Seussificated" (what I call Park Guell), fairytale feel to the place, it's still a nice area to stroll or even take a break.
Maybe you'll notice that dogs are loved in Peru, just as they are here in the states.
Or maybe you'll stop and watch some ambitious soul trying to ride his motorized unicycle thingy....
Or maybe not, as this guy drew about a half-dozen onlookers, but after about 5 failed attempts everyone pretty much lost interest.....
Still, there's a lot to see. By this point we had reached Avenida Santa Cruz and after taking our lives into our hands at several intersections, we arrived at our destination on Avenida La Mar.
During our previous time in Lima, we had a short list of cebicherias, with a final two being Gaston Acurio's La Mar, now a world wide institution, or Pescados Capitales. In the end, because we had eaten at Acurio's Astrid & Gaston the night before, we chose Pescados Capitales. So we considered a visit to La Mar to be unfinished business, which we decided to quickly address when we got to Miraflores.
When we arrived, shortly before opening, there was already a line forming. And a few minutes after being seated, the place had totally filled up. The crowd looked to be about 50-50 tourists to locals.
The crew here is very efficient and professional. One guy basically works your table, another gets drinks, and yet another goes from table to table taking orders. The plantain and sweet potato chips, crisp and light arrived quickly, along with three sauces. We enjoyed the aji rocoto the best as it had a nice "zing". We found that folks in Miraflores were really cautious about giving tourists anything spicy.
Then the wonderfully warm roasted corn kernals, cancha arrived. Oh my, how I've missed this stuff!
The Missus couldn't wait to get Her mitts on a Pisco Sour (24s/$8). This one was really boozy, quite strong, so I ended up having most of it.
As for the ordering.....well, we had things in mind, but our waiter had a problem with what we wanted as most of it seemed a bit the same. I finally acquiesced and went with some of his recommendations. The Missus was not amused. But at least we started off with what She really wanted; the Cebiche Classico - Cabrilla 59s/$20).
The camote (sweet potato) was on the dry side, but decently flavored. The fish was tender, with a slight chew, though we'd have better later on, this was a solid #3 on the cebiche list for Peru. I enjoyed the lech de tigre, though the Missus prefers something with a bit more citrus oomph. The Missus hasn't met many versions of choclo She doesn't like and this was no exception. This was on the mild side with regards to heat and we'd soon learn to ask for aji limo, chopped spicy red chilies on the side to add some zip.
We'd been talked into the Cebiche Nikei (56s/$18.75).
The Missus has come to detest overly sweet, fusion, tuna based dishes with heavy handed flavors. So this didn't make it past "go" for Her. And while I thought this was nothing special, at least they didn't just mar everything in confusing flavors like the tuna cebiche dish we had at Pescados Capitales. It wasn't too sweet, but had a bunch of flavors going on that was a bit too much for me.
We'd also been talked into the Chucuito (39s/$13). Basically a scallop based cebiche/tiradito type dish.
The scallops were very plump and sweet, but the flavors were marred with too much mayo. You really couldn't make much else out. We ended up scraping a good portion of the mayo off, so we could enjoy the flavors of the tomato, onion, and the creamy texture of the avocado, along with the scallops.
The one item I did insist on was the causa, this version is called the Miraflorina (26s/$8.75) and has shrimp and crab with an aji amarilla mayonnaise.
For me, this was the best causa I encountered during our trip. The potatoes where nice and light, the flavor of the crab came through nicely, and while this could have used a tad of acid, the tomato helped things along. A very nice causa.
Overall, we found our visit to La Mar to be a bit of a mixed bag. This ended up being our most expensive cebiche type meal (other than in Hanga Roa) and we'd have much better later on. I found that the Missus gravitated to more traditional flavoring and really didn't care for sweet flavors, other than what is provided by the seafood in Her cebiche and tiradito. And overly fusionized, somewhat unfocused versions were not appreciated. And while we'd have what I'd call one of the most fusion meals for dinner, the flavors would be focused, and the intent of the dishes were quite clear.
La Mar Cebicheria Avenida La Mar 770 Lima, Peru
After lunch we decided to walk back to the JW Marriott (this IS the Missus, right?). The Missus had getting some Lucuma Ice Cream on Her agenda. I also wanted a nice Inka Cola. For some reason, Inka Cola tastes much better in Peru! So we stopped at the nearby Metro Express, which had the ice cream booth and I grabbed an Inka Cola while the Missus stood in line for some Lucuma Ice Cream. While I was waiting to pay for my Inka Cola, I noticed the Missus came around front sans ice cream. She told me that the folks in the booth took all the orders for the locals in line, even those behind Her and totally ignored Her, so She decided "screw them". Very sad, though this was the one and only time we were treated this way during our time in Peru.
A few blocks down the street we found this place.
And the Missus got Her Lucuma Ice Cream. In case you weren't reading all those years ago and don't know what the heck lucuma is; it is also known as "egg fruit" and is quite gritty and powdery in raw form. But made into ice ream, the custardy-sweet potato flavors come through perfectly.
Blueberry Cafe Calle Schell 285 Lima, Peru
The Missus and I found a bench and enjoyed our ice cream chased with Inka Cola. It was so nice to be back in Lima!
There was one more place I wanted to check out on the way back to our hotel. Right along the intersection of Larco and Oscar R Benavides in Parque Kennedy. Yes, it is named after John F Kennedy, due to, from what I understand is the aid he provided Latin America during his presidency. It is a nice, relaxed green space, but there's one interesting feature of Parque Kennedy. It is home to either 80 or 100 stray cats, depending on which post/article you read.
These are not your typical stray/feral cats. They seem clean, well fed, and healthy. And also quite friendly, though the Missus is not fond of our feline friends.
According to this post, no one knows how all the cats ended up here. I had several cats as pets growing up, so I'm somewhat fond of them. There is a group of people who monitor the cats, making sure the park is clean and pet safe disinfectant is used twice a day. The cats also receive vet care and are all neutered, so who's going to complain about these, right?
And there are those somewhat eccentric characters we saw.....
And some that were so adorable.....
I think this sculpture in the park should be replaced with one of a cat, right?
We got turned around a bit and ended up walking in the wrong direction for a few blocks after Parque Kennedy, finally righting ourselves. Getting lost is half the fun anyway...so long you don't end up with trouble on your hands, which is hard to do in Miraflores....lovely Miraflores, literally to "watch flowers".
Getting back to the hotel, we showered and took a short afternoon nap. We were looking forward to dinner. It would be quite the adventure....
In case you've noticed I've been gone for a couple of days. Only had a short time for a trip this time around. So, I thought we'd knock some items off the Missus' "bucket list". Which conveniently meant heading back to one of my favorite cities when it comes to food.
And we weren't disappointed in the least.
If anything, things have gotten even better!
Our other stops were fairly good as well.
And then there were the places. One photo tells it all.
Just a beautiful place, where every photo becomes a postcard.
And where I learned that it's ok to go down some tight, dark hole.....
Because the payoff can be amazing.
Sort of like the sunsets.
And the places are the stuff of legend.
Even the dogs (though not the cats) are chill.
It all makes for a good story over a cold one.
We were even able to take care of a second bucket list item as well.
Overall, until today, it seems like one big layover......early mornings, with so much time spent in airports, or long drives. But tonight, I have time to regroup. With a cold one and the view from our room.
We've got one more day. And hopefully a couple good meals left before heading home. So I'll be back soon.
You really didn't think, what I think you thought, right? That paints a pretty scary picture in my mind's eye......
Right after my post on Tri-Village, I received an email from "Dave" who asked me about.... well, basically skin, and where I've had the best dishes. The wording was quite interesting, and really cracked me up. So I thought I'd do this post as a companion to the mmm-yoso raw! post. Just for some fun...... After all, there are few things better than fried animal skin. What's interesting is that some of our favorite skin dishes aren't from anywhere here in the US. Even this one, from a future post.....
Wouldn't make the list.....
And in spite of what most folks think; this stuff:
Fried Chicken Skin from Pollo Pinulito in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala:
Man, you gotta hand to the country that is home to Pollo Campero; they sure know how to fry chicken. And this little shop in the village of Santiago, on the shores of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala made some very good fried chicken skin.
I could smell the seasonings from outside the place. When we entered, that chicken skin, just out of the fryer was calling to me.
I actually carried that bag of chicken skin by boat from Santiago to San Pedro, and then on the next boat to Lomas de Tzununa, then up 400 steps from the muelle to our room. Was it worth it?
I'm not quite sure about meeting the snakes though. I think I'll pass on that next time, though that snake ruou was fantastic!
Cuy skin from dinner in Cusco:
I've probably mentioned our Cuy dinner in Cusco maybe a thousand times. But it is without a doubt, one of the most memorable meals we've ever had. And that skin on the Cuy, simply seasoned with olive oil, huacatay, and salt, was better than any lechon I've ever had.
And while we felt a bit uncomfortable meeting our dinner's siblings. It really didn't stop use from nibbling on those delicious crunchy toes and feet of the Cuy.
I know, I know.... I've shown waaaay too much skin today! But I hope you enjoyed the post. I hope I answered your question Dave!
Maybe I should've made a few resolutions for the New Year. First on that list would be "completing things I started sooner....." I realize that I did part 1 of this post on December 30th. I could, of course make it sound even farther "upstream" by writing something like "last year".... Of course, I still haven't finished my posts on Guatemala, or even Thailand, I hope to get those done before we leave on our next big trip. So without further ado..... these are in no particular order, but it's the meals that the Missus and I talk about most often.
I've always been fascinated by markets of all shapes, sizes, and types. You learn so much about the people who live in these destinations, by checking out the market..... The Sunday Market at Bac Ha is well known as a gathering of the various Hill tribes. The Can Cau Market is less well known, but we found that we enjoyed it more.... it was less touristy, and it seems a bit more laid-back, not that the term "laid back" in anyway describes anything in Vietnam.
Here in the hill country of Vietnam, the colors worn by the people are vibrant and colorful; the Flower H'mong, Red Zao, Giay, the Blue H'mong.
We had made it clear early on that we don't do tourist food, and ended up eating where everyone else was; sitting on low benches a few inches above the hard-packed dirt.
The fare was simple, boiled pork, noodle soup, pickled greens, and the star of the show, Ruou Ngo, the local "moonshine" poured into used plastic water bottles from "Jerry cans".... the equivalent of 50 cents got your 16 ounce water bottle filled to the brim with Ruou.
And then the inevitable happened, we became the current novelty.... Our guide approached with cups of Ruou telling us that two of the gentleman sitting across the way "want to have a drink with you, because tourists never eat with them. They are very happy and proud that you would eat the same food." This of course, was only the beginning, of a scene we've encountered almost everywhere we've been in SEA, "they don't believe you're American. They say that you cannot be American, you don't look like Americans. Americans rarely come here, and those that do are afraid of the food, and won't drink with them. They take their pictures and leave right away."
Just as we are curious about the lives of people who seem so exotic and different, they are just as fascinated with us. You'd lose so much by keeping things at safe distance sometimes.....
What sticks with me was a toast the proprietor of the pork stall made before we left. Finding out that the Missus is Chinese, he made the following toast: "to Vietnamese and Chinese, we are brothers and neighbors, and brothers sometimes fight, but in the end we are still brothers". In the end, we are all brothers, under the same moon and sun......
Peru was a delicious and fascinating trip, and words cannot describe Machu Picchu.
Without a doubt, one of the highlites of our time in Cusco was dinner with the family of a friend of ours. We were told that they'd be making us a meal of Cuy, something that got me rather excited. That excitement was dampened when I had a terrible meal of Cuy the night before. Man was it bad, but there was a reason for that I was to find out later.
This family opened their home and hearts to us. And the Cuy was wonderful!
Crisp skin like roast pork, Cuy is all dark meat, and does taste like dark meat pork. I nibbled on the legs, the little bit of meat by the back spine is fabulous. And of course we had a drink after dinner to "kill the Cuy" as they say.
So why did that Cuy we had the previous night taste so bad? It was because they were fed a diet of meal that included fish and other ingredients to make them grow large quickly. The traditional food for Cuy is Alfalfa.
We spent a wonderful evening talking about all sorts of subjects..... humor is universal! When it comes down to it, we are more alike then we are different.....
I usually don't do posts on fine dining and the like in San Diego. Like I've written many times, there are many other great food blogs and sources for that kind of info. Our meals during our travels are a different story.....
At the time of our visit in 2007 Astrid y Gaston, Gaston Acurio's flagship restaurant was on Pellegrino's top 100 restaurants in the world list. The concept of Novoandina Cuisine was very interesting to us. The unique cuisine of Peru had us entranced, and Astrid y Gaston really delivered.
Of course the Missus got Cuy, yet again.
Appetizer, drinks, and mains for two, for the equivalent of $80/US! Plus, a glimpse of the future of Peruvian cuisine.......
- Dinner at Tamarind: Luang Prabang
After attending the Tamarind Cooking School, we made reservations for dinner at Tamarind. And what a dinner it was, I had to do two posts to cover the meal. The meal we made reservations for was called the "Adventurous Lao Gourmet", and after checking out the local Wet Market, I could only imagine what we'd be having.....
And for the equivalent of $12 per person, this degustation style meal surely delivered.
From various "Jeow" (dips).....
to "Fish Poo".....
And steamed pigs brains.....
And of course, the various insects..... some of which I enjoyed more than others.
Even beyond the "look at what I'm eating" attention seeking thingy, I learned so much during this meal. Joy, one of the owners presents each course, and explains a bit about each dish.
Remember the quote from Brillat-Savarin: "Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are." Well this meal displayed to me resourcefulness, "Thao" a wonderful Jeow made from Spyrogyra, what some call "pond scum", salt-pickling, fish curd, and yes, even "Fish Poo" where the intestinal matter of the fish is used for preservation displays one of the most basic means of preserving food without modern refrigeration. The steamed pig brains is a cherished item, as Joy told us it "what you'll make for your children if you love them."
All of which was eaten with that Lao staple, sticky rice.
There's a peaceful, gentle, friendly tolerance we encountered everywhere in Laos.
Vientiane was quite a contrast from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok and even Nong Khai. Sometimes you happen upon just the right meal at the perfect time. And this was it. There are a huge number of stands along the Mekong river. For some reason, we decided to stick with the one we first passed early on. It was wasn't a huge set-up like the other stands, but the folks running the stand seemed so warm and friendly.
Sitting on a makeshift bamboo platform, I could feel all the tension and worries lazily drift down the Mekong. Of course, the Beerlao didn't hurt!
Some of the food, like the stir fried Morning Glory was good.
Other items like the whole fish, was just okay......
What really sent this meal to the "memorable list" was the act of thoughtfulness by the folks who ran this stand. You'll have to read the post to get that story. Let me just say, that along with being the best Nem Khao I've ever had......
It was a great introduction to the thoughtfulness of the folks in Laos.
And hey, that sunset wasn't too bad either!
So there you go...... Five memorable meals. There are a few more that I could probably add.
But it's those five that we talk about the most.....
You know, there's a song I've been listening to quite a bit lately. To me, it's got a great hook..... but I also realized that there's a line of the song that always makes me smile:
This is the time of year for lists..... and more lists. First there's the Christmas shopping list, then the post Xmas return list, followed by that all too inevitable New Years resolution list, and so forth. I often get asked to do lists, stuff like Pho restaurants, eating itineraries for visitors (which I love to do BTW - it's just that I'm kinda slow on the email thing), and other stuff. Recently, Dennis asked me if I was going to do an updated 10 photos post, and I thought about it, but after a bit of pondering I gave up. You see, we average somewhere around 300 or so posts a year, and picking a few photos out of those...... well you see what I mean, right? And yet, because it is the time of the year for lists, I just felt I needed to do one. And so I pulled out an often requested list, of our most memorable meals, not in any order, and kinda off the top of my head. Now note that that is "our" list, which is, the Missus and I, which automatically excludes places like......
Urasawa, which was a ginourmous three part post......
And even though we've had some very memorable dishes like the Roasted Whole Sparrows from Highway 4 in Hanoi......
Which was really delicious..... or even sannakji (live octopus), which I thought was less so....
Or even Prahok, a fermented Cambodian fish paste, made more interesting by the sour little crunchy things....
And there were those stories, like the young lady in Siem Reap named Akin, who came to work in the city at the age of 9!
Akin, an orphan who never knew her parents nor siblings, felt the need to comfort us when we were so touched and distressed by her story by sharing with us her philosophy on life: "no worries, no worries, I'm Happy-Happy every day!"
Frothy, yeasty, and light, it's a wonderful beverage. There's just one thing you need to understand about Chicha de Jora, to quote: "In order to start the fermentation process, the maize is moistened in the maker's mouth.....the digestive enzymes in saliva helps to break down the starches and start the fermentation process. In fact, it is thought that the modern name for this drink is based on the Spanish word "chichal", which means to spit".
I'd also need to exclude the best "hootch" I've ever had, Snake Ruou (rice wine):
We've found that there's no way to get to know the folks than by trying out some of the local "beverages":
After all, if it comes out of a rusty old barrel, through a bamboo tube, it's gotta be good, right?
Hmmmm..... another list! I'll stop now, and leave this list for later. But I'm wondering, how many of you have been reading for the last four years or so. And if you have.... first I'd like to thank you so much for reading! Second, are there any posts which stand out in your mind.... or perhaps you'd like to take a stab at what you think were our most memorable meals?
But lately I've been finding myself fading away at certain times, just "wool gathering". I'll be doing a post....you really can't call what I do writing or composing....it's really just "doing". And my mind just sort of wanders. Maybe off to the cobblestone streets of Cusco. Perhaps I've just been working too hard. But I'm starting to get that feeling again. I think we need to head off, to where, I'm not quite sure yet....
It's a funny thing, some of the nicest, most memorable meals we've had on trips, have ended up on the "PWTSDS" ("putdz" - Places Where the Sun Don't Shine) list. That would be the mmm-yoso photo scrap heap. And yet, these were meals we really enjoyed. So without further ado, I think maybe it's time for those "ugly duckling" photos to shine.....so if you'd just put up with me!
Anticuchos in Cusco (Peru):
I believe this was right after our dinner at the Chicharroneria. We were walking down Avenida del Sol, when we spied a crowd on the corner of Avenida del Sol and Ayacucho. A woman was making Anticuchos, and if the crowd was any indication, it was very good Anticuchos indeed!
Seeing the crowd, and breathing in the scent of grilling meat restimulated our appetites, and suddenly we just had to have some Anticuchos. But how to deal with the mass of humanity? Just as in all of our travels, whether in a confused state in a train station in Hanoi, or getting Anticuchos, we met our Guardian Angel. This time, an older gentleman saw the Missus trying to edge Her way forward. He immediately took control of the situation, and waved the Missus next to him. He quickly yelled out for some Anticuchos for the Missus, and even looked them over.....just to make sure.
The Missus said these were the best Anticuchos She ever tasted, and at Un Sol (about 33 cents), it was more than a bargain.
I'm sure the kindness of the Gentleman made them taste even better!
Pardo's - Miraflores (Peru):
As we noted, we stayed at the huge Marriott in Miraflores before returning home. Right across the street is a mall, Larcomar, which is built into the cliffs overlooking the ocean. And in the mall is a location of Pardo's Chicken, the largest Pollo a la Brasa (rotisserie chicken) chain in Peru. There seemed to be a Pollo a la Brasa shop on every street corner in Lima. People here are crazy about it.
We were headed home the next day, and were bushed, and Pardo's seemed to fit the bill. As good as the chicken was....
It was the Papas Fritas (French Fries) which we enjoyed the best. The potatoes were a nice yellow in color (Papas Amarillas - like Yukon Gold), which tasted like the soul of a potato. I can still taste them.......
And with a dip in the Aji Sauce...sort of like an Aji Aioli....man was this good. There's something to be said for having just the right food, at the right time.
Which takes us to Siem Reap and...
Maharajah Royal Indian Cuisine (Siem Reap):
After a day of hiking among ruins, and tired of Fish Amok, we wanted something different. An acquaintance of mine had mentioned that the Indian Food in Siem Reap is not half bad. And we just stumbled into Maharajah.
Gotta love the "spicy scale" provided on the menu....
The unfortunate thing about the restaurant was the lighting, it was a horrible "bug killer green", which made everything look pretty unappetizing.
The Missus enjoyed Her Special Vegetarian Thali (meal set - $3/US), which was an absolute bargain!
I got the most expensive item on the menu; the Mutton Thali ($6/US). And yes, it was indeed mutton, very gamy, and pretty tough. But the Dal was very good.
It was just the right meal at the right time. In fact, the Missus wanted Indian the following night as well.
It's funny how these meals stuck in our mind. Just the right thing, at the right time. Our memories of these places are quite varied as well. For all of the photos of Inca Treasures....
And the magnificent temples of Angkor.....
It's the photos of things like this dog "scratching an itch" in the fresh grass in Calca,
or the children learning traditional dances at school in Cusco,
And the children in Siem Reap.....
With smiles that are priceless..... that we remember the most.
Funny thing, it's the people, and our experiences with those people that the Missus and I discuss the most. The kindnesses of strangers, the stories of the folks we encounter, the understanding that we are all more alike than different.
Yes, I think soon it'll be time to get on a plane and go somewhere....not quite sure where yet, but we'll be sure to let you know. And hopefully I'll finish all those Cambodia posts before I head off on another vacation.
You know, my week has suddenly gotten better. I hope you have a great one! If you've hang around till the end I thank you.
Knowing how much the Missus loves Cebiche, it would have been a crime to leave Lima without another meal at a Cebicheria, restaurants specializing in seafood, especially, well what else, Cebiche! In doing research for out meal, I came across several great sources, one was of course, Peru Food, another being the restaurant reviews in klephblog, and finally, this excellent article written by Jonathan Yardley for the Washington Post. In the end, it came down to meals at either Gaston Acurio's Cebicheria, La Mar, or the highly regarded Pescados Capitales. Interestingly enough, the two restaurants are located blocks from each other, in what is slowly becoming the "Cebicheria district", Avenida La Mar. Another well regarded Cebicheria, La Red, is also located on the same street. Since we had already eaten at Astrid & Gaston the evening before, and since Pescados Capitales takes reservations, we decided on Pescados Capitales. It was a bit tough getting reservations, we could never find anyone who spoke English. Luckily, the very nice Concierge at the Marriott, made reservations for us. She did wonder how I knew about Pescados Capitales since it's according to her a "mostly a local place". Later on, when she saw me, she followed up, curious as to how we enjoyed our meal. So, after a busy morning, we flagged down a cab on Larcomar got a price (6 Soles), and headed off. The young man, who looked part Chinese, was amiable, and he humored the Missus who used her survival Spanish on him. When she mentioned taxi drivers in Lima, he made a clucking sound, and told the Missus, "taxi all loco, allll loco, in Lima!" Of course he was in the process of cutting several cars off, and making a left turn from the center lane without using the turn signal at the time.......
Avenida La Mar, is an interesting street, a mixture of auto repair shops, small industrial businesses, residential, and as mentioned before, several upscale Cebicherias. Cebicherias are strictly lunchtime eateries, so location is not such a big issue. Oh, one more thing, in Lima, lunch can mean any time between noon and 6pm! I had heard that Peruvians like to eat late, and we did notice how Astrid & Gaston got busier as the night wore on. In keeping with that, when we arrived for our 1230 reservation, the restaurant was almost totally empty:
The Missus looked at me and went, "humph, you needed reservations for this?" But by 1 pm, it looked like this:
Before we left....packed to the rafters!
Just after sitting we were brought an Amuse of uber-fresh Scallops with Bloody Mary mix:
So simple, yet so very good. The sweet, tender orbs, was like a spicy-tomatoey kiss of the ocean. When the Missus mentioned how good this was, the Server, brought Her two more!
I had read that the name of the restaurant was a play on words, "pescado" in Spanish means fish, you'd think the word "pescados" would probably be the plural of the former word. But it is not, "pescados" is translated as "sin". So using this play on words, many of the dishes at Pescados Capitales are named for the Seven Deadly Sins or the Seven Virtues. A double order of Paciencia (patience) anyone? On some days I could perhaps use a triple order........ In addition, the Owners of Pescados Capitales are of Peruvian-Chinese descent, and there are several dishes on the menu that reflect this.
The Aji was brought to the table, and was really good, and a bit different from other versions. It had a distinct smokey flavor to it, almost as if some chipotle was in the mixture. The cancha(fried corn kernals) were nice and salty, though very dry. It was best eaten mixed with the Leche de Tigre(Tigers Milk), the cebiche marinade.
Oh, and how good that Leche de Tigre was! We started with the classic Cebiche de Leguado (sole cebiche s/30 - approx $10).
Though the fish was good, not excellent, the Leche de Tigre was the best we've ever had, just the right amounts of sour-salty that is as bracing as the spray created by waves crashing on a rocky shoreline. Mildly pungent and sweet onions, and very spicy red peppers added heat, and the camote, with the slight hint of cinnamon in the background made this a very pleasing dish. To this day, when we think of Cebiche, this is the version that comes to mind.
We also ordered the Caridad ("Charity" s/ 30, approx $10 US), and interesting Eurasian mix of flavors.
Pacific Rockfish had been lightly studded with sesame seeds, lightly dusted with togarashi, and lightly seared, giving it good texture. The reduction which I read contained mirin, dashi, lime, among several other items was much better than I thought it would be. The combination of sweet-salty-sour was quite good. It was accompanied by a nice green salad, with a mild vinaigrette. The only item we didn't care for was the parmesian cheese, the sour cheese along with very rare fish was not a combination we enjoyed.
I also wanted to try a tiradito, so I selected the Tiradito Capital(s/ 31 - approx $10.50 US):
This was one beautiful dish, and the tuna was really nice and fresh. The rest of it was a mish-mash of confusing flavors...a very strong oyster sauce reduction, that tasted like it had dijon mustard in it on top, Leche de Tigre on the bottom...too many clashing flavors, you really couldn't taste anything. Maybe this was a little bit too over the top for us. I was wishing I could just have that maguro........ Still you can't blame them for trying.
The menu at Pescados Capitales is fairly large and diverse. Don't let our meal fool you, there are many cooked seafood dishes like "Lust" stuffed squid, grilled over coals, a very popular risotto we saw many people ordering, and a huge plate of Pulpo! I'm sure next time we're in Miraflores we'll be checking out Punta Azul, a Cebicheria we passed several times on a side street, and La Mar.....but I'd come back to Pescados Capitales in a minute!
Pescados Capitales Avenida La Mar 1337 Miraflores, Lima, Peru