Sunday morning in Miraflores is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of the night before. It is rather sedate, calm....there's not much going on streetwise.
At this point in our lives; the Missus and I are far removed from "the party". You know; Mom sued to say "nothing good happens after midnight. At a certain point in your life you figure out that "nothing good happens after 10 pm." That's kind of where we're at in life. Though when it comes to Madrid and Spain as a whole; the clock is thrown out the window.
Still, it wasn't that early for us as we left our hotel; 830 am is kind of a late start when we're travelling.
Still, the streets are pretty quiet on a Sunday morning.
We headed off to our breakfast destination. We had some great discussions with our wonderful driver, Benjamin during our trip to see the Nazca Lines. One of the questions I asked was about a typical breakfast in Lima.....I was told that we must get a Sanguche de Chicharron, a pork sandwich for Sunday breakfast, it's a Lima tradition. I'd heard about the iconic pork sandwich; I knew about La Lucha which is quite well known, but Benjamin told me that Dona Paulina is where he takes his family for Sanguches de Chicharron. Which we happened to see the previous evening when we had dinner at Punto Azul.
The place looks like a typical neighborhood Coffee Shop.....
One that sells pork and lomo saltado sandwiches......anyone want a tamal for breakfast?
In spite of the street being fairly empty; Dona Paulina was doing some good business on this morning.
The Missus got an espresso; I an Americano......
And we decided to split an Sanguches de Chicharron....JR....as in a smaller sized sandwich. I'm glad we did.
The sandwich is served using what they call a "French Roll" here. It is yeasty and relatively light. The sandwich is served with a nice salsa criolla which I sometimes make at home. The acid and pungency from the onions helps to cut all the richness of the pork.
There were three different slices of pork in the sandwich; one had a bit of skin and fat which added a nice richness; there's one rather meaty cut, looks like shoulder which, while adding bulk was on the dry side. The fat and moisture from the other slices and the salsa ciolla evened things out.
Of course the Missus loved the slices of camote; sweet potato in the sandwich.
Dona Paulina Calle Alcanfores 715 Lima, Peru
It was a good thing that we shared this sandwich as we planned to have an early lunch.
How do you follow-up a day of flying over the Nazca Lines and a pretty hefty lunch? Well, with a nap of course. After a short respite we decided to head on back out....it was Saturday night after all. We weren't very hungry, but knew we had to have something to eat, but we weren't sure what. That question was soon answered as we passed Punto Azul.
Punto Azul had been on our list the last time we were in Miraflores. Unfortunately, the place was always packed so we never got in. So now, nearly ten years later we were back in front of Punto Azul and the place was only 2/3 full. So why not?
We were quickly seated. Our timing was "on" this evening as the place quickly filled up soon after, with folks waiting for tables.
The crowd seemed split about 50-50; half obvious tourists, the rest seemed to be Peruvian. So we weren't really sure how this meal was going to turn out.
The Missus started with a Pisco Sour, I had some drink with Prickly Pear that sounded pretty good, but ended up being more of a "chick drink".
We were quickly served plantain chips and passable Canchita; toasted corn.
Of course the Missus got the Ceviche Punto Azul; basically a classic cebiche. She also scarfed the camote (sweet potato), which She said needed more flavor and the choclo (the large kernel corn), which of course; She loves.
The fish in the ceviche was on the fibrous and chewy side, though it had been marinated for the perfect amount of time. The leche de tigre was on the mild side and we livened it up with some aji limo (minced red chili pepper).
I, of course, ordered the Tiradito; in this case named Tiraditos al Punto.
This was three classic versions of tiradito; classic, rocoto, and amarilla, and one rather odd version.....olive flavored. I thought this was a pretty good rendition of tiradito; nice creamy sauces, the fish, sliced well and while on the chewy side, was still decent. The Aji Rocoto sauce wasn't very hot, but was quite enjoyable. But it was that odd olive mayo sauce that I thought I wouldn't like....it turned out to be quite an addition. The flavoring wasn't too heavy handed, a nice mild olive flavor, it didn't seem overly rich from the mayo, and there was a touch of acid to help things alone. Well, here was another new one for me.....
The service was friendly, even though things got really busy. This was a nice, if not outstanding meal, and just enough for dinner.
Punto Azul Calle San Martin 595 Lima, Peru
We took our getting back to the room. It was Saturday night in Miraflores and parts of the neighborhood was packed. We avoided the crowds, stopped by the convenience store across the hotel for some water and I even bought me a nightcap.
There's something great about travelling....every day, or evening is new and different. I wish I could do it more.
While the main objective to our trip to Peru and Chile was to travel to Easter Island and check that one of the Missus's bucket list; I thought I'd go for a two-fer and also do the Nazca Lines as well. I did some research and found a well regarded company named Nazca Flights. It wasn't cheap, but we got our own private driver for the over three hour drive to Pisco. His name was Benjamin and he was just a joy to deal with. He arrived punctually at 630am to pick us up.
We arrived at the newly inaugurated, but not yet opened Pisco International Airport. The cargo terminals and one small private terminal was opened. Still, the place was buzzing with excited folks.
Have you heard of the Nazca Lines? I wouldn't be surprised if you hadn't heard of it. I recall of first reading about the lines in Erich von Däniken'sChariots of the Gods? Most folks I mentioned the lines to had never heard of them....except for the Japanese. No less than four Japanese Nationals and Ex-Pats mentioned the Nazca Lines, the most surprising was Taka-san at Taisho. When I mentioned we were going to Peru, he didn't mention Machu Picchu....nope it was the "Nazca Lines"!
When we arrived and checked in, we were handed this card with the various Geoglyphs we'd be flying over. Notice anything interesting?
Notice the languages? It's Spanish, English, and Japanese!
And when we got into the terminal area....guess what? It was nearly all middle aged Japanese; mostly women.....in Pisco!
The little terminal was rather charming....we saw the staff being briefed on various subjects and even being tested.
When it was our time to go; our boarding passes were checked and we were escorted onto the tarmac.
The passengers? One British Gentleman, the Missus, Myself, and nine very excited middle aged Japanese women!
The Pilot was really good as I'll describe later on. Both pilots spoke Japanese!
The Missus and I found the whole situation to be quite amusing.
Getting to the lines was when things got even more interesting. There was one line in our packet that instructed us; "DO NOT EAT BREAKFAST THE DAY OF YOUR FLIGHT".
When arrived at the lines, the pilot would descend, then bank, first to his right, turn around and do the same to the left. The copilot would try to point things out; speaking in Japanese. You'd scan the ground below, wondering "what the heck am I supposed to see"?
Focusing in, you'd get a glance of something, a pattern......
And then you'd zero in....and oh my goodness.......
It's really something to see.....
Sometimes it was easier to look across the aisle when the pilot banked in the opposite direction and see things from that perspective.
This took me back to being that 10 year old bookworm, reading Chariots of the Gods under the blanket with a flashlight when I was supposed to be sleeping, dreaming that someday I'd see these myself.
The world never ceases to surprise and thrill us.
The woman sitting behind me was a hoot. The Missus told me that she had a very difficult time seeing the geoglyphs and basically gave up on taking photos. However, as we straightened after banking about 30 times, she stood up and gave the pilots a standing ovation!
Such enthusiasm is infectious and puts everyone in a good mood....though there were a few women who had to have seat....a bit green around the gills and all that.
This was a great experience. One that I'll never forget....and I don't think anyone else who was on that flight will either.
Our driver, Benjamin was such a great guy he displayed the perfect balance of professionalism and warmth that was just outstanding. He really made the difference on the rather long drive. We wanted to buy him lunch. We let him choose and we stopped right next to a gas station in Chincha.
The place was pretty busy and we ordered a bunch of standards, except one new twist on a favorite.
I got the Chicha Morada which was pretty good...not too sweet, with a hint of cinnamon.
Of course the Missus wanted some Cebiche de Lenguado. The leche de tigre was decent if a bit mild; but the fish was marinated a bit too long and had started getting mushy.
I ordered some Tiradito; the "tricolor", strips of corvine with three preparations; "clasica" with leche de tigre, aji amarilla, and aji rocoto sauces.
The fish was prepared well; though I found the sauces to be somewhat thin and watery for my taste.
The seafood on the Causa was quite good; cooked perfectly. The potatoes were bit on the dry side, though the flavors were nice.
The surprise dish was one that Benjamin ordered. He told us that this is the newest version of one of my favorite dishes; Lomo Saltado. This is the off the menu version that combines Lomo Saltado with the classic Peruvian beans and rice dish; Tacu Tacu. Meet the Tacu Tacu con Lomo Saltado.
This was very tasty....the beans and rice actually outshone the lomo saltado with the mild earthy-beany flavor combining with the slightly salty, soy based sauce. The acid of the tomatoes and the sweet-pungency of the onions just went to well with this. The Missus just loved that beans and rice!
This was a nice meal with great company.
Restaurante El Batan Panamericana Sur Km. 197. 5 Chincha Alta, Peru
We got back to Miraflores making good time. We showered and managed to sneak in a short nap before heading out for the evening.
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.
Well, there was a little placard on the table that says Latin Chef now serves a buffet lunch. And looking through the shelves, I did indeed see a buffet set-up....they also put in a sink, a toaster oven, and a microwave.....in plain view of the customers. The seating has been cut back too.
The dish I had been wondering about was the lomo saltado; once my favorite version in San Diego was served at Latin Chef, it had the right amount of soy sauce, the tomatoes were firm, but just breaking down, the sauce not too salty, but full of flavor, and the meat, toothsome, like it should be, but not tough. So I decided to get the Lomo Saltado ($13.50) which made me want to cry......
The sauce, what little there was, just had no flavor; the tomatoes weren't cooked enough, look at the meat, it barely has any color, was tough, and had that mild metallic flavor of something starting to go south. Two of the papas fritas were not cooked fully. Even the quality of the rice was terrible.
It really made me sad. Once upon a time, this was the typical Lomo Saltado at Latin Chef.
Man was it hot last week! I don't ever remember temps like this in March.......high 80's and low 90's. I'm not looking forward to the summer.
On the other hand, this gave me a chance to have some of my favorite "warm weather" dishes. So here goes....
At the end of my post on Szechuan Taste in December I wrote, "When things warm up, I'll come back for the Sichuan Liang Mian and the Ko Shui Ji and I'm hoping for maybe some nice surprises." Little did I know that I'd be getting some surprises alright. Anyway, it was without a doubt warm and I do try to keep my word when possible. So here I was......
The young lady who waited on me was very nice and sweet. I ordered those two favorite hot weather dishes....actually other liang cai like Fu Qi Fei Pian are also among my favorites during hot weather, but man, the version here was really bad.
First up, the Ko Shui Ji - "Mouthwatering (saliva) Chicken".
The sauce looked watery and when I pulled the bowl over I found that it was almost hot! I've never had Ko Shui Ji served to me at an insipidly warm temperature. The sauce was actually a broth; below the slick of already watered down chili oil was liquid that resembled chicken noodle soup. The chicken was boneless, skin on thigh that looked carelessly poached. As for flavor, well there was a decent amount of Sichuan Peppercorn, but everything else tasted watered down, not spicy, no salt, no vinegar tones, no sweet....like eating a piece of cardboard with a hint of Sichuan Peppercorn. ick......
As for my Sichuan Liang Mian, well it was a rollercoaster ride. It really didn't look like much when it arrived.
And yet, things look promising when I found the motherlode of sauce on the bottom and mixed everything together. I then took a bite and actually swore out loud....like wash your mouth out with soup loud. In retrospect chewing on a bar of Ivory Soap might have been better than this. Good god, this was eating a mouthful of MSG....it was so salty to the point of bitterness. Also, what's the deal with serving raw noodles that haven't even had the flour rinsed off? I've even had that happen to me at Fu An Garden.
So this is what happened. I felt really bad for the sweet young lady, so I took everything to go. She didn't make the food..... And I proceeded to pitch it. I hate waste, but I just couldn't bring myself to eat this. I felt bad, but eating this stuff made me feel worse. I think I'm done here..... So yes, in the end I did get a "surprise", but it wasn't a good one.
Szechuan Taste 8199 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92111
One of my favorite cuisines is that of Peru. The variety can be stunning, from the traditional dishes like Cuy, to the "Chifa" dishes like Lomo Saltado, it seems that all who came ashore in Peru and stayed have made their mark on the nation. It was love at first bite when I first had Peruvian food after moving to LA. Peru also hold a special place in my heart, it was the first country the Missus and I visited together way back when. In San Diego County, pricy Q'ero probably does Peruvian the best, but it very pricy and a long drive. For lunch, even Latin Chef in PB was a bit too far. Plus, I was looking for that "Nikkei" influenced dish, tiradito.
The place look quite the same since my last visit. Man, it was hot, so I started with the Causa, in the of Nazca Grill, it's like what I would call a Causa Limeña, a layered potato "cake" of sorts. I went with the shrimp version.
The shrimp was kind of watery and a bit on the fishy side. The sauce seemed more like a thousand island dressing than the aji rocoto based sauce I'd had in the past. The presentation sure has gotten better, though I'm not sure the dish as a whole has been improved. I preferred the original version I had in 2009.
The tiradito was passable. In contrast to cebiche pescado, the fish in tiradito (I was told snapper) is not "cooked" in citrus. It's basically sashimi in a sauce. Today it was a mild aji amarilla sauce.
There's was a decent amount of fish in this. There used to be a touch of lime in the tiradito here, but today, it was muted. I did love the yucca frita and the choclo (as I always love). This was fine, if nothing special. It was a bit too mild for my taste.....
I'm afraid we'll have to head back to Peru one of these days....I did promise the Missus that we'll get to Easter Island, so perhaps a Chile - Peru two-fer. Especially since we did miss the Nazca Lines the last time.
Time will tell. Anything can happen. But like I mentioned earlier.....I do try to keep my promises.