Saturday, June 09, 2007

Travelog: Peru Food In Peru, The First Three Days In Lima

It is early morning in Lima, and I finally have a few quiet moments to sit and write up some of the culinary adventures we've had this past week in Peru.

I have received several e-mails asking me about our current culinary adventures. I will not be able to add the photographs until I return home to Los Angeles at the end of June and since I am using an unfamiliar computer, I will not be able to link my other posts (although, I will note when a blog search may provide you with further information).

I apologize for not maintaining my usual format, but hope you find these travelogs interesting and worthwhile reading. I will also add addresses and contact information when I return home (although, skilled Google users should not find it to difficult to find what they are searching). Right now, I am simply trying to catch up on my posting.

First, there are various options for traveling from Los Angeles to Lima, but my favored flight is the one offered by Panamanian Copa Airlines. This red-eye leaves Los Angeles a bit past midnight, and after a brief six-hour flight arrives in tropical Panama City, whose airport is a one giant duty-free shopping center. After a quick turnaround of about an hour, the connecting flight to Lima takes less than three hours, arriving in the Peruvian capital in perfect time for a late lunch.

Some friends of mine complain the Copa flight from LAX to Panama City is a bit crowded (and since it is a feeder flight to other points in Central and South America, it can be very full, especially during the winter holiday season) but I enjoy arriving in lush and green Panama City, and its hassle-free airport (no customs or immigration formalities) where there is always time to have a quick cup of coffee and pick up a last-minute present (the airport is a shopper's extravaganza). There are other flights to Peru from the West Coast of the US, including the non-stop LAN flight (about eight hours) but they all tend to arrive in and leave Lima very late in the evening.

I am a creature of habit, and I have a culinary tradition when arriving in Lima which I have kept during the last few years of travel here. On this trip, I was able to maintain my tradition. After checking into our hotel in the Miraflores district of Lima, we had a stroll around Miraflores' main park, Parque Kennedy, and I picked up the Lima daily, El Comercio, and headed to the Café Haiti, one of the grand old-fashioned Lima cafés to have my first Peruvian meal (lomo saltado and a frothy pisco sour) while people-watching. The waiters are definitely old-school and after so many times there, they know who I am. "In Lima again?" one of the waiters asked me, "Are you ready for your lomo saltado?" You have to love that type of service.

The Café Haiti, overlooking the park in Miraflores, may not have the best lomo saltado or pisco sour in town, but it is perfectly acceptable (as a Peruvian food critic friend of mine commented when I told her about this tradition of mine) and it is a very safe and comfortable place to get over the long flight from North America and start settling into life in Lima. (Do a search in this blog for more about the Café Haiti).

Our second day in Lima, we had lunch with a friend at Javier Wong's ceviche speakeasy, located in the non-chic district of La Victoria. This is one of Lima's roughest areas, except for the neighborhood where Chez Wong is located, called Balconcillo. Javier Wong is known as one of Lima's finest ceviche masters, and his unassuming restaurant, where he only has eight tables, is located on the ground floor of his home. I call it a ceviche speakeasy, because you have to knock on the door to get in, and just like in the speakeasies of the US Prohibition era, they peer at you through a hole in the door before deciding to let you in or not.

Modest yet wonderful, at Chez Wong, Javier Wong prepares his creations right in front of your eyes. There is no menu, and often, what you eat there is unavailable in any other part of Peru, or the world for that matter.

On our visit, Chef Wong prepared us a ceviche made with pineapple and octopus, a sashimi-like tiradito bathed in sesame oil and garnished with Chinese onions, and a stir-fry dish involving the freshest flounder imaginable, tiny Chinese sausages, and heaps of fresh, almost kelp-like, seaweed. As unusual as these dishes sound, they were simply exquisite. We washed down our meal with a perfectly fine Argentine Navarro Correas 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon which I picked up locally, and when that was finished, a flavorful Erdinger lager which is now offered at Chez Wong.

Other diners included Peruvian politicians and entertainment figures, and the small, intimate atmosphere means Javier Wong attends to the most minute detail of the dishes he serves. Eating at Chez Wong is not cheap, our meal for three was around USD 80, not incluing the wine, which was about USD 15 at the Vivanda supermarket in Miraflores. (Do a search in this blog for more about Javier Wong).

After lunch, our Peruvian friend took us for a post-lunch cocktail in the Lince district to a place that has elevated kitsch to a high-art. The locale is called the Blue Moon, and it is owned by an Italian who has lived in Lima for many decades. His restaurant is known for its buffets, as well as for its coffees and cocktails. As you walk into the Blue Moon your senses are assailed by all the decorations (everything from Buddhas to Peruvian figurines; apparently, the owner has a fear of blank spaces) and by the over twenty thousand bottles of wines and liqueurs that are suspended from the ceiling. We had never been there before and enjoyed a cappucino and a strawberry cocktail as we admired and were amazed by the decor.

Finally, to finish off our first full day in Lima, we headed to bohemian, seaside Barranco, to sample different types of piscos at Vida, located beneath Barranco's famed Puente de los Suspiros, or Bridge of Sighs. This fashionable restaurant and bar has a wide selection of Peruvian piscos, and we sampled different varieties including a pisco soaked in coca leaves. As we relaxed in the very comfortable bar, we realized we were very glad to be in Peru once again. (Do a search in this blog for more about pisco and the use of coca leaves in Peruvian cuisine).

Our third and final day in Lima before heading to the Andes, where I had to attend to some family matters, we stopped in the venerable Bar Cordano in the center of Lima. We didn't have a chance to eat lunch there since we were expected elsewhere, but still enjoyed the historic ambience of one of Lima's oldest bars. (Do a search in this blog for more about the Bar Cordano).

Lunch was a delicious roast duck served on a bed of seasoned rice, arroz con pato, and excellent cocktails at the Manhattan in central Lima. The Manhattan is arguably the best place to eat in central Lima, and a perfect respite when touring this historic part of the city. To me, the Manhattan is a bit of an oasis, where you can escape the noise and the crowds. Favored by suits from the headquarters of the newspaper El Comercio, the Lima Stock Exchange, and several government ministries, all located in the immediate vicinity, the Manhattan offers excellent service, fine cuisine, and great drinks in a refined atmosphere. (Do a search in this blog for more about the Manhattan).

And so, this concludes our first three days in Lima, known during the colonial times as the City of Kings. For those interested good food, Lima does not disappoint, and is still quite regal.

More later!

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TAGS: Peru, Peruvian, food, cooking, cuisine, cocina, comida, gastronomía, peruana


Elena Hernandez said...

Hi Alejandro,

I enjoyed reading this post very much. My mouth is watering...seems like the food is wonderful everywhere. Hope you continue to enjoy the rest of your trip and keep those reports coming. By the way, Copa Airlies rules!!!!!!
Un abrazo desde Panama,


::Alejandro:: said...

Gracias Elena por el comentario!

Saludos....and yes, I am a Copa Airlines fan, as you can tell.

KirkK said...

Hi Alejandro - I enjoyed this report, and can't wait for the photos!

juan said...

Alejandro, I am jealous of you for being there. Oh, well, one more month and it'll be my turn.

If you get a chance, I'd love to know if "Senor Cuy" is worth a visit (The website )

::Alejandro:: said...

Thanks kirkk and juan for the comments!