Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Huariques in el Callao

After a temporary absence, I am glad to be blogging again about one of my favorite topics, Peruvian cuisine.

The article below (translated from the Spanish) was written by Luí­s Arriola, and published last year in the La República newspaper.

Callao, the port of Lima, like many port districts worldwide, is both historic and seedy, charming yet dangerous. There are architectural and culinary treasures to be found in
el Callao
, but caution needs to be exercised when visiting. Please be sure to take a secure taxi when dining at any of the well-known establishments below.

La Punta, just beyond
el Callao
, is located on a sliver of land bordered on three sides by the Pacific Ocean and with commanding views of the arid island of San Lorenzo, just off the coast. La Punta was a fashionable retreat of Lima's well-to-do in the 20th century, and there are wonderful neo-classical and Art Deco mansions that line the malecón, or seaside promenade. La Punta still is home to middle-class, or even wealthy, people, but care should be taken going and returning from there. Once again, a secure taxi is the best option.

Please be sure to visit these districts only during daylight. In fact, the restaurants listed below are mostly open just for lunch. Prices are very reasonable at all of the restaurants listed below.

My cautionary words are not meant to be off-putting; rather, to make sure that your culinary experience is not marred by any unpleasantness.

The author of this article discusses
(wa-ree-kehs) a Peruvian expression which refers to very traditional, small, family-run establishments known for the excellence of their cuisine.

Eating Well in el Callao
by Luís Arriola, La República (03/05/05)

In Callao's most traditional neighborhoods, there are small restaurants that offer delicious food. Among them are Mateo, Rovira, Manolo, and Marina, all of which offer unique seafood-based dishes. Diners visit these restaurants religiously.

Since Callao is a port, its cuisine is linked to the sea. Fish, crab, mussels, and all other types of varied seafood are prevalent. This abundance of marine life is the basis for the succulent gastronomic offer, for which Callao is famous.

There is no better way to prove the existence of these delicacies than by visiting the
huariques known best to the culinary cognoscenti. The multiple varieties of ceviches and tiraditos
will satisfy the appetite of the most exacting diner.

huariques are family-run businesses that delight the most demanding palates. According to the Dictionary of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language (published in Spain), the term huarique
is a Peruvianism that means, 'a hiding place'; that is, 'a place in which to hide, or in which to hide something.

Chef Gastón Acurio defines the term
as a small, secret place, a family-run establishment where diners share fine food, and the art of fine dining comes above all else.

He explains, "These are families dedicated to cooking, who have become specialists in one or two signature dishes. The quality of their food is as fine as any found in a five-star restaurant, with the difference being the price, and in some
, you can even ask for second helpings."

The chefs in Callao's
huariques are self-taught. Using local ingredients and with no lack of imagination, they create dishes not found elsewhere. In Callao, you can find dishes such as tiradito in three flavors, or mango ceviche, or tasty seafood sandwiches, among others. These well-known huariques
in el Callao listed below, are places that anyone who seeks good food should know.

Top: Mateo in Callao.
Middle: Ceviche de Mango at Manolo.
Bottom: Enjoying seafood at a local huarique.
(Photos: La República, 03/05/05)


There isn't a
(as the natives of Callao are called) who has not eaten at Mateo, located in the historic center of Callao.

In Mateo, the specialties are first-rate fish and seafood.

The restaurant is named after its owner, Mateo Rojas Huayta. Every day of the year, from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m., this restaurant opens its doors at Jirón Miller 386, next to the main church in Callao.

Among the most special dishes served here is the
tiradito in three flavors. This dish is a piece of fish cut into fine slices and divided in three parts. The first part is covered in a creamy ají­ amarillo sauce, the second in a white sauce made with parmesan cheese and cream, and the third in a creamy rocoto
sauce. Each sauce is a different color, hence the name.

"Our menu says this is a dish for one," tells don Mateo, "but, two or even three people can easily share it."

Another specialty of the house is the seafood soup
pariahuela a lo Mateo, which can include chita, or tramboyo
fish, a whole crab, and other shellfish. Alluding to the aphrodisiacal qualities of seafood, don Mateo laughs and says, "This dish has been responsible for many clients and workers of mine having twins."

Don Mateo arrived in Callao years ago from his native Ayacucho. About 25 years ago, he decided to open a bar at his current location. To entice his customers, he began to offer traditional seafood dishes like
choritos a la chalaca, escabeche
and mussel soup.
Soon, people began to ask him to expand his menu, and he decided to take some cooking courses to learn to make new dishes. "The only way to move forward in life is by learning new things," concludes don Mateo.

Restaurante Mateo
Jirón Miller 386

Note: Specialties include
tiradito en tres sabores, parihuela a lo Mateo, and orgí­a de mariscos
. These dishes are incomparable. Dishes are for one, but two can easily share one. The presentation is very good, as is the pisco sour.

Bar Restaurant Rovira

There are so many restaurants offering excellent fish and seafood in Lima, clients have become very demanding. The owners of Bar Restaurant Rovira know this and their dedication is probably why this establishment in Callao has been in business for the last 97 years at the same location, Jirón Daniel Nieto 195, in the historic center of Callao and very close to the Real Felipe fortres.

The current administrator, Alejandro Chuquimango, has been working there for the last 36 years. He began as a waiter and rose up through the ranks.

Owner Miguel Rovira is the inventor of the
pejerrey fish sandwiches, anchovy appetizers, and mussel soup. Among many of the succulent dishes found on the menu is the tasty and spicy seafood picante
and delicious one-pot stews.

This welcoming restaurant has fed mayors, presidents, and other members of the Peruvian elite for almost a century.

Rovira is world-famous. Both locals and foreigners come to sample our sandwiches," states don Miguel.

Apart from its culinary specialties, the Rovira is ensconced in an architectural jewel. The original floors are over 100 years old. As you enter, the small tiles, worn and discolored with age, gently descend towards the center of the restaurant, where another wood floor gently rises. Simply put, the floor of Rovira undulates like a gentle ocean wave.

Because of this floor many of our clients say the restaurant has two sections:
Perla Baja and Perla Alta
. When they come, they tell us in which section they wish to eat," explains Alejandro Chuquimango. Some of the tables and chairs are as old as the restaurant itself. Many customers enjoy eating their sandwiches seated on hundred-year old seats.

Bar Restaurant Rovira
Jirón Daniel Nieto 195

Note: Specialties include the
pejerrey sandwich, mussel soup, and choritos a la chalaca (mussels in the style of Callao). Specialty cocktails include Sol y Sombra


"I have a friend who always says: 'This is as bad as a mango ceviche'. And one day, to play with him, I made him a ceviche with mango, which he liked, and since then for the past five years, I prepare this dish, here at Manolo, in La Punta."

This is how Manuel Herrera Monasí­ explains the origin of this singular specialty in his welcoming locale.

For the past 12 years, this restaurant has been open along Malecón Pardo in La Punta. During all these years, there has been no lack of skeptics who have come to eat at Manolo simply to challenge the chef, not believing the most traditional of Peruvian seafood dishes, ceviche, could be made with mango. They even place bets, with losers paying the bill. Don Manuel explains the dish is not ceviche with mango, but a mango ceviche, which has a, "unique sweet-and-sour flavor."

The dish is prepared in the classic ceviche manner, but instead of being made with fish, it is made with slices of mango, and served alongside the requisite boiled corn, lettuce, onion, parsley, and
ají­ limo

There are only nine tables in the restaurant, and the don Manuel says he doesn't want any more. "We don't hire people to stand outside our restaurant and draw people in by yelling out our specialties. People come because they know me and how good my cuisine is. Whoever wants to come in, is welcome to do so," he affirms.

Manolo is open daily from midday until 5 p.m. It is only closed on Christmas Day and Good Friday. Don Manuel has lived in La Punta for 55 years.

When customers ask don Manuel to recommend a specialty, he always responds he can't because, "taste is so subjective. I just tell them that everything on the menu is completely authentic."

El Manolo
Malecón Pardo, module 1-N
La Punta

Note: Other specialties include a mushroom ceviche and asparagus vinaigrette.

Restaurant Marina

Marina Wong Kuoman was taught by her father since girlhood to prepare wontons and fried rice every weekend. It was her mother, who specialized in Peruvian
cuisine, who influenced Marina to mix the flavors of traditional Peruvian coastal dishes with the taste of the Orient.

At the onset, it seemed like a game, but then Marina, who is half Chinese and half Peruvian, realized that she had a culinary responsibility.

Since then, she has won several culinary contests, a cooking contest oraganized by a local university. "I prepared a dish called
nido de mariscos
, shellfish nest, made with Chinese noodles, shellfish, quail eggs, mushrooms, fried chuño, and as a base, a traditional causa criolla. I did it to prove something to myself, and I won," recalls doña Marina.

Another of her restaurant's specialties is octupus salad and kalu wonton with fried fish. This last dish is spectacular and requires patience and time to prepare.

She also offers more commonly-known dishes such as
jalea and mixed ceviche, or seafood rice. "In order to marry criollo
cuisine with Asian, I had to experiment in the kitchen. Also, as a descendant of Chinese people, I felt I had to leave my daughters and grandchildren a legacy," states doña Marina.

For the past 30 years, she has lived in La Punta, and 15 years ago she opened this restaurant which overlooks the Pacific, at Malecón Pardo, module 2.

Malecón Pardo, module 2
La Punta

Note: Most of the dishes are easily shared by two diners.

There are other huariques in El Callao. Notable among them is:

La Cabaña de Maguila
Agustí­n Tovar 182
La Punta
Open Monday to Sunday, 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Note: Among the specialties: sole ceviche a lo Maguila, octupus in olive oil, and, sole tiradito.


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