Have you ever visited a place and found yourself thinking about all the great food you ate weeks, months, maybe even years after you left that place?
I still think about the surprisingly amazing seafood pasta I ate at a quaint restaurant in Valletta, Malta in 2011 and the unbelievable risotto I had at Al Gatto Nero in Burano, Italy, to give a few examples. Oh, and Japan will always be a place I think of where pretty much every single thing I ate was incredible. Not an exaggeration.
Newly added to the list of amazing food memories and places: Peru.
I knew before going to Peru that Lima was a great city for “foodies.” So before arriving there, I did extensive research on what to do and where to eat. I didn’t make it to everywhere on my list (not enough time + didn't make it off some waiting lists), but I did manage to have some amazing meals, not only in Lima but elsewhere in Peru. Here were some of the best meals I ate in Peru:
Ceviche mixto and tacu tacu at Canta Rana
My original destination was Isolina Taberna, however upon arrival, the place was packed and the wait was 45 minutes. It also, quite frankly, looked like all the other tourists of Barranco had decided to try Isolina the same day. So, my mom and I walked around to pass the time, and while walking around, we spotted another crowded spot with people waiting outside, this time with a crowd that appeared to be mostly locals. Plus the wait was 15 minutes. And that's how we ended up at Canta Rana, where my first ceviche of the trip, along with our tacu tacu, was exceptional.
Octopus tacos and quinea pig tapas with potatoes and huacatay sauce at Hotel B Bar
While enjoying the bar at Hotel B in the Barranco neighborhood in Lima, I decided to order two tapas with my drink since I wanted something to nibble on. I knew the octopus tacos were a given – I can never resist octopus on a menu – but then I decided to try something new, at the recommendation of my server. The guinea pig was not served in the traditional way, which to be honest, was for the best for me. I don't think I could've eaten the guinea pig had it been whole. But as a tapa, it was amazing.
Mushroom butter, octopus and baby goat at Ik Restaurant
Ever heard of mushroom butter? Yeah, me neither. That is, until I dined at Ik Restaurant. The restaurant itself has very moody lighting, though I learned one should never make a 7:30 reservation if you can help it. You'll be the first person there. But anyway, besides that, the bread with mushroom butter was amazing. No idea how they made that mushroom butter, but I would gladly buy it. The octopus was great, as was the baby goat. I didn't love the yacon and sweet lime salad it came with the goat, but everything else was wonderful.
Grilled trout with shrimp and polenta, braised short rib with grilled vegetables and roasted chicken at Hawa Restaurant
I ate dinner at Hawa Restaurant in Urubamba, Peru twice and loved both times immensely. I wish I could remember the amuse bouches they gave, but I can't. All I can say is that they both packed so much flavor into one small bite. And then there were the main courses. The trout with shrimp and polenta was so flavorful, I kept going back for more, and it wasn't even my dish, it was my mom's (oops). The braised short rib, which was my dish, was excellent, as was the roasted chicken (and I never expect to be impressed by a restaurant's roasted chicken). Oh, and the bread. I miss that bread.
Lomo saltado and palta rellena at Peruvian Cooking Classes
I really can't give myself too much credit for cooking such a fantastic meal because that was in large part thanks to my amazing instructor and chef, Julie. What I loved about this is that the ingredients were so simple and the recipe was so straightforward, and yet the flavor was incredible. I haven't yet recreated this meal back in New York, but I think I'll be doing that very soon.
Ceviche, aji de langostinos and squid ink risotto with chicken at Punto Azul
I have no problem admitting that this was probably my favorite meal of my entire time in Peru. And, ironically, by the time the main courses came, I was so full from the fantastic ceviche, I could barely eat my food. I ended up taking it to go to eat many hours later, and even then it was excellent. This is a casual spot, but it's packed, and with good reason. I know that I'll be remembering that squid ink risotto for years to come. Yes, it's that good.
Peru, you were a continuous culinary treat. I can't wait to return again one day to eat at all the places I missed and sleep in that squid ink risotto. Until next time.