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No, the charge at the ceviche place was per person per dish. (I know this from talking to other diners.) I think that they gave me only slightly less of each dish than they'd give two people,* for half the two-person price. I guess in some sense that's a good deal for me. (Makes up for the unnecessary tiny onesie table.)

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* Portions are generous. Most people left some food behind.

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My wife will be in Peru at the end of November on business. Does anyone know of vegetarian friendly restaurants in the city? She will be staying at the Double Tree and her meeting will be at the Penta

No, the charge at the ceviche place was per person per dish. (I know this from talking to other diners.) I think that they gave me only slightly less of each dish than they'd give two people,* for hal

Now you know to play it safe and stick with carb-laden stodge.

Speaking of which, one annoying side effect of these tasting menus is that you're pretty much compelled to also order wine/beverage pairings, since (a) you often (as in the case of A&G) don't even know what you're going to be served beforehand and (b) it's hard to come up with one bottle that would match everything in any event (and a lot of places criminally don't have half-bottles).

 

The bad thing about pairings (aside from the fact that they're almost never the place's best wines) is that they subject you to the same kind of banal rote explanations of each wine that you also get of each dish -- and the wines are rarely so obscure that you need them.

 

You could be a dick and cut them off -- but I hate to be direct about it.

 

At A&G, though, my chance came when the associate junior somm approached my table with a bottle of SP68.

 

ASSOCIATE JUNIOR SOMM: This biodynamic wine is named after a highway . . . .

 

ME: You know, I just had dinner with Arianna when she was in Brooklyn two months ago . . . .

 

ASSOCIATE JUNIOR SOMM: I guess I don't need to tell you anything, do I?

 

 

We now know what the true value of wine dinners is.

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Chifas

 

Lima, which is (duh) on the Pacific Ocean, has a large and historically significant Chinese population. Which means it has a large and (in the aggregate) famous group of Chinese restaurants, called chifas.

 

Chinese food has had an enormous influence on Peruvian food. One of the characteristic Peruvian dishes, for example, Lomo Saltado, is a fairly straightforward adaptation of Chinese pepper steak.

 

The chifas (like the Peruvian Chinese immigrant population) are almost all Cantonese -- disappointing for a lot of people here, who (wrongly) dismiss Cantonese food, but just fine for people like me, who think Canatonese food is one of the pinnacles of world cuisine.

 

The chifas also have a reputation of being "exotic" to non-Peruvians, in that they purportedly show Chinese food through a Peruvian lens. Not "fusion", but more in the way that American Chinese food (or, for that matter, Italian-American "red sauce") differs from the original by reflecting local conditions.

 

This last characteristic seemed much more pronounced to me on my last visit thirty years ago than this visit. My guess is that this is because in 1985, I wasn't eating regularly in NYC Cantonese restaurants of the quality of those I've since frequented. (I think I'd just discovered Phoenix Garden then, N.Y. Noodletown still lying in the future.) So, I speculate, the chifa food seemed more different to me back then, not because it was more Peruvian than I was used to, but because it was more purely Cantonese.

 

This time, the food I had at chifas just seemed like reasonably (but not exceptionally) good Cantonese to me. Maybe I ordered differently.

 

I ate in what are probably the two classic places in the Barrio China near the old city: Wah Luk and Cafe Capon. Wah Luk has slightly better food (and costs more), while Cafe Capon has a more distinctive interior. The food I had at both was good Cantonese -- clean, fresh, honoring the flavors of the ingredients -- which made this Cantonese food-lover happy but did not blow me away.

 

Probably it just sucks getting older and more burdened with experience.

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Maido

 

Peru also has a significant Japanese immigrant population. One was even elected President (before he was put in jail). Another is Nobu Matsuhisa.

 

Which brings us to the point that's relevant here. Peru's Japanese immigrant population developed a kind of fusion cuisine known there as "Nikkei". It's primarily Japanese, but has much more pronounced Peruvian accents than chifa does. Indeed, when Nobu first came to the United States, his cooking was promoted as Peruvian-Japanese -- although the Peruvian part has dropped off over the years, and now it's just promoted as a "fusion" with some undisclosed other.

 

Maido, under Chef Mitsuharu Tsumura, is one of Lima's very best-regarded restaurants. It's like the apotheosis of Nikkei cuisine. It supplied what is easily the best meal I had in Lima.

 

I had a special tasting menu called the "Nikkei Experience". I was a little worried it was going to be another one of those didactic historical presentations as at Astrid y Gaston. But it wasn't. What it was, was like a fairly standard kaiseki (not adhering to all the details) -- except sourced and cooked at an extremely high level, AND (to my mind) benefiting from the Peruvian fusion. By that I mean that I love Japanese food. But I'm a fat gajin and sometimes wish it were a little bit hardier. This food was more like what you read Orik eating in Tokyo, with all that game and shit. So maybe I prefer this not because the Peruvian influences heavy it up, but rather because it's actually closer to a certain kind of Japanese than what is served in New York. I don't know. Either way, it was great. (And the fried coy dish was wonderful.)

 

Now why do I looooooooove kaiseki and find Western tasting menus annoying? I think there are two interrelated answers. First, kaiseki is a longstanding time-honored way of conceptualizing and serving a meal. Whereas these long Western tasting menus seem imposed on the style of food being served rather than growing out of it. The kaiseki dishes make sense as components of a long sequence. Whereas, in Western tasting menus, it often feels like you're just being given tiny scraps of what is intended to be a bigger dish. And second, for all Japanese food's reputation for delicacy, kaiseki portions are usually bigger than tasting menu portions. A kaiseki doesn't feel like nine or 12 serial instances of coitus interruptus.

 

Anyway, this is a restaurant that I wholeheartedly recommend. I wish I could go back there soon.

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Oddly enough, Peru doesn't have unusually many Nikkeijin - Brazil has well over a million (which represents about the same percentage of the population as Peru), and California has three times as many as all of Peru (not sure how many are in the SGV, though). I think their influence in Peru (on cuisine and otherwise) can't be explained by numbers alone... more that they weren't considered lowly, non-assimilating migrant workers for as long as they were in other places.

 

Kaiseki places in nyc (or Paris) have an incentive to highlight the exotic and to chase Kyoto far more than they do here, or in Peru.

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Central

 

Now we dive into International Food Culture head-first.

 

Central is the highest SP-ranked restaurant in Lima and, I believe, in all of Latin America. The serious-looking young chef is named Virgilio Martinez. He had run a restaurant in London called Lima, an unfortunatley too-late-for-Tuckerman attempt to convince Londoners that Latin American food is not carb-laden stodge. And, in fact, tne one thing I have to give his food is that carb-laden stodge it's not.

 

You can order a la carte here, and probably I should have. But how can you go to what you think is The Highest SP-Ranked Restaurant In All Of Latin America and not get the tasting menu? Especially when the tasting menu is based on such a completely contrived conceit as the the altitude at which each dish's main ingredient comes from (the point being that Peru includes both very high mountains and one of the most productive fisheries in the world, so that its altitudes range from below sea level to nearly four miles above)?

 

This is the kind of SP food that focuses on weird local ingredients but pays no heed whatsoever to traditional preparations. So while the components of the food are unique, the dishes are all standard-issue international-style "modern". But more to the point, on the tasting menu they are tiny. The restaurant exacerbates this by bringing them to you along with display plates showing some of the unique ingredients in full form -- thus rubbing your face in how dainty the portion you're actually served is.

 

For example, when a plate of long thing tubers was brought to me table, I was happy to learn they were oca, since I'd been curious what oca actually was. But I was less then satisfied when a tiny bowl was extracted from the middle of that plate and put before me, with oca shavings along with tiny morsels of other Andean stuff.

 

Even worse, though, came later, after I had already become really frustrated with the tiny servings. The waiter came with what appeared to be a plate of beefhearts. At last! Something you can dig into. I didn't see the tiny silver bowl in the middle of the plate, out of which a small bit of a powder that had somehow been made from beefheart was spooned onto the single short rib (in milk) sitting on the small plate set down directly in front of me.

 

Here's something funny. This food was so serious, and when the the chef came over to my table, he seemed so serious. But when I was taken on the obligatory SP kitchen tour, the kitchen was one of the most cheerful, almost boisterous even, that I have sever seen. I wish I had had as much fun as they seemed to be having.

 

I decided on the non-alocholic pairings, various tonics and infusions made of various Weird Local Ingredients. This turned out to be a very good choice, and if you eat here I recommend it. Unlike the idiotic concoctions served at Romero in New York a few years ago, the beverages were interesting and delicious.

 

To make up for the non-alcoholic pairings, I spent a long spell after dinner at the restaurant's extremely attractive bar. The bartender, William, was an engaged and eager cocktailian, intent on advancing Lima's nascent cocktail culture. While I wouldn't highly recommend the tasting menu in the dining room at Central (I suspect that a la carte may actually be good), I couldn't more highly recommend the bar.

 

COMP DISCLOSURE: Three cocktails. Maybe four.

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El Bolivariano

 

After Central, you can bet I was ready for a simple, good place serving Peru's basic Criolla cuisine.

 

El Bolivariano is a very well-regarded neighborhood spot in the funky Pueblo Libre neighborhood, sort of between the great Larco Museum and the less-great Archeological Museum. It deserves its good reputation.

 

I started with anticuchos (at last!), Peru's famous skewered beefheart snack. This plate was in no way intended for one person -- more like four -- and I gorged myself on the beefy hearts, beautifully seasoned and grilled over charcoal. What a treat!

 

Then, Lechon al Cilindro, baked pork -- but moist like you wouldn't believe. Also beautifully seasoned. (They seemed to not be serving their famous Seco de Cabrito [goat stew] that day -- or else I missed it on their extensive menu.)

 

All washed down with glass after glass of that wonderful non-alcoholic purple corn drink, Chicha Morada.

 

A total pleasure.

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Oddly enough, Peru doesn't have unusually many Nikkeijin - Brazil has well over a million (which represents about the same percentage of the population as Peru), and California has three times as many as all of Peru (not sure how many are in the SGV, though). I think their influence in Peru (on cuisine and otherwise) can't be explained by numbers alone... more that they weren't considered lowly, non-assimilating migrant workers for as long as they were in other places.

 

Kaiseki places in nyc (or Paris) have an incentive to highlight the exotic and to chase Kyoto far more than they do here, or in Peru.

 

Back in the late 70s, early 80s, I think there was something political going on that caused many of the Nikkeijin to leave, at least the prosperous ones. I have never researched it, but years ago, I dated a Japanese Peruvian whose family escaped Peru because they were being "persecuted" (his word). I can't remember what his father did, but they were quite wealthy in Peru and they lost everything. I think some of their wealth taken away by the government pre-move, which is in part what spurred their leaving. (they were illegal immigrants in the US and went from a life of luxury to one of poverty in south central LA. It really f-ed him up.)

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Antigua Taberna Queirolo

 

This may now be my favorite place in the world.

 

As its name suggests, it's an old tavern, right off the main square of the funky Pueblo Libre district (around the corner from the Archeological Museum). My understanding is that initially they concentrated on their food, but their house pisco became so popular that it took over the focus. Now, the taberna is dwarfed by the tremendous pisco warehouse next door (and you can bet that, having learned from my mistake last year in Oaxaca, I stocked up). Although I didn't eat anything -- I had had a huge lunch in El Bolivariano -- the snacky food I saw going to other tables looked very good.

 

But I was there for the pisco. The thing to drink here is the Chilcano, a cocktail of pisco, ginger ale, and lime. If you come with friends, you just buy set-ups -- but as a solo drinker, I bought them mixed. Great stuff (which I will surely be replecating at home).

 

But the charm of the place is the place. The several rooms look they haven't changed since the turn of the last century. And the customers all looked like they'd been going there for generations (with the exceptions of some smart Limenos from other neighborhoods and some funky American expats). You could while away the better part of an afternoon here. I certainly did.

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