Or at least when it’s mealtime and you want to take advantage…even though you just ate a few hours ago.
We open with the fanciest meal we ate in Peru, at the flagship of the afore-mentioned Gastón Acurio’s culinary empire, Astrid & Gastón. The service was splendid and we felt like the tasting menu was a great way to try a lot of different things, the bulk of which we quite enjoyed (the beef cheek seemed a bit perfunctory). We both felt like the value here was worth the cost – much less than a similar tasting menu would have been, even in (for a tasty example) relatively inexpensive Spain.
Yes, that taco had guinea pig in it, cooked and sauced like Peking Duck. It was delicious and clearly a better use for the animal than the house pet. (Can’t say that I would have enjoyed it as much served whole, as seems to be traditional in Peru.)
Now, compare the bites from Acurio to the bites that we ourselves made at a cooking course above. Doesn’t it seem like we missed our true calling? We will absolutely be making Causa (top left) again soon – it involves yellow potato mash, avocados, and a meat salad filling of your choice – as well as Ceviche (top right). But personally, I wasn’t too impressed with the addition of oregano and red wine to the ostensibly Asian-influenced Lomo Saltado, and I’ll be making this with dark soy sauce and ginger instead. The delicious, hand-thrown anise donuts made up for a lot – and I don’t even like anise. (In further donut news, we also bought a rice mold that makes that very donut shape seen on the bottom left.)
Jumping out of time order for a second, we had time to have a great meal at Amaz between landing in Lima (from Cusco) and taking off again for Miami. (We also had time for several REALLY long cab rides and several hours in the airport…not rushed is an understatement.) We over-ordered, and were happy we did, since we basically then didn’t eat for 15 hours. A particular standout, to me, was the fried rice, top left, which was so well seasoned and so well oiled that it reminded me more of Uzbek/Uighur plov than a Chinese restaurant’s fried rice. But obviously with pork instead of an Uzbek lamb or beef, and local flavors, this dish was uniquely Peruvian. Also a standout – the Causa, which you would not recognize (bottom right) compared to the homely, basic version we made in class. The salad involved sustainable palm hearts, the mushroom dish had some delicious fish in it, and the sausage and pig tail sampler left both German and American not thinking the wurst of Peruvian links. And, last but not least, the thing that looks like meat sushi basically was – chicken inside a yucca shell. (Dredge it in the hot sauce, yum.)
The burger place from the first article, Amaz and this sushi place, Ache, were all located in the ground floor of my new favorite-located hotel in the world, the Hilton in Miraflores. We stopped in Ache on the night a few hours after the end of our cooking course, so we were not that hungry – but looking at this picture, I sure wish we had been. The rolls were creative and delicious, and the sashimi (aka no place to run, no place to hide for bad fish) was also outstanding.
Finally, a special shout to a truly epic and surprising pair of meals in Cusco. Having been in Lima for a week already, we had scratched nearly every Peruvian itch. In Cusco, at 3000 meters in tourist-land (beautiful but…touristy), we were not expecting much in the way of similar culinary delights. How wrong we were! Electing to try a relatively new Chifa (Chinese-Peruvian fusion place) turned out to be the absolutely correct decision – Kion to the rescue. Unlike the disappointing Chifa we tried in Lima, Kion actively plays up its fusion tastes, and obviously has some real talent in the kitchen to pull it off. Instead of coming across like a mediocre American Chinese place, Kion really showed us something. The photos above were from the first of two consecutive dinners we had there (the second night, after getting back from Machu Picchu, we were so ravenous we forgot to take photos). Particular standouts were the best sweet & sour/orange sauce chicken we’ve ever had (with limes in place of other citrus – the second night I had a similar beef in gooseberries and plum sauce which also kicked ass), two different amazing hot sauces (and a tamarind sauce that held its own), and the ultra rare (and actually edible) homemade fortune cookie.
Next time on the food beat, we start wending our way up the coast in the USA. And in the non-food area (quelle horreur!), we explain what we did in Lima other than eat. (It’s a shorter article.)