THE KAERU KID: Lima — more than beans

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two part series.

Yes, lima beans originated in Peru, but the pronunciation changed when they arrived on our shores. Boxes of beans shipped worldwide were labeled “Lima, Peru” and became known as lima beans. Tomatoes and peanuts are also originally from Peru. The rice-like staple, quinoa, which is likewise from Peru, also is spreading throughout the world.

Having had a fabulous Peruvian vacation in the past that included visits to Cusco, Machu Picchu, Madre de Dios in the Amazon area, Lake Titicaca, Nazca, with its famed desert outlines, and a short stay in Lima, put Peru way down on the list of places to revisit. That is, until, thoughts of a short vacation to a place where it was warm toward the end of the year, inexpensive, and offered great food, led me to reconsider Lima, Peru. In fact, some Peruvian food is now considered haute cuisine; famed chefs from there include Nobu Matsuhisa of Nobu Restaurant fame.

During my previous short stay in Lima, a friend highly recommended Rosa Nautica (Espigon 4 beach circuit, Miraflores; reservas@larosanautica.com; www.larosanautica.com). The restaurant is located on a pier, with a lovely view, and is noted for its delicious seafood. It has a beautiful location, but the service was terrible, with the waiters hovering over a group of ladies at another table and completely ignoring me. Food never tastes good when one becomes upset. On top of that, the prices were high.

Lima is located on the coast in the southern hemisphere, and our winters are their summers. This time of the year there, it’s like Southern California’s June gloom; there are overcast days that occasionally clear in the late afternoon, with temperatures in the 65 to 75 (Fahrenheit) range.
I rented an apartment that included private bath, kitchen, Wi-Fi, TV and laundry facilities, for $60 a night in a high rise located in the upscale Miraflores area. Airbnb.com lists many economical places. A bed and breakfast located in the bohemian Barranco area for only $30 a night sounded tempting, but staying in the Miraflores area was a priority choice.

Staying in the Barranco area would have entailed more time commuting via an inexpensive bus ride to the Miraflores area, but if I visit the enchanting Lima again, Barranco definitely has its bohemian attractions, restaurants and nightclubs. During a visit to the area, I only saw the lovely Museo Pedro de Osma, which displays excellent colonial art in a mansion of that era, as well as the Bridge of Sighs, which is supposedly named after the daughter of a wealthy man who fell in love with a poor street sweeper. Her father refused to let her meet her lover, leaving her to peer out her window. The passersby on the bridge heard her sighs as she lived out her lonely life.

Lima should do something to improve passport entry. My plane arrived half an hour early at 10:30 p.m., but we were forced to wait 45 minutes at the parking gate before being allowed to disembark. Only an American passport is required, no visa, but the multitude of arrivals and poor organization required more than an hour to clear at this late hour, giving a poor first impression of this country.

The Miraflores area has many fine restaurants, high-rise buildings, shops and casinos, but it feels like being in an American suburb with all the usual American fast food franchises and Starbucks. I took a short, interesting walk to the malecon to stroll through Larcomar, an upscale shopping area that was built into the side of a cliff on the oceanfront. Many paragliders in this area charge $50 for a 15-minute flight. It cost me $150 for a 20-minute flight at Torrey Pines in San Diego.

PLAZA MAYOR ­— The distinct yellow buildings (above) border Plaza Mayor in Lima, Peru along with a Cathedral overlooking a grand fountain (left). The plaza is one several UNESCO World Heritage sites in the city. photos by Richie Diesterheft and Jonathan Adrianzen

PLAZA MAYOR ­— The distinct yellow buildings (above) border Plaza Mayor in Lima, Peru along with a Cathedral overlooking a grand fountain (left). The plaza is one several UNESCO World Heritage sites in the city.
photos by Richie Diesterheft and Jonathan Adrianzen

The tour guide on a double deck tour bus of the city marred the experience by speaking in Spanish and then repeating everything in English. A stop at the historic center of Lima, a UNESCO World Heritage site, included Plaza San Martín, Plaza Mayor, historic buildings such as the Colon Theater, government buildings and the San Francisco Cathedral, where we were led to unimpressive catacombs.

My list of culinary delights to try included pollo la brasa (Peruvian chicken rotisserie grilled), which I tasted at Pardo’s Chicken at Larcomar (C.C. LarcoMar, Miraflores, reservas@pardoslarcomar.com, www.pardoschicken.pe/restaurantes/pardos-chicken-larcomar.html). The restaurant has a great ocean view. The chicken was good, but not life altering. I washed down the meal with Inca Kola, a light yellowish green sweet drink an Englishman invented at the turn of the 20th century. It soon became Peru’s most popular soft drink. Like the alcoholic Pisco Sour, it can also be considered the national drink. The Coca-Cola Company naturally tried to displace Inca Kola, and even made their drink sweeter just for the Peruvian market, but nothing worked, and they finally capitulated by trying to buy them out, but the wily owners sold only a 49 percent interest for several millions.

Chinese food was also on my list, because Peru has the largest Chinese population in South America. Their Barrio Chino (Chinatown) located next to the Central Market is unattractive, with unkempt streets and gaudy touristic displays. In peering into several restaurants, we did not see many Chinese diners, and that is always a dangerous sign. I finally picked one at random, and unwisely chose that. It turned out to be a mediocre lunch buffet.

Chinese food in Lima is referred to as “chifa,” and it’s ubiquitous in Lima. But many places seemed to be run by non-Chinese, so I asked a taxi driver to take me to the best chifa. This was a mistake, since “best” was perceived as most expensive. I was transported to Wa Lok restaurant (Av. Angamos Oeste 700, Miraflores, www.walok.com.pe), which is located above a casino. I did not see any Asians eating here, but I ordered a mélange of seafood, meats and vegetables served in a noodle basket. It was delicious, but it could have easily fed four people. I took the leftovers back to the apartment and gave them to the maid, who was delighted to receive them.

Another day, I tried the chifa at a hole-in-the-wall in Miraflores, ordering a plate of lomo saltado, a unique Peruvian stir-fry. It was filling, but not especially tasty.

Peru’s national dish, ceviche, (many Peruvians called it cebiche) was highest on my list. With more than 2,000 cevicherias to choose from, the top choice was La Mar (Av. La Mar 770, Miraflores), which was founded by Peru’s most famous chef, Gaston Acurio. An English-speaking waitress was helpful in making a selection from the long list. The ocean currents from Antarctica well up along the coast are loaded with plankton, which marine life gorge on, accounting for the delicious seafood that’s available. La Mar’s food was ambrosia and they are so popular that there are branches worldwide, including in San Francisco, but the quality of seafood available in Lima cannot be beat. I could eat here every day. There were many other highly recommended places, but as the saying goes, so many places, so little time.

Las Vegas Tidbits

The British who controlled India during the Meiji era introduced curry to Japan. Japanese curry became so popular that some claim it is the national dish. Many Japanese restaurants include curry on their menu, but only a few in Las Vegas specialize in this dish, such as Kaba Curry House, 6475 West Charleston Blvd., Las Vegas (702-589-0370, http://kabacurry.com), and the newest entry, Curry Zen, which is located in the same shopping complex where Raku, Monta and other Japanese restaurants are located, at 5020 Spring Mountain Road, Las Vegas (Curry Zen, 702-985-1192 www.curryzen.com). As it is not my favorite taste, I seldom order curry. So don’t look to me for the best advice in this case.

The Kaeru Kid lives in Las Vegas and hopes readers will send him comments at KaeruKid@yahoo.com. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

Speak Your Mind

*

Kyplex Cloud Security Seal - Click for Verification