THE KAERU KID: Lima — more than beans

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Huaca Pucllana. photo by James Preston

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a two-part series.

I read about the Chez Wong (aka Sankuay) restaurant that some rate as one of the top 50 in the world (114 Calle Enrique León García). I called to make reservations, but they only have 12 tables and are always full. I went there anyway, hoping to get a seat, but had no luck and could only observe Chef Javier Wong slicing and dicing.

Another cevicheria at the top of many lists was Pescados Capitales (Av. La Mar 1337, Miraflores, www.pescadoscapitales.com). It’s a huge place. I arrived just as it opened, and was seated promptly. I had some tasty whole corn kernels served as table snacks and chicha morada, a purple colored drink made from purple maize and boiled with pineapple and spices. It was quite good. Their leche de tigre, which is the by-product of the ceviche preparation consisting of key lime juice, fish and other seafood, and hot pepper, was also quite good. Their ceviche and seafood, though, were not as good as La Mar’s.

Fuji Restaurant (Av. Paseo de la República 4090 Miraflores, Lima 18, www.restaurantfujiperu.com) was said to be one of the best in the city with moderate prices. Their sushi was good and nicely presented, but the shrimp tempura was below average. As the bill was three times the price of other Lima restaurants I visited, I cannot recommend this place.

Peru has so many unique dishes, but I was only able to taste a few during this short vacation. I bought granadilla, an egg-shaped passion fruit at a market. The unusual taste is difficult to describe. The yellow jelly-like pulp with black edible seeds had a crunchy delicious sweet and sour flavor.

Public buses cost 1 to 2 Peruvian soles ($2.70 soles per $1 USD during my visit) depending on the location. If the destination required a bus change, I chose a taxi instead, for convenience, usually at a cost between $8 to $15. Be warned to avoid taxis at rush hour, because it once took 15 minutes to travel just two blocks.

Lima is full of many interesting museums and also archeological sites that I missed on my previous visit. I took a bus to the private Museo Larco (Bolivar 1515 Pueblo Libre 15084, www.museolarco.org). It must be one of the best in the world, because of the layout of the various pre-Columbian Peruvian cultures that are well annotated in English. The Incas were the last in the long line of cultures before being conquered by the Spanish. The Incas learned many of their building techniques and other knowledge from those they conquered. There is an annex featuring erotic pottery. It is not titillating, even though many acts and positions are depicted. The Incas viewed sex as just a natural life function, and not something to be hidden as in the uptight Western culture. The museum restaurant serves outstanding food in a lovely garden setting, with bright red bougainvillea flowers in full bloom covering many of the walls.

The National Museum (Av Javier Prado Este 2466 San Borja) is a huge modern building, but the displays pale in comparison to Museo Larco. Entry was free, but hiring an English-speaking guide for an hour cost 15 soles, plus tip. He did not add any information that could not be gleaned from simple observation. Their clean bathrooms lacked toilet paper. But heeding my own advice in past articles, I had fortunately carried some toilet paper and sanitary hand cleanser.

Huaca Pucllana. photo by James Preston
Huaca Pucllana. photo by James Preston

Huaca Pucllana or Juliana is a pre-Incan pyramidal shaped ceremonial center that’s dedicated to the god Pachacamac. It is located right in Miraflores, and is well worth a visit. The reasonable entrance fee of about $3 includes an English-speaking guide. Their on-site restaurant (8, Huaca Pucllana – Miraflores, huacapuc@rednextel.com.pe, www.resthuacapucllana.com) is said to be excellent, but it did not open until later. Instead, we had dinner at an Italian restaurant across the street. We didn’t seek out a cevicheria, because ceviche is usually considered a lunchtime dish.

The preeminent pre-Incan site of Pachacámac is almost 20 miles south of Lima, but takes about an hour by taxi to get there, for a flat rate of 25 soles, plus 3 for the toll. The entrance fee is 8 soles, and an English guide costs 20 soles. It is a huge complex and requires walking for long distances, as well as up and down many pyramidal structures, so I hired another taxi for an additional 60 soles to include transport back to Miraflores. We saved quite a bit of walking between the different structures in the hot sun. Unbelievably, the gift shop at the location sold many things, but no head coverings. Probably one could have hired a taxi from Lima to include round trip and driving around the complex for much less than what I paid for two separate transactions. There are advertised group tours, frequently for a special early online purchase for $36 USD, but these were advertised for $75 during my visit. Be sure to bring a hat and water. Suffice it to say, this site was as important in pre-Incan times as Cusco was to the Incas. The Incas also made this site a sacred site because of a supposed oracle here. Details can be read at www.labyrinthina.com/pachacamac.htm.

Dr. Izumi Shimada, of Southern Illinois University, in Carbondale, Ill.’s department of anthropology, heads the Pachacámac archaeological project. (www.pachacamac.net)
The last recommended evening visit in Lima is the Magic Water Circuit (Parque de la Reserva, Block 5 of Av. Petit Thouars). There are 13 different fountains and at night are illuminated by changing light colors (www.go2peru.com/Lim_foto08.htm). It was quite impressive and makes the Bellagio’s fountains look second rate.

Probably most visitors (as I did on my first visit to Peru) have Machu Picchu as their main destination and miss out on the many attractions and food that Lima offers.

 

Las Vegas Tidbits

Las Vegas is known as the Ninth Island because so many people from Hawai‘i are now living here. So of course there are many restaurants catering to that population. Rice Trax Teriyaki Grill, 7780 South Jones Blvd., Las Vegas, has received good word of mouth. It is quite far from most restaurants, but they are closing in mid-December and re-opening in early January at 7745 South Rainbow, Las Vegas, still not convenient for me. Their bento combos for less than $10 were quite tasty and can easily feed two. They also have fried rice that they will make with your choice of many ingredients. The present location atmosphere is not very inviting, but it seemed that many customers ordered the food to go. They are above average for Hawaiian food.

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.

 

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