The two days and nights I was in Lima at the end of my trip were a decadent conclusion to the trip. Despite my dread of leaving I was able to spend those days in the company of wonderful people who introduced me to some fabulous food, among other things. The day I left Cusco I hadn’t slept a wink (my flight was at 9, so I figured why bother), had gone out dancing with my cousins and friends, almost fallen asleep in the club itself and proceeded to put back some red bulls to remedy that…the point is that I was wiped out when I got to Lima at 11:30 on Sunday morning. I took a cab to my friend’s apartment, where the unfailing hospitality of my host and the pearly grey light coming in the floor to ceiling windows lulled me into a great nap on the couch. I woke up to a lunch invitation to a place called El Mercado, the newest project by the well known chef Rafael Osterling. On a supremely lazy Sunday, there was absolutely nothing slow about El Mercado. The locale, a sort of semi-enclosed triangular patio with a beautiful bar, was packed at 5 pm with the beautiful people of Lima enjoying mariscos for a late lunch. While this isn’t normally my scene while traveling, since beautiful people tend to be similar everywhere, I can truthfully say that these were some of the best seafood preparations I have ever had. We started with a ceviche de lenguado ‘El Mercado’, with plenty of lime, orange aji and exquisitely fresh fish, it was easily the best ceviche I had in Lima. That was followed by a similarly perfect leche de tigre (the juice from ceviche, basically), some awesome ahi tuna sliders with house made vegetable pickles and a wasabi aioli, an arroz chaufa (fried rice) that included mariscos, lechón and fried plantain and the best pulpo ever. This pulpo was grilled with cherry tomatoes, a basil pesto, and potatoes (of course) and presented sizzling on a hot plate. It was so tender you barely needed a knife to cut it, which is really rare with octopus, and the flavor was so rich and intense that it was almost like a great steak. Really, it was a transcendent octopus dish. That sounds hyperbolic, I know…but it’s the bare truth people, go try this pulpo if at all possible.
The dessert was also excellent, some kind of molten chocolate cake with salted dulce de leche ice cream, both of which were perfectly executed. The chocolate shone in its natural complexity and the ice cream was subtle and not too sweet. Also, my Ketel One and tonic was impeccable.
I leave Rafael, the chef’s flagship restaurant in Lima, for the next post. Rest assured it was an equally excellent if very different experience.