For the Trinidadian palate, we’re accustomed to many types of tastes, but eating raw fish isn’t one of them. Now what if I told a Trini that I was eating or making a “chow” … you would instantly see a Pavlovian type response of drool and watery mouth! Peruvians have the same reaction when you mention the word “ceviche”. I would like “ceviche” to a “fish chow” … especially with all the chilies and sourness that goes with it. Ceviche is the combination of Japanese sushi/sashimi tradition along with Incan/Spanish/ Moorish traditions of letting raw fish marinate for a period in lime and other citrus juices. That effect of pickling or “cooking the fish makes everything fresh and light … and if you love raw chilies like me, then you get a kick in the mouth too!
Ceviche in Miraflores, Lima is some of the best ceviche in the world … if not the best. So while on a long flight delay … I decided to do an epic 6 hour gut busting, EPIC ceviche tour of Miraflores, Lima. I chose the following blog post to drive my adventure … once I had my list, then I had to zone in which area would give me the most cevicherias in the least amount of time. Then finally I had to figure out when each of the cevicherias would be closing. Here is the list of cevicherias I came up with in Miraflores and the relevant closing hours
- Pescado Capitales : 5:00pm
- El Mercado : 5:00pm
- Canta Rana : 9:00pm
- La Rosa Nautica : Midnight
- La Red : 5:00pm
- La Mar : 5:30pm
- Cinco Esquinas : 5:00pm
Now that I had my list, I attacked the first one :Pescado Capitales. This place is “high falutin” ceviche at it’s best. You wander in and you know this is some of Lima’s finest eating here. The place itself is airy and has an opulent feel … it could also be all the rich Peruanos eating lunch in here. This is definitely not the place to save your pocketbook. The name means Capital Fish, which is a play on the phrase Capital Sins (Sins in Spanish is pecados, which sounds almost like pescados). In English, I thought this wasn’t as funny … since we talk about the Cardinal rather than Capital Sins.
The service was decent and I was seated within 5 mins of getting there. I was offered an English menu to start and it’s a hefty menu based on those Cardinal rather than capital sins such as Greed, Gluttony, Vainity, Lust, Envy, etc. It takes a while to go through the entire menu … thankfully I was all about the ceviche.
Let me tell you know … the two dishes I ordered were simply sublime. The ceviche mixto and the tuna ceviche was so fresh and flavorful … it was a challenge not to eat everything on offer.
I had to leave everything else on the plate uneaten, since I knew that an epic day of eating would require lots of digestive space. Also they served this lime pepper sauce … I was almost in Chaguanas, Trinidad. I basically drank the entire container of pepper sauce – as evidenced by the empty container below. The lunch wasn’t cheap … but the meal was completely worth it. I would fly back to Lima to eat at Pescado Capitales!!
Next on the docket was a visit to the Peruvian institution La Mar. Everyone in Peru knows La Mar as it was founded by Peruvian superstar chef Gastón Acurio – in fact this Cevicheria in Lima is so famous that there are now sister restaurants as far flung as San Francisco, Panama City and Mexico City. I’ve eaten at 4 of his locations … so I guess I’m contributing to the Mr Acurio’s vast pocketbook, but the ceviche in his restaurant has always been sublime. Walking into the location, like Pescado Capitales … it has a light, affluent and breezy feel.
As I was on a time crunch, I asked to be seated at the bar. The hostess Cinthia Pella was extremely hospitable and she definitely helped out my research for this article, while I was at bar munching on ceviche – if only all hostesses were as friendly! My first order was the Tiradito Nikkei off the menu.
I’ve ordered this item 4 times before, so I know what to expect with this dish. It should be fresh and salty with a hint of sweetness/sourness from the tamarind. They also serve fresh plantain chips with three types of salsas/sauces. I always have the orange pepper sauce, which comes in the middle of the three little bowls shown below.
I had two bites of the Nikkei and I wasn’t pleased at the taste. It was overly sweet and inconsistent with the excellence that I’ve had before at other locations. So I sent it back – the staff was more than receptive to my feedback. I also wanted to see what the reaction would be in Lima. When you have an issue with your food in the US or Canada, there is zero push back. They come back, accept the feedback, take the food and don’t charge you for something you didn’t like. I was very pleased that the same happened at La Mar in Peru – so this is an excellent customer service story on their end. My next order was the Tiradito Clasico … but in typical Trini style … I asked for them to kill it.
While I was eating, there was a birthday celebration. I guess all Latin Americans love the birthday singing – it happened at Pescado Capitales also. I’ll never get it … I think all the waiters coming to sing Happy Birthday to you, is just cheesy and weird … but it’s definitely a custom down here. The other thing I really like was the honesty of the servers … I asked a couple of them to nominate my next stop. They all intimated that if I had been to Pescado Capitales – then I had basically hit the best of the city … “even better than La Mar?” …. “Si … even better than La Mar”. I appreciated their honesty … since I agreed with this assessment. As for the bill …
It was now 5pm as I left La Mar … based on the list and the closing times … I could only head to two places :La Rosa Nautica (closes at midnight) and Canta Rana (closes at 9pm). Cinthia recommended La Rosa Nautica … not because she thought the food was good, but that I would enjoy the sunset view. She definitely wasn’t kidding … La Rosa Nautica is something from Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco … on the beach and completely cheesy in decor. I’m sure the tourists ABSOLUTELY love this place. It’s also quite the fancy little place … who knows how many proposals go down in this place.
Anyway … I’m here about the ceviche and seafood … so I decided to go with the Scallops outlined below and a ceviche sampler. I definitely wanted to try the Octopus … but it was getting late and no Peruvian eats ceviche or raw seafood this late … which is why the cevicherias only open till 5 or 5:30 pm.
I can’t lie … these scallops in drenched in this terrible looking sauce was one of the best appetizers I’ve eaten in years. The carmelized bacon onion skins that dress the dish makes this an absolutely superb combination. In typical server fashion, when I told the staff what I was doing … they recommended two other places not on my list : Al Frescos and Matteos. Everyone was super supportive of my epic ceviche quest. Peruvians are definitely crazy and passionate about their ceviche. It’s too bad that the service and the second dish was so poor afterwards. My second dish of the ceviche sampler (Costeno) was simply a fetid imitation of ceviche.
The overall quality of the dish was poor. The presentation and taste was even worse … especially at the price point that this place is charging. The crowning failure of the evening on top of the ridiculously poor service, was the fact that my bill got “lost” … so that the waiter tried to take a 32 sole tip. The names on the bill were Caiero : Ovid Vera and Empleado : Janeth L … I really don’t like being played for an ass. In the end, Guillermo (the only English speaking waiter) was there to clean up this mess and get my change back. He apologized profusely for the whole mix up and he was very good … but based on the slow service and poor food … I would say that like any tourist trap, you can go for the view but don’t stay for the food.
Here’s a couple lessons learned
- Start your epic Ceviche tour at noon sharp – you only have 5 hours to try and hit as many places and you can
- Most of the best Ceviche restaurants are in Miraflores. I don’t suggest you try the local ones … go for the best while you’re in Lima
- Avoid La Rosa Nautica … tourist trap!
- You can only eat so much raw fish … before you go into ceviche overload.
- Don’t eat all the starch on your plate – you won’t have room to continue eating.