Since the beginning of this trip, I have been trying to figure out the secret to how the Portenos stay so slim and in shape while eating some of the richest food around. After walking Buenos Aires all day and all night, it was obvious to see – they are all runners and play soccer in the evenings. Yesterday, my friend Raj and I walked and talked from noon till midnight yesterday, and everywhere it was evident that people were milling about their own affairs but once it got dark (7pm or so), then the streets and the parks were filled with portenos of all ages, runnings on the streets, playing pick up soccer or doing some type of physical fitness activity.
The weather, broad promenades and ample green space combine to create a very fitness positive space where people can indulge themselves. Well, I figure they have to, since everyone got dressed up after 9.30 pm to go have a late dinner. As usual, after all the walking, touring and photographing, I had an excellent dinner at a nice little Peruvian restaurant called Chan Chan. This place was picked at random from the book with no reservations accepted, so we were a bit worried when we got there a little after 9.30, and we should have been. The place was full and loud, with a couple large tables formed by shoving smaller tables together. From my perspective, this is a good sign: Folks show up in groups, wanting reasonable prices and an atmosphere conducive to multiple conversations and cross-talk. Chan Chan is basically just a simple, medium-sized room, with white-tiled walls and a multi-colored mosaic over the kitchen. Open and unpretentious, except for maybe the cache of plaster saints that presides over the dining area.
The food however was again cheap and spectacular. Raj and I ordered the Ceviche Sample which consisted for 4 types of Ceviche, 3 of which I have tried before at other Peruvian places across my travels:
- Tiradito Ceviche : This is newer cousin of traditional ceviche, somewhat like Sashimi, in that it was thin, slightly longer strips of marinated raw fish but with no onions. It came garnished with slices of boiled corn, and boiled root veggies.Thankfully, the waitress saw me inhale the salsa picante and she asked me in English, whether I liked it hot… of course my response was for them to kill it with pepper and they did 🙂
- Ceviche Mixto : This is a bit more traditional ceviche, with a mix of seafood (clams, oysters, octopus) and raw fish diced in 2cm cubes and marinated in lime juice and ajíes (hot peppers), served with raw onions, sweet potato and corn. The volume of onions was ridiculous but so fantastically good and of course this one was also awesomely hot as every bit was infused with chunks of scotch bonnet peppers
- Ceviche de Lenguado: This is tradtional ceviche, just the raw fish, onions, lime, cilantro, and tons of pepper. Crisp, clean and refreshing
- Ceviche in Rocoto Cream sauce : Obviously a newer type of ceviche, but anything creamy I wont touch. Raj was the taster for this one, and she didn’t fancy the whole deal, so this one was left till last and in the end, she couldn’t finish it.
I also had a traditional rice and peas with stewed beef, and it tasted exactly like traditional west indian stewed beef except it wasn’t as sweet or hot, but the cut of beef was ridiculously soft and well done.
Again overall cost of the meal, plus drinks and wine = 100 pesos (28$ CDN). Another fantastic value for the money, as the exact same meal in Toronto, San Francisco or New York, would have cost double or triple that price and surely not as good.
Prior to the Peruvian dinner experience, it was hours and hours of walking through the parks and all across Buenos Aires. From the craft markets in Recoleta to Carlos Gardel Musuem street in Abasto and all along hustle and bustle of Avenida Santa Fe and rich little houses and shops in Avenida Alvare.