monday, october 09, 2006
Rincón ChamiThere is just something about a bar-style diner that sings to the southern heart that beats within my breast.
Rincón Chami is about a block off the Parque Kennedy in the heart of Miraflores. That puts it just close enough to the horde of crap restaurants aimed at pulling in bewildered gringos that I was a bit suspicious of the place. The patio full of gore-tex clad Westerners clutching their backpacks as they tried to thumb through their travel guides that seemed ubiquitous at the place on the weekend didn’t help.
But, after moving into a small apartment a few blocks away, I started passing the place during the week and I noticed something. There were a LOT of Peruvians that ate here regularly. Moreover, even when the tourists were filling the front tables, the back ones were filled with the local residents.
When I finally ventured inside, I realized I had made a huge mistake. This was a place right out of my childhood in Louisiana; a long bar with a middle aisle for the bow-tie clad waiters dominated the dining area and the menu was painted on the wall. Peek into the far end of the room and you see the kitchen staff toiling away amid a cacophony of culinary sounds and smells.
Much of the menu is Criollo-style food. The menu is heavy on Northern dishes and the style they are prepared seems to match it as well. But their style seem to be mastering the Lima melting pot approach to the cuisine rather than specializing in one region's particular style.
If you are looking for a place that provides a very good example of some of Peru’s varied cuisine, this is a great stop to make. They have an excellent Aji de Gallina, Carapulcra and Tacu Tacu (the last made with Kidney beans which, I am aware, is heresy for traditionalists. Ignore them. It tastses great). Sure, there are other places that specialize in each of these and make a superb version that exceeds the offering here – but nowhere else can you get such high quality across the board.
What really sealed the deal for me were the lunch specials. This is the exact same concept at the time-honored Blue Plate Special. By making a big batch of one special meal each day, they can feature dishes that are simply not economical to do on the regular menu. It is economical for them and brings people back with regularity.
It is a style of eating I began to appreciate when I worked as a reporter in Opelousas, Louisiana. I pretty much lived in The Palace restaurant on the square and the Red Beans and Rice on Tuesday was a dinner that would not be out of place on the Rincon Chami menu.
Well, they put a lot in front of me - a big bowl of soup sided with a giant mound of boiled cabbage, meat, potatoes, yucca and more. It is, essentially, the classic pot au feu. The meat and vegetables cook down to create the rich broth and are served as a side. It’s repast enough for two (which is a common way I see it eaten) but, as my marathon training has progressed it has become my mid-week calorie load-up. (You can also order it as a simple soup if you are intimidated by the spread)
Another highlight is the Chupe de Camarones on Sunday. This is an almost seafood chowder heavy on the prawns and fish. It is a perfect repast on those chilly grey days that make up the long Lima winter. Yet, it is also the most uneven dishes of the menu, I’ve had it done perfectly one week and way to salty and overpowering the next. But it is so good when done right you should always take the chance.
Save a bit of space for the desserts. They have an assortment of the usual Peruvian offerings and the lime pie is worth checking out. A lot of folks stop by here just for the postre’s and seeing folks take a whole pie carryout is not uncommon.
The service is impeccable. The waitstaff are all long-timers. The white shirts and black bowties are a quaint touch that matches the décor perfectly. They get stretched pretty thin during the lunch crush but they never forget you. Show up a few times (and make a point to leave a few soles as a tip) and they will start to greet you by name.
The cost of the meal is a bit more than the usual lunch plate you find pretty much everywhere but substantially cheaper than any of the regular sit-down restaurants the guides point you to. You are still paying $6 or so for a damned filling meal so it's more than worth the slight expense.
The recent renovation of Av. Esperanza has made the outside tables even more enjoyable. The whole street is visible and the reduction in traffic is a wonderful boon as us the subsequent increase in pedestrians. But, for me, the only place to truly get the full experience is as the bar.
Miraflores, Lima, Peru
Phone: 51 1 444-4511
Open: Monday – Saturday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
|comment posted by: Sebastian on october 9, 2006 @ 11:40 am|
My mouth is watering. Good review. I might ever try some of those recipes. For the first time, I am having the urge to try. In any case, reading this, I want to head back to Lima. Mmmm. :)
|comment posted by: Sebastian on october 18, 2006 @ 11:14 pm|
Mmmmm. Looks so good. I thought I wrote a comment for this post earlier, I guess I never posted it. I think my mouth was literally watering when I read it, and reminded me of good meals in Peru and at home. I was a bit intimidated by the ordeal (an ordeal to me, at least) of attempting your recipe for Sancochado Limeño, and lo and behold, I was at the Latin American market on Monday and found a frozen package of sancocho ingredients. All I needed to add was some form of meat, and salt, and voilá! Probably not as good as from scratch, but it's a start! I did not purchase the package. I left it for another day as I loaded up on other goods. I did buy, however, papas criollas, the little yellow potatoes which were a favorite of my youth, and even now. Thanks again.
|comment posted by: liggy on september 13, 2009 @ 10:14 pm|
THEY HAVE THE BEST DESSERT: ARROZ CON LECHE!
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