thursday, june 28, 2007
La RedThe far north section of Miraflores roughly along La Mar Avenue has been transformed into an epicenter of Peruvian seafood establishments. More than a half-dozen of Lima’s premier eateries featuring the abundance of the country’s waters are to be found in this little neighborhood.
Many of these places have opened in recent years – major restaurants backed by well known chefs – but there is at least one that is a long-time landmark here, so much so it is pretty easy to miss it when you venture into this little cluster of streets.
From the street, La Red looks like one of the countless neighborhood markets found across Peru. Most likely, this was originally a home and an informal restaurant was opened in the front room. The back-story certainly lends credence to that theory.
The restaurant opened a quarter-century ago by Doña Isolina Varga Reyes and her son, Jose del Castillo, continues to lead the kitchen today. Today, though, the whole building is the establishment and its unorthodox layout give it a delightful chaotic feel.
The first time I ate here I thought it was like any number of corner cevicherias you see in Lima – a cheap place with decent food but not a lot of frills. The somewhat claustrophobic dining area and plastic tables and chairs didn’t do much to defray this impression. But, instead, it turned out to be a decadent wonderland of the Peruvian seafood largesse.
The ceviche pescado and traiditos here are among the best you will get in Lima. Classically creole in their preparation and presentation, they provide the burst of distinctive flavors one would expect for a top-notch Miraflores eatery.
First and foremost on the menu is the parihuela. This rich seafood soup is one of Peru’s most amazing offerings and La Red does in spectacular style. It succeeds on every level, color, consistency, taste and sheer chutzpa.
When the unending litany of cruel grey days that make up Lima’s winter arrive, this is one of the very few bright spots you can find. It’s filling for the stomach and the soul alike.
Castillo’s kitchen is very apt in finding ways to marry disparate elements of peru’s cooking into interesting dishes that stay true to the cuisine but remain adventuresome to the palate. The the backbone of the establishment are the sumptious fish dishes that offer a simply fried or baked fish adorned with a stewy sauce. Check the chalkboard for the reccomendation, it will rarely steer you wrong.
On the menu, though, offerings such as the Bonito en Jugo o Escabeche en Tacu Tacu provide a powerful mix of the earthy tastes of the classic tacu tacu and the zesty zing of the lime juice from the ceviche –a sort of Peruvian surf n’ turf, if you will. What makes the dish stand out is how these distinctive and powerful tastes don’t overshadow the enjoyment of the fish itself. The sweet infusion of slightly caramelized onion creates a transition between the two extremes that allows the dish to have a pleasing balance.
Where La Red really impressed me was on the dishes other Peruvian restaurants often fall short on, the more conventional types of dishes featuring the local seafood. Italian and French-style dishes. The Picante Mariscos, for example, was a luscious pasta and cream sauce affair that blended the rich shellfish into the tastes perfectly. It’s as rich as one might expect but not to the point of being too heavy.
La Red is a great experience. It’s the kind of place you can get top-notch Peruvian seafood but still have that local feel. Show up on Sunday morning and you’ll vie for tables around locals reading their morning paper and, as the day progresses, well-dressed families who have just finished filing out of church. During the week your as likely to sit next to a group from a nearby office as an astute tourist or two.
As usual, prices here are somewhat more expensive than the usual but not nearly as much as many of the more elite establishments they cook on par with. Service is usually pretty good but expect to wait awhile if it gets busy, the layout of the place and the confines of the cooking area can sometime tax the staff’s ability to be on the spot at all times. Overall, though, they go out of their way to see you are taken care of.
Av. La Mar 391
Miraflores, Lima, Peru
Phone: 51 1 441-1026
Open: Monday - Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
|comment posted by: housegroovin on july 5, 2007 @ 7:56 pm|
As an American who grew up in Pucallpa Peru, it is a pleasure to read your blog! Thank you for the stimulating/interesting commentary. I wish you good times and Great food!
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