Sunday, April 26, 2015

El Señorio de Sulco, Lima, Peru

While most of the dinners that we had on our tour in Peru were buffets (good buffets, but buffets, still), the last restaurant we went to for our farewell dinner, El Señorio de Sulco in Lima, we ordered a la carte from a small menu we were given on the night before we went.  Located in Miraflores, like most of the places we saw and visited while we were in Lima, it also is very much a tourist restaurant.  While the tables in the restaurant were generally set up for large parties, the art work and the design of the place were very nice with glass walls, large ceramic jugs, and a large wall of masks that was located just inside the entrance.  It is apparently also very popular with visiting celebrities.  The wall of fame included bands, Franz Ferdinand, Stone Temple Pilots, REM, and celebrity, Paris Hilton.  Other than the rows of very long tables, it looked like a very nice restaurant.
I started things out with a soup, Chupe de Langostinos, a soup with Prawns, Diced Yellow Potatoes, Corn, Milk, Cheese, a Poached Egg, and Rice.  The prawns were shelled and perfectly cooked, the poached egg was tender and very flavorful.  The corn was the large kernel corn that I had previously seen in many other places.  The broth was creamy and had a tangy and spicy flavor that brought everything together, and there was a lot of well cooked rice.  The other dishes that I saw were another soup, a ceviche, and a causa (a dish of mashed potatoes with, in this case, herbs and vegetables) also looked very good.
For my main course, I ordered what looked to me like the Peruvian spin on Chinese Stir Fry.  It was called Lomo de Res Saltado al Wok con Papas Fritas.  What it turned out to be was Stir Fried Beef Tenderloin with Sliced Red Onions and Tomatoes, topped with French Fries, and served with Steamed Rice. The steak was tender and went well with the onions and tomatoes.  The rice was steamed well and went well with the stir fry but, I think this is a combination that will go well in any format.  The french fries that topped everything seemed a little odd in the context of stir fries, but they did taste good and french fries go well to beef in everything from burgers to steak frites, so I guess it works.
My dessert was something that I had actually had at Tanta, the Peruvian restaurant in Chicago, and I wanted to compare it to what I knew.  I got Picarones, Sweet Potato and Squash Fritters, served with Maple Syrup and Whipped Cream.  When I got them in Chicago, I really liked them and the actual Peruvian version compared positively to the version in Chicago.  They were sweet and fluffy and had a nice crunch on the outside.  While the maple syrup was good and went well with the fritters, it wasn't really necessary.  The whipped cream on the other hand, was a good finish and was going to be eaten in any case. The food here was very good and it was a good finish to our tour.  We did stay in Peru for four more days and explored several other fantastic restaurants, but this was a good finish for our organized tour.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Dining in Cusco, Peru

 I recently made a trip to Peru and spent three days in Cusco.  While all of my breakfasts were covered, as was one buffet dinner, there were a few restaurants (recommended to us if not brought  there by our tour guide) where we ordered on our own.  While Cusco is a fairly large city, most of the main places to see were on Av El Sol and Plaza de Armas (the public square).  Our hotel was on Av El Sol so most of the stuff that we would want to see was within walking distance.  The first two restaurants that we went to Limo and the Inka Grill were small second floor restaurants on the square.  Limo, the first restaurant we went to, was a Peruvian restaurant that focused on the Asian side of Peruvian cuisine.  The space was both rustic and Asian, with a lot of wood and the food focused a lot on seafood.  I started out with an Octopus Tiradito, octopus marinated in lime juice to make it tender and served with corn, sweet potatoes, and served in an olive sauce.  It was a very nice presentation with tender, octopus, crisp vegetables, and a very sour flavor and I really liked it.  For my entree, I went to the Chinese side of things and had a Chauffa which is Peruvian Fried Rice which had vegetables and shrimp and was seasoned with sesame.  This was very good and flavorful, but after the tiradito, it left me very full.
 Limo we went to for lunch.  For dinner, while I didn't really need it, I went out again to a restaurant that featured a menu that was very whole animal and farm to table, the Inka Grill.  I decided to eat light and ordered a couple of skewers, Alpaca and Anticucho.  They were served on banana leaves with Potatoes, Peruvian Corn, an Arugula Salad and a Yellow Pepper Sauce and while they looked similar, they were very different.  The Alpaca, texturally was like any other grilled meat.  As far as flavor was concerned, it reminded me of lamb or goat and I liked it.  The Anticuchos, being marinated beef heart was very different texturally.  It wasn't as fibrous as regular steak was and was pretty dense and firm.  As far as flavor was concerned, it did have a bit of a minerally iron flavor, but it wasn't nearly as strong as liver is.  I did really like it and while I could see that it might be an acquired taste, I would definitely have it again.

On the last day we were in Cusco, we were brought to Valentina's for lunch, which was on the other side of Av El Sol.  At the beginning of our meal, we were given a demo of how to make a Causa, a mixture of Mashed Potatoes and Shredded Chicken covered in a Yellow Pepper Sauce which we were served for our appetizer.  My entree was Lechon, a Fried Pork Leg, which was served with Stuffed Yellow Peppers, and a Cheese Stuffed Tamale.  We were also served a side of Choclo, or Peruvian Corn.  While we were eating, a Peruvian band came in to play and entertain us.  All of our meals were very good and I really enjoyed them.  The food was definitely a good part of our trip in Cusco and I would definitely return to any of these restaurants.   

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Roxie's By the Slice

I like pizza.  Having said that, going out by myself, or even sometimes with two people, depending on the pizza, can make it hard to get a pizza without ending up having to eat it for the next several days.  This makes places that serve pizza by the slice advantageous.  To this end, I went to a place whose entire menu is built around pizza by the slice, Roxie's By The Slice.  It's a small place in Wicker Park with a very rustic feel.  The widows are small, the walls have exposed brick and building blocks, the tables are like cafeteria tables, and the kitchen is open with a bar facing it.  Orders are done at the counter just inside the door.  Roxies offers two pies, Red and White, and has 8 toppings that can be added to each slice (including anchovies) for a dollar a topping.  The pies are precooked and then reheated with toppings when ordered.  I was told that two toppings was probably best because any more than that and the flavors get muddled.  I decided to order one white slice and one red.  For my White Slice, I ordered Prosciutto and Mushrooms.  It was a pretty enormous slice, about 12 inches, and was well layered with the prosciutto and mushrooms.  The crust was thin and foldable, which made it easier to eat.  It was also very nice to eat.
With my Red Slice, I got Pepperoni and Sopressata.  With this slice, there was a good covering of pepperoni with paper thin sopressata spread over the entire slice.  It was salty and meaty and the crust had a good chew.  I really enjoyed my slices and will definitely return.  In addition to the prosciutto, mushrooms, pepperoni, and sopressata that I got on my slices, they also have olives, arugula, sweet peppers, and anchovies on the menu so there are many other choices to try.  I have heard really good things about the Red Slice with Arugula and Sopressata, so I have an idea where I may go the next time I come here.         

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Furious Spoon

When most people think of ramen, they think of the really cheap dried noodles that are covered with salt and they loved as kids or survived on in college.  When one goes to a ramen shop though, people are quick to discover that ramen is much more than those dried noodles.  There have been a number of ramen shops that have opened in Chicago in the last couple of years, due to the growing popularity of ramen.  I like authentic ramen and I like trying new things, so I went to one of the new ramen shops, Furious Spoon, for dinner recently.  Run by Shin Thompson of the former Bonsoiree and Kabocha, this is small, but simpler and more low key than his previous ventures.  I still had an expectation going in though, of some really good food.  The restaurant is pretty small with the order counter at the front of the open kitchen just to the right of the door.  The place will seat about 40 people between to communal tables and banquettes and a counter facing the kitchen.  The walls, tables, and chairs were all dark and heavy wood, and the space was relatively dark.  I walked in, looked over the short menu (5 ramens, toppings, 5 sides, and  drinks), ordered, was given a number and was directed to seat myself.  I sat at the inside of one of the communal tables, so I could get watch the flow of the restaurant.  The ramen that I ordered, Furious Ramen,  had almost everything offered in it.  I also ordered an order of pickles, which I have learned, is much more than just pickled cucumbers.  I like to order pickles when I see them on the menu because I like pickles and it is interesting to see what it is exactly that I am going to get.  This order of pickles consisted of Red Onions, Carrots, Celery, Mushrooms, Cucumbers, Potatoes, and a single Red Pepper.  The vegetables were crisp, with a good sweet and vinegary flavor.  The mushrooms were firm and had a good flavor, and the potatoes were good as well.  While I do like spicy food, I do not make a habit of eating whole hot peppers, whether pickled or not, so the pepper was left uneaten.
I was very surprised, when my ramen arrived, of the size of my bowl and spoon.  I was warned, when I ordered it, that it was pretty spicy.  I was not warned, however, how big it was going to be.  The bowl looked to be able to hold about a quart of ramen and the spoon that came with it was about the size of a cooking spoon.  The method that people seemed to use was to grab a spoonful of ramen, eat the noodles and meat out of the spoon with chopsticks, and slurp the broth from the spoon a the end.  While I will not say that I liked the color of the broth, there was a lot of stuff in it that did look good.  The broth was pretty spicy, but it was still flavorful and good.  In the broth was Sesame, Spicy Miso, a Poached Egg, Beef Brisket, Pork Belly, Pork Cheeks, Marinated Mushrooms, and Garlic Relish as well as a lot of noodles, of course.  In addition to being spicy, it was very meaty, and had a good garlic and sesame flavor.  The egg was poached perfectly.  It was solid enough to be picked up with chop sticks, but it was soft enough that it probably could have been sucked through a straw.  Despite the size of the dish, I managed to plow through it, and left happy and very satisfied.  I liked the food here and will be sure to be back.