Sunday, July 8, 2012

Peru Part 7: Lima and Malabar

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This was our last full day in Peru. Our only scheduled events were a city tour staring at 2:30 and dinner at Malabar at 7:30. This left our morning pretty free. After a late breakfast at the hotel we walked a few blocks to take in a local site: the supermarket. Not too different from a U.S. market. The produce section was awesome. Lots of variety and seemed cheaper than our produce in Chicagoland. The beef and other meats weren't kept behind glass or wrapped on the styrofoam pallets. They were stacked unwrapped in the doorless refrigerator. That was the only big difference we noticed.  We bought a couple bags of Kichiwa Pops, Inca Kolas, and a few other snacky items.

After the market we dropped our purchases back at the hotel and headed to our lunch destination. We had asked our local travel agent where to go for cerviche (fish cooked in lime juice - Peru's national dish) within the area. We needed to be sure to be back at the hotel before 2:30. She suggeseted Panchita. It was about a 20 minute walk one-way. No biggie. It was also owned by Gaston Acurio, the celebrity chef, so we knew it would be good.

We cut through Central Park and arrived at the location at 11:35. It was closed. We could see commotion inside so figured it would be a noon opening. At 12:00 the doors opened up and we were shown to a table and handed menus. No cerviche. Panic time. We've been told you are supposed to have cerviche in Lima. It's almost a law. We thought maybe it's a special each day depending on the catch. No one came by to give us water or take an order. The restaurant was holding its daily staff meeting until 12:30 - the actual opening time of the restaurant. What to do?

12:30 our waiter comes over. He confirms there's no cerviche. We were over it by then and ordered a corn empanada to share and the aji de gallina to share. Aji de gallina is chicken served with rice, potatoes, onions, eggs in a creamy pecan sauce. The concept at Panchita was family-style and they encouraged one entree for two people.  Good thing - It was huge!

We made it back to our hotel in time for the tour.

Our tour experience wasn't our favorite. As Thumper's father used to say, "If you can't say something nice don't say nothing at all".

We were picked up by a jitney for a ride to our transfer point - into a large tour bus. Our tour started at Huaca Pucllana, a 1,600 year old ruin. After that we started the forty minute drive through Lima's traffic to the city's center. Lima's traffic is horrible and rules-of-the road are non-existent. The guide pointed out sites along the way, but there weren't many.

The first stop was in St. Martin Plaza (360 image). This was a square with buildings around it built over 100 years ago. Had a european feel. The most exciting thing about our stop was watching a car fire. The square is also the start point of a 9 block pedestrian way built in 1535 as a main boulevard of the city.

 Next up was the Plaza Mayor (360 image), the birthplace of Lima. Here you have a cathedral, the Presidential Palace, the Mayor's Mansion, etc. Since it was Saturday the Cathedral was off-limits. They gave us 15 minutes to walk around. We needed 7 minutes at-most.

From here we walked a few blocks to the St. Francis Monastery. This was the coolest part of the tour, but photos were prohibited. The monestary had a lot of murals and intricate wood ceilings that were starting to show their age. It's also home to the catacombs. For over 200 years 25,000 people were buried (or better put, stacked) in the cellars of the church.

At 5:30 the tour ended. We were being picked up for dinner at seven. Panic set in. No way we will get back, shower, and change by seven. Long story short: in the hotel at 6:40. Dave made a bar stop before coming up to the room.

Malabar was about a 15 minute drive away and was located in the San Isidro District.  The area was filled with other nice restaurants and shops.  We didn't know much about Malabar beforehand.  Our travel agent suggested.  We were happy to see it was in this year's Top 100 Restaurants of the World rankings.  We arrived at Malabar a little before 7:30. Like the night before, the door was locked.   This seems to be a tradition here..... Malabar also had a bar area and separate dining room.  Their tasting menu looked a little too adventurous for us with 12 hours left until our flight back to the states so we stuck with the a la carte menu.

Amuse Bouche and Appetizers: On the amuse the details escape us.  One had anchovies the the other might have been pineapple-banana.  Dave ordered the shrimp presented as lettuce wraps with a nice flavorful sauce.   Holly had the Amazonian escargot.  These things were big!  Both were very good.

Entrees:  Dave had the rockfish.  There were lots of different textures in this dish which had a broth sauce with it.  Holly had the filet mignon which was encrusted with micro herbs.   Very flavorful.

 Dessert:  More chocolate balls.   This one had more chocolate on the inside with the ice cream served on the side.  The petit fours were fantastic!  Roasted Marshmallows, chocolate cherries, and those good caramel cookies.

Malabar did not disappoint!    What did disappoint was having to go back home the next day.  We had one last hurrah glass of wine in the hotel bar then went upstairs to sleep and await our 3am wake-up call and 4am departure.   One the way to the airport we saw the streets of Miraflores filled with people.  The bars had just closed.  Our driver was also pulled over for a random police check.  The Lima airport is a decent place to kill time before a flight because most of the businesses are open 24/7.  You could shop, eat, and drink at 4:30 in the morning.  Can't do that at O'Hare.

This concludes our detailed overview of our trip.  A few more related posts may pop up so be sure to check back!  Thanks for following along!

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