La Picanteria LimaPosted By Jennifer Ho Oct 15 2015 · 0 comments · Dining Out
We spent the morning in Lima wandering Mercado Surquillo No 1 and 2, taste testing freshly pressed cactus-prickly pear juice, light as air and surprisingly cool cotton candy fruit and Peruvian lucuma (wonderful tasting combination of maple and sweet potato). We watched butchers and fish mongers gingerly prep their stations and fruit sellers and coca leaf fortune tellers set up shop. After wandering around for a few hours, we made our way to La Picanteria, one of our most anticipated lunch spots in the city.
We arrived at 11AM sharp, when the restaurant was scheduled to open its doors, expecting a bit of lineup based on the hype we heard. Turned out we were actually one of the first to show up – the staff hadn’t even arrived yet. As we loitered around the door, a kind resident let us into the bar – we were happy to take in the eclectic decor, the electric turquoise walls and the many mysterious glasses lining the walls while we waited.
A few short minutes later, the manager arrived and happily served us extremely strong, extremely delicious drinks – an Apple Ball made with gin, apple liquor and rosemary and a Bloody Picantero made with pisco, leche de tigre and hot tabasco sauce. Damn good start to the meal.
Through energetic hand signals and broken Spanglish, we had a blast chatting with the the bartender and other patrons around us. Before we knew it, the place was packed full of people laughing, chatting and drinking. The space was bursting with excited, positive energy. We headed to the main dining area to start eating.
As soon as we sat down, we were handed paper bibs to put on with La Picanteria’s logo emblazoned across the front. When you get a bib, you know it’s about to get messy. Our server helpfully pointed to a chalkboard at the front, listing the fresh catches of the day and with multiple ones next to them – every time a fish was sold, a number would be erased. A visual countdown of what’s left in the kitchen.
We took our server’s suggestion and started with a cabrilla, or sea bass, served half and half style. That is, one half of the fish is served as a ceviche and the other half comes grilled. Both versions were incredible. The ceviche – ultra-fresh, ultra-tender, a little sour, a little spicy was all kinds of perfect. The grilled version was equally to die for, made with a special marinade to give it this indescribably delicious taste.
Next came the Northern seafood rice, packed with prawns and clams, hits of garlic, chili paste, white wine, peas, and squash. Hearty, juicy, flavorful heaven. Not to mention, paired extraordinarily well with the Fashion Ball made with passionfruit liquor and the Galla Aperol (pisco, aperol).
As if that wasn’t enough, dessert was just within reach. We ordered one each: a thick, chocolatey torta that was almost sinful to eat and a beautiful creamy biscuit cake (torta de galleta). See for yourself. Needless to say, we finished everything.
If you’re in Lima, going to La Picanteria is non negotiable. Do it!