Sunday, August 3, 2008

El Cocinero de los Mares

During our last week in Lima my uncle Willy treated us to a new seafood restaurant he had just discovered: El Cocinero de los Mares. When I say that it is a new restaurant, it is meant literally, as it opened only three months ago under the direction of its head chef, Sr. Enrique Espiritu.

One of the things that one notices first upon entering is the lovely array of pisco infusions lining the bar, including red raspberry, maracuyá, tumbo, coca, and even granadilla, which are used in a variety of cocktails.

The food was great and the attention quite personal. The chef even brought out one of the dishes, a fetuccine chosen by Liz, himself, offering suggestions on how best to eat it: bathed in a shotful of pisco which he brought to the table for her.

In Peru the limey run-off from making cebiche is called leche de tigre - "tiger's milk"- and is drunk, sometimes with a bit of pisco added. One of the signature dishes at El Cocinero de los Mares, and one that we adults liked quite a bit, was the Trio de Leches, composed of (from left to right) a leche de tigre with pisco and Bloody Mary mix, leche de pantera (panther milk) made from black clams and pisco, and leche de tigre with pisco.

Trio de leches

We followed that with a couple of appetizers: a sampler platter and a mixed seafood jalea. A jalea is composed of breaded or batter-fried seafood, with lime juice and onions. It is sort of like a lightly seasoned cebiche made from fried fish. They were both good, but the jalea was the one dish that fell a little flat as the lightness of the lime application did little to distinguish it from the plain fried seafood of the chicharrón de mariscos I had ordered for myself as an entrée.

Sampler platter
Clockwise from top: octopus muchame, tiradito de pescado, causas.
In center, black clam cebiche.

Sampler platter (detail)

Jalea de pescado

"Chicharrón de los Mares"

The chicharrón was very nice as well, not greasy at all and very crisp, but with the jalea preceding it and being so similar, it was a bit too much fried stuff. The others had far better luck with their selections.

Liz opted for a seafood fetuccine, which -as mentioned- was served bathed with a shot of pisco. We unanimously agreed that this was the best of the entrées which hit our table that afternoon. The sauce was rich but not too heavy. Nonetheless, it was a serious dish, and Liz needed help finishing it, which others (meaning Willy) were glad to provide.

Willy chose a filet of fish (cabrilla, I think) in a seafood sauce, while Nico chose a seafood-infused rissotto. Meanwhile Susana and Benji both ate seafood lasagnas, with a crayfish-infused sauce and plenty of mozzarellaa, which formed strings from their mouths to their plates as they ate and which stretched and streched when they tried to break them.

Rissotto de mariscos

Cabrilla en salsa de mariscos

Lasagna de mariscos

Suspiro de limeña

We finished with several desserts, including the best suspiro de limeña I've ever had. Suspiro is an old-time dessert whose name means "a Lima girl's sigh". With such a name one would think it a light, airy confection, but most of the time it is made overly sweet and cloying. Not in this case, however. The manjar at the botttom was rich and smooth, with just the right sweetness, which was counterbalanced by the lightest of merengues on top. I've gotta learn how to make this stuff!

El Cocinero de los Mares
Avenida Aramburú 996
San Isidro, Lima

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