Friday, May 6, 2011


Upon my arrival in Lima Liz and cousin Juancho met me at the airport and whisked me off to San Bartolo, to cousin José's restaurant, Bocana.

In a previous post from an earlier trip I mentioned that my uncle Willy had purchased a home in the beach town of San Bartolo.  In time, they were thinking of selling the place as they did not manage to get out there as often as previously, but instead José, along with two friends of his, turned it into a seafood restaurant.

Bocana, like much of San Bartolo, is open only during the summer months, from December to Easter.  I arrived on the afternoon Easter Sunday and, though they had planned on closing down after lunch, they kindly held the restaurant open a few hours longer so I could experience it.

I must admit that I was surprised at the transformation of the spaces.  Inside, one would not readily recognize it as the same house, even thought no structural features were changed or removed (other than a semi-functional dune buggy).  With judicious application of curtains, bamboo accents, plants, and new furniture and wall decor, they have created a warm, inviting, and very pleasant place to eat at or to just enjoy the bar and some music.

The menu turned out to be no less inventive.

The house cebiche is a classic fish cebiche but accented with basil and Bocana's own secret seasoning.  To match it, they had their barman come up with a house drink, the Bocana, a lovely pisco chilcano with basil (pictured at top).

Another hit drink is a sour, the name of which I can't remember, with maracuyá (passion fruit).  It is offered in two variations, using only the juice of the fruit or unstrained, with the whole seeds left in.

The pisco sours, of course, leave nothing to be desired either -unless it's another round of 'em!

Neither does the chilcano de anís estrella, which is a chilcano flavored with star anise.   I believe this drink was first introduced at Malabar restaurant in San Isidro, and it has become a new staple of bars across the city.  It is simple in its preparation -simply substitute star anise-infused simple syrup for the regular simple syrup- yet, as we discovered last year when trying to make it at home, it can be surprisingly difficult to execute well.  Bocana's barman puts out one of the best, most balanced, chilcanos de anís estrella that I've had.

(This drink provided some opportunities for amusement beyond enjoying the drink itself.  As José and his fiancee, Carla, and José's partners were packing up the seat cushions and curtains as we finished our last drinks, Juancho tossed the anise star in José and Carla's direction.  They both immediately jumped, thinking it was a large spider, to peals of laughter from the rest of us.)

One of my favourite ways to start a meal in a Peruvian seafood restaurant is to order a leche de tigre.  Leche de tigre -lit. "tiger's milk"- is the liquid produced when making cebiche, it is tart with lime juice, spicy with ají, and full of fish flavour.  Sometimes served with the addition of a shot of pisco, leche de tigre is a great pick-me-up and, incidentally, can be a quick way to get a feel for the chef's hand at cebiche and Peruvian flavors.

We certainly enjoyed the rest of the meal as well, from the appetizers to the main dishes.   I can't recall anyone saying that they found their dishes wanting in any respect, although I have to admit that I was pretty busy tearing into my tuna loin with an almond crust and fetuccini noodles with Huancaína sauce.

Other dishes that were enjoyed were the seared beef loin with yellow potatoes that several people ordered, and the "Thai rice" with fish chicharrones.

José and his partners have done well in their endeavor, and the restaurant is understandably getting a lot of press lately, having been mentioned or featured in several print and TV reports on the Lima summer beach and gastronomic scene.

I just wish Bocana would be open all year long, so I could enjoy it on my own summer vacations.

Mar Pacifico 335
San Bartolo - Peru

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