I’m intrigued by the contrasts that I daily encounter in Perú, one of them in the restaurants where I dine.
Last week I was in Bagua, Amazonas, a small, dry, scruffy city on the edge of the Amazon basin, always hot. After going out for beers with my obstetra colleagues I returned to the hotel suffering from the munchies. About 8 PM, around the corner I found a little restaurant, no name, just a little menu board on the sidewalk, 12 tables with a couple of older ladies in headscarves working in an open kitchen preparing a menu of 5 prix fixe meals. I was promptly served a well prepared heaping plate of white rice in a perfect dome shape, lentils, and an excellent broccoli omelet plus a glass of juice and a bit of fruit for dessert, all for $1.55. I don’t know how they do it.
Two nights later in cosmopolitan Lima things were a little different. After a day of meeting and planning we dined at Dondoh, a new Japanese-Peruvian restaurant in San Isidro. San Isidro is an upscale part of the city that could be easily mistaken for an affluent section of Miami, manicured parks and boulevards, 30 story buildings, luxury apartments and trendy shops. There were a few more tables than my Bagua restaurant and the young chefs with “Japanese” headscarves also worked in an open kitchen, one of steel, glass, and granite. The service was perfect and the cuisine well presented. I especially enjoyed a grilled avocado appetizer, not to mention an interesting whisky cocktail, an excellent Spanish red blend, and the several unique and delicious entrees that we shared. Even the desserts were sophisticated.
Last night in Magdalena I was at an old favorite seafood place, El Barquero. A gentleman, about my age, was sitting with his friend at an adjacent table and after several beers commenced to spontaneously play his guitar and belt out criolla songs (think sad latino country western) at the top of his voice, so loud that the waiter and I couldn’t hear each other and he moved me to another more distant table. After a few such songs the wait staff began to play recorded music over the restaurant’s sound system in hopes that the tipsy vocalist would retire but instead he sang along. On his eventual departure he needed a little help getting out the door, guitar in hand.
Ah, contrasts….. Buen provecho.
The HBI Blog is a rotating journal from our staff. Our Blog is a series of messages from the field, insights from our work, and lessons in service.