One of the great things about leading culinary journeys in Peru, is that the tasting menus at the restaurants we include in our tour often change. When that happens, I need to try them so I can speak to our guests about the meal they are about to experience. It means that I am very lucky to have dinner at Central, Maido, and other fantastic restaurants more often that I would if I did not have this job. More on that in a different entry. On the flip side of this is that I am often rushing my meals. In between arranging dining experiences for my guests, making plans for them when they decide to do an additional activity, tending to unexpected occurrences, and the general business of leading a group, there is often only a small window for my personal meals. Finding a place that is both quick and good is not easy in Peru as much as it isn’t in the U.S.
Now and again, I have just the right amount of time to enjoy a very good meal. Today was one of those days. When I saw that I had such a window, I immediately calculated the distance from my hotel to a number of restaurants, the time it would take me to get there and back, the time I would have to enjoy the meal, multiplied that by the pleasure coefficient afforded by each restaurant, divided that by the effort it would take to get back if the meal took too long, and then remembered I took statistics three times in college and I was not a good math person. I threw out all those computations and headed to Punto Azul.
Punto Azul is one of the most popular cevicherias in Lima. Almost any time one goes, there is a wait to get a table. I was thus not at all surprised that I would have to wait 20 minutes for mine. No problem. I’ve waited 20 minutes for McDonalds, so this is very much worth it. 20 minutes flew by and I sat at a table for one. There was no room for a second person. This is a first for me. I don’t think I have ever sat at a table that was for just one person. After some waiting, I ordered a lemonade and a Pescado Apanado, breaded fried fish. As always, I was served a delightful rocoto sauce. A salsa made with rocoto peppers, lemon, and cilantro. Peruvian food is not a spicy as Mexican food. However, a spicy salsa or ají in this form is usually available. They serve their rocoto with some corn kernels. It is quite good to snack on while one waits for the food to arrive.
Alas, with the restaurant filled to capacity, and people staring at me enviously (I was seated right at the glass window where everyone walking by or waiting to come in could see me) my fish arrived with an avocado salad and some rice. There was a salad dressing with the salad, but I know that all I wanted was lime juice. I tasted the fish and knew immediately that the rocoto would be perfect with this fish. It was a hot day and I needed some lightness in my meal. I asked for the necessary accompaniments and once they arrived, I started on the meal.
The great thing about Punto Azul is that it does not try to be more than what it is. What they do, they do extremely well: they serve delicious fresh seafood. Some might say that my dish was plain. But what that means to me is that I have an opportunity to taste the freshness of the fish and in this case, to dress it as I see fit. I started with the fish and now and again had the salad. It was a good combination. The rice was ok but while it did not detract, it certainly did not add anything to the meal.
The fish was outstanding. Flaky, flavorful, the breading was not too thick, so it added texture but did not mask the flavor. Additionally, the fish absorbed the taste of the rocoto beautifully. There was enough spice in the rocoto to give the fish a more complex flavor, but not so much so as to make me wish for tortillas. The salad was a change of pace. Lettuce, tomato, and avocado. Simple. The lime juice I opted for was just right. In all, it was a delicious, quick, and satisfying meal. When in Lima, Punto Azul is a must. Their ceviche is exceptional, their fish dishes are fantastic, and it is more than affordable.