La Preferida

We’re back in Peru! There are so many fabulous ways to spend my time in this country. Ancient ruins, ocean, jungle, desert, farms, music and bars and bizarre entertainment venues and shops. Nothing so far though – nothing – has been able to top my love of eating in South America. Machu Picchu is stellar, but for the love of Pete, somebody bring me a fork.

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Ivo picked La Preferida for our first restaurant of Lima, Peru 2016. It’s a tapas joint he used to frequent in the past, but he hadn’t been for some time. Fortunately, quality was still deliciously high.

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Ivo grabbed us a pair of window-side bar stools, ordered me a maracuya chilcano, and stepped up to the tapas counter to put together a plate-full of our favorites. The place has a larger restaurant in back, but if you want to just snack on tapas in the front, seating is limied; we were smart to come in around 1pm, because starting about 2:30pm, the place was swarming with hungry Peruvians on their lunch break.

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Each little appetizer-sized “dish” was served in a single oyster shell.

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Predictably (it’s like my husband knows me or something), my two favorites were the spicy ceviche (top) and the mini tuna causa (bottom). Be brave! Yes, those are chunks of purple tentacles, but I promise, courage rewards when it comes to Peruvian seafood. As a refresher for any non-Peruvians, ceviche is cold, with a citrus juice and a kick from ahí, a local pepper. All heaped into that little shell is fish, soft sweet potato squares, some giant sweet corn choclos, and a few smoky toasted corn nuts.

Causa is also served cold, and its base is made with a yellow potato that’s a little brighter and starchier than our Yukon Golds. The causa we had was excellent, in my humble American opinion: The potato base was well set but still almost creamy to eat, just a hint of lime and ají; the tuna was chilled and fresh. And come on, look how cute those cheerful little bites are.

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An honorable mention has to go this clever little tapas-version of a raw seafood dish. From top to bottom, those are avocado chucks, cold raw fish, mango chunks and a squeeze of lime juice.

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After binging on appetizers for a casual hour, we finally ordered the main event: a full-size ceviche. This time the ceviche was brought out in all its glory, big chunks of cold, raw white fish and fried calamari knee deep in a tangy, lime juice sauce with enough red onion strips and ají punch to make me sit up straight. I swear angels sang as the waiter set it down in front of us. Kentucky is great, but woefully short on cevicherías.

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Finally, as we basked in our post-ceviche afterglow, I finished sipping my drink while munching on these stupidly addicting corn kernels. At their best, they’re a little oily, warm, salty, and smoky. Basically the Peruvian version of bar peanuts; there’s nothing better to go with the last of a pisco sour or chilcano.

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Overall, that’s a big win for La Preferida. Their pulpo de olivo didn’t blow my mind, and I have had better (though not in many places) leche de tigre, but man, they nailed the ceviche and causa. More points to them for the brilliant tapas approach; with their variety I could go back and order a full set of brand new appetizers. Since I keep hearing rave reviews about their sandwiches too, we’re probably going to end up doing just that.

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