Let’s be straight here. Kentucky has the market cornered on fried chicken. Louisiana can go suck gumbo through a straw: Kentucky is where fried chicken is at. So when Ivo tried to explain that we were going to a fried chicken place, I was immediately skeptical. No, no, he insisted, it’s not exactly fried chicken, it’s just… flat fried chicken. Really flat. With stuff piled on top? But the stuff isn’t fried, just the chicken… The explanation sort of degraded for me as he went. In the end though, I was as hungry as he was, so I didn’t put up much of a fuss.
I was surprised to find La Verdad de la Milanesa located in one of the white, colonial Spanish buildings just off the Barranco main square. I’d always assumed those buildings were all apartments or maybe small businesses. But nope: Behind that white facade and its intricate wooden verandas was a hip little restaurant with stone columns and lavender walls. It was a little cramped with tables inside, and the tiles (probably the original tiles) were in need of some love, but the high-beam ceiling kept things comfortable and breezy.
Since I was still pretty shaky on what “milanesa” was, ordering was sort of an adventure. With slightly strained patience given how hungry he was, Ivo explained once again that “milenesa” wasn’t a dish so much as a form of preparing meat: Hence, you could pick chicken or steak milanesa in addition to picking what set of “toppings” you wanted on top of it. Fortunately the menu had a great graphic design: basically milanesa for dummies. I picked the Mexican style milanesa with fried chicken, since it said it came with guacamole and nachos and cheese, and anything with those three things definitely had to be edible at minimum.
Right off the bat La Verdad de la Milanesa went for the “quirky” factor: Instead of the traditional cancha corn nuts, they put out salty, toasted lentils. They might’ve looked a little questionable, but my new project is going to replicating these little suckers. Ivo and I packed them away in about ten seconds flat and desperately nursed some maracuya juice while we tried to restrain ourselves from tackling every waiter who might’ve been bringing our food.
The main event took a little bit longer than the average wait for food in Lima. It was totally fair – we’d come right at the lunch peak – but if I haven’t mentioned yet: We were starving. Also, we usually order appetizers, but here the whole experience seemed oriented around the actual milanesa. I’m not even certain there were appetizers on the menu. Frankly though, when our meals came, it was pretty clear that this is a no-appetizers-necessary kind of place. Milanesa is apparently a traditional Italian dish, and Ivo had very accurately summarized it for me: it was a pressed slice of flat chicken breast, breaded and fried, and on top of it, traditionally, would be nothing or at most the typical Italian duo of some cheese and tomato sauce. La Verdad de la Milanesa, which translates to “The Truth of the Milanesa,” had put their own totally unique spin on the dish. What I hadn’t fully realized was that we were totally in a modern experimental restaurant.
Ivo, having arrived with a better understanding of the concept, had gone for something on the safer (or at least more traditional) side: mushrooms, cheese, shredded green onions and bell pepper topped his milanesa. He’d also had the foresight to show some restraint in ordering appetizers, and thank goodness, because they slammed down about a bucket’s worth of coleslaw and mashed potatoes each. Me and my Mexicana version of the milanesa, however, seemed way more in the spirit of the place. My huge slice of fried chicken was smothered under a layer of beans, a layer of cheese, a pile of guacamole and tomatoes and onions, and finally topped with crunched up Doritos. It was like what college-me would’ve made at 3 am if college-me had known how to shop or cook. In terms of fine cuisine, this isn’t exactly the place for you and your fancy shoes. On the other hand, if you want to shamelessly crush some serious hunger, La Verdad de la Milanesa is there for you.