On a quiet weekday evening, Ivo came back from the gym hungry. We did the get-ready shuffle and five minutes later were out on the streets of Barranco. Arlotia’s bright red interior drew us in. From what I could see, apart from being yellow on the outside (which isn’t especially unique for Lima), Arlotia didn’t have any signage outside. Ivo knew exactly what the place was though: a Spanish and Peruvian restaurant. Barranco has been getting aggressively hip lately, especially in terms of interior decor, but Arlotia seemed immune. The inside was red, but other than that, very simple. Fresh paint, a few small paintings, a humble bar with little to no ornamentation besides a giant, wax-covered glass jug of corks. The menus were frayed. All of this, as it turns out, was a great indicator that Arlotia’s focus was on the food.
Ivo and I are strong advocates for sharing main dishes as if they’re appetizers. Who doesn’t want to try everything? This time, we went for two main plates to split: a more Spanish style pulpo (octopus) served over thinly sliced potato and a paella soup. Although I’m a big octopus fan, this particular variation on octopus may take some time to grow on me. Still though, the octopus was well prepared (soft, not chewy) and even the bread that came with it was excellent. Nothing fancy, just plain white bread. But good quality fresh bread is such a small thing that makes such a big difference in a meal. On the other hand, my love for Arlotia’s paella soup might just overtake my love for chicken soup. Shrimp, beef, calamari, peppers, rice, all in this gorgeous, complex broth… I didn’t think turning paella into soup could possibly improve what’s already an awesome dish, but I stand corrected. Paella soup totally stood out, and with Peru’s cooler months around the corner, I might be going back just to get my fix.
The highlight for me was the sort of tapas style appetizer option the restaurant offered. Since it was already late, we talked ourselves into the more reserved option of picking only six of the twenty or so listed appetizers. For the record though, there is an option to try ALL the appetizers like this for just 50 soles. The waiter brought out a board of thick bread slices topped with each one of our choices. The creamed mushrooms with bits of bacon definitely wasn’t for me, but all five of the other picks were fantastic: sausage slices over roasted peppers, a creamy patê, caramelized onions… The best part was that it was super easy to cut each one in half to split. This made for a relaxing evening of sharing opinions on appetizers and US politics (the latter of which are thankfully a few thousand miles away at the moment).