LA 73: Paradero Gourmet

Earlier this year, LA 73 hosted a massive Chinese New Year block party. In true Peruvian style, people flocked to the small restaurant, quickly overwhelmed the bar and little outdoor seating area, poured onto the sidewalk and street, and steadily got smashed (loudly but peacefully) until the sun came up. The last thing I remember was Ivo carrying our fluffy dog around above his head like a high school footballer who’d stolen the rival team’s animal mascot.

Perhaps fortunately, we hadn’t eaten at LA 73 the night before… The next morning I staggered into the kitchen to find all our OJ was now in a crystal flower vase and mixed with enough vodka to peel paint. Somehow the dog (and Ivo and I) had made it home, but the rest of the day progressed pretty much as you’d expect. Suffice it to say, we paid for our debauchery.

Despite that introduction, though, LA 73 is a fantastic place for a calm lunch or dinner, and it’s literally just across the street from our apartment. It’s got a modern art vibe and attentive staff, and their menu has some slightly lesser seen Peruvian dishes that break from the tourist basics.

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Ivo and I are pretty strict about quality of “freebie” appetizers. If you’re going to offer bread, make it good bread. Otherwise, just don’t. LA 73 gets immediate points for thick, fresh bread and writing its own name in the olive oil mix. They also get credit for clever presentation in general, because just look at that tartar plating: Those bluish-black speckled things are crispy rice wafers, and that gorgeous green dip is creamy avocado. The rice wafers were basically tasteless, so they just added a cool crunch dimension to the fresh tartar. 
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On our lunch date here, it was cool day for Lima and verging on Peruvian “winter” (Kentucky’s version of early fall, weather-wise). I was craving something warm, so I made the bold decision to pick my own random item off the menu: a “pastel del choclo”, basically a corn cake that Ivo swore to me would taste like sweet corn from home. Oh my gosh, he was right. I’ve risked this dish once or twice before, and I’ve been grossly disappointed: The “choclo” (corn) here tends to yield a drier, not-at-all-sweet bread-like cake. Bleh. LA 73’s version? It nailed the vision. This pastel de choclo is the only one I can recommend in Lima, but I recommend the hell out of it. It was a dense, smooth, and definitely sweet corn “cake” with a thin layer of juicy ground beef in the middle.
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Ivo finished the meal off with a round of huancaína sauce pasta and shrimp, which the waiters had the foresight to split neatly into separate dishes for us. The portions were still so generous we thought we’d accidentally ordered two full rounds of it, and it was good enough that frankly, I wouldn’t have been disappointed if we had. The reviews online already do this place good justice, but to confirm: 10/10 for LA 73, would definitely cross the street for this meal again.

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