For about four or five years back in college, I was happily pescatarian (no meats except fish). For the most part, this was super easy for me: I love tofu and beans, and good “vegetarian food” (which should more fairly be called “cooking vegetables right”) is phenomenal. Roasted brussels sprouts, candied carrots, broiled asparagus, tomato-basil-mozzarella salad, grilled portabella caps drenched in soy sauce… Making me a happy vegetarian is so, so easy.
My husband, on the other hand, is dead convinced that if he skips meat for one meal he might starve to death before the next one. That doesn’t seem unusual: Peru hasn’t exactly struck me as vegetarian friendly. I could easily pull off pescatarian again, but vegetarian? I think I’d get laughed out of most restaurants.
So when Germinando Vida popped up in Barranco as a vegan-vegetarian place earning great reviews, I begged and pleaded until I finally got my carnivorous husband to forsake meat for a single lunch. I’ve been pushing for a Meatless Monday for the past year now, and this looked like a good way to convince him that “no meat” doesn’t mean “no substance.”
Appropriately, the place was adorable, and two shabbily dressed hippies in dreads smiled goofily at us as we walked in. As a liberal suburban kid from the States, I’m sort of predisposed to like friendly hippies. Ivo, as a total city boy, nodded gruffly back before scooting straight inside to a more private table.
The place smelled amazing, which was heartening. Ivo glared at the menu until the waiter came. I ordered us a tomato basil appetizer and myself a veggie sandwich. Ivo sighed, abandoned the menu, and just ordered the house dish that the waiter had described. I secretly celebrated, assuming that whatever they were advertising as the house dish would have to be a solid pick.
Unfortunately, however, it turns out that my restaurant pick may have been a dud. My understanding was that Germinando Vida was a vegetarian restaurant with a few vegan-friendly dishes. Based on our review of the menu, I think what we stumbled into was more like a vegan restaurant with a few non-vegan dishes. BIG difference.
Our first round with the tomato basil appetizer seemed vaguely promising, if poorly executed. Yes, it was impossible to eat a thick hunk of bread with an inch of loose cubed tomatoes off of a wooden board without the toppings spilling all over the table. That said, the bread was excellent and clearly homemade. The tomato mix was totally acceptable: tasty, albeit something we could easily reproduce ourselves. Following that, my sandwich was served (long before Ivo’s meal was brought over). Now, again, the bread was great. But as much as I can’t believe I’m saying this as a long-time carb worshipper… there was just too much bread. Probably 90% of the sandwich was bread. It was a big, thick, wheat bread roll that had a small amount of stir fry crammed into the middle. The stir fry was mushrooms and onions, maybe a little bell pepper? Like the tomato mix from the appetizer, it was… fine. Not unpleasant to eat, but definitely not impressive either.
And then came Ivo’s dish. “Oh no,” I thought as it hit the table, “This is the house dish?” The whole plate was WHITE. Fried eggplant next to a pile of mashed potatoes. Alright, Germinando Vida. You guys are veggie heads. Take advantage of color! That’s your domain! Green, red, purple, orange, yellow, it’s all yours! And your house dish was… white? At least throw some steamed broccoli onto the side or something.
Ivo valiantly ate it all (with a lot of beer). Once again, the individual items were fine, if unimpressive. But it was honestly too bland to enjoy. Also, just looking at that pasty plate makes me sad.
I hate to report poorly on a local veggie place, but this meal might’ve set back my “Meatless Monday” efforts by another year. Maybe vegetarian-vegan Barranco locals are so relieved to have any friendly menu that they don’t mind the lack of imagination? Maybe meatless food is so new here that it doesn’t have to be anything but “meatless” to be cool? Maybe Ivo and I ordered poorly? Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll get the chance to find out: Ivo has dug his heels in regarding any future vegetarian restaurant picks.
At least the quinoa beer was great?