Peruvian Seafood Tower Lunch at Alfresco in Miraflores, Lima
Alfresco is a restaurant that exudes freshness. The moment you walk into the door, you are greeted by a cold case displaying what's fresh that day.
We discovered Alfresco while trying every cevichería within a fifteen-minute walk of the Airbnb that we were staying in at the time. Out of more than a dozen cevicherías, Alfresco was easily our favorite, and I have to say—all of the restaurants we tried were of high quality.
The thing that really sets Alfresco apart is how fresh the seafood is. I eat fresh seafood almost everyday when I'm in Lima, but at Alfresco, you really taste the natural flavors of the seafood.
Alfresco’s offerings feature seafood from all over Peru:
The offering invariably includes fish but rotates between delicacies like razor clams, crab, sea urchin, and scallops in their shell:
The menu is relatively compact. The core menu revolves around seafood and fits on one page. Despite its compactness, it features seven types of ceviche and three types of tiradito. There's a good mix of Peruvian classics and fusion dishes including pastas and makis as well as other dishes that I haven't seen on other cevíchería menus such as a po' boy and crab cake. For the less decisive amongst us, there’s also a sampler with three types of ceviche.
If you only order one thing …
The “dish” that really stands out at Alfresco is the Tower Alfresco. In the menu, the tower is described simply as "ceviches, causas, tartares, tiraditos, sashimi, y más". The menu doesn't say exactly what seafood is served because it changes daily, depending on what's fresh.
Ordering the tower at Alfresco is like saying "I'll order whatever’s fresh and please serve it in an epic way" which is exactly what you should do in a restaurant like this.
I'm glad that the Tower caught our eye on our first visit. The menu lists it as an appetizer and does not call too much attention to it. I've been noticing this phenomenon a lot in menus in Lima. Many times, the menus feel understated. Oftentimes, there's a big surprise hidden in the middle of the menu1. The upside is the excitement of seeing a dish arrive and knowing that what you ordered is even better than you could imagine.
The tower featured (left to right, top to bottom)
Razor clams in ají amarillo sauce
Scallops a la chalaca (topped with vegetables including red onions, peppers, and corn)
Crab causa (a layered potato casserole stuffed with crab, served cold)
Ceviche in rocoto
Clams in ají amarillo sauce (not pictured)
As I mentioned before, the tower will vary based on what’s fresh. The second time we ordered the tower, there weren’t any razor clams. Instead, we received another set of clams a chalaca style. Also, instead of the sashimi, there was pulpo al olivo (octopus in olive).
Don’t worry-the tower isn’t too intimidating in terms of portion size. The first time, we had just the tower which was enough for both of us. The second time, we added an entree.
Alfresco as a cevichería
We were curious about how Alfresco’s more typical cevichería offerings held up so we went back and tried their other dishes.
We started with the acevichado ají amarillo maki. Acevichado literally translates into "ceviched." With this preparation, the maki roll is smothered in a sauce that combines leche de tigre2 with a little mayonnaise which gives the sauce a creamy texture. In a small but interesting twist, the aji amarillo pepper gives the sauce, which is normally milky white, a bright yellow color and bold flavor.
The maki was spot on. At the center of it all was a fried langostino (prawn) which had a perfect crunch. The rice was also expertly prepared so that the rolls held together well. The wasabi was fresh and very flavorful. It had been a while since I'd had wasabi this good. I especially loved how the flavors of the wasabi and ají amarillo flavors interacted.
One of the best ways to get to know a cevichería is to order their house ceviche. Thus, we ordered the Alfresco ceviche which featured a healthy dose of ají (Peruvian pepper). The ceviche was spot-on and pretty much the same ceviche you get as part of the tower.
I asked the waiter what the fish of the day used in the ceviche was. I did a double-take when I replied "gold fish." That conjured up images of the tiny fish you bring home from a state fair which didn’t at all match what was on the plate. Then, I asked him what it was in Spanish. He replied "dorado" which can be translated as "golden" which explains the confusion. Dorado is also known as mahi mahi and can be found in the Peruvian jungle. Its underside of the fish is gold-color which is where the name "dorado" probably comes from.
The one dish at Alfresco that we didn't love was the Arroz Tinta. The plating was a bit odd. It was just a black mound with some greens thrown on top. I always welcome greens especially since a lot of the traditional dishes here revolve around meat and potatoes, but these felt like an afterthought. Also, the squid and shrimp were buried in the rice. I never would've expected somewhere like Alfresco to bury the seafood. In every other dish, the seafood was the star.
Overall, dining at Alfresco is a wonderful experience. I would recommend ordering the Tower for your first visit. It was 116 soles (around 30 dollars) which is a good deal, especially given the amount and quality of seafood you get.
This post is based on our first three visits. The menu has just enough options without overdoing it. There were certainly enough options to bring us a second and third time to try other parts of the menu and a fourth time to just have the tower again. This is exactly the kind of restaurant that we’ll bring guests to so we’ll probably end up here far more than four times.
How to Visit
Alfresco is located at Av. 28 de Julio 331, Miraflores, Lima (a few blocks from Parque Kennedy).
I recommend sitting in the outside patio area if possible. The dining room is surprisingly dark. It’s also pet-friendly outside.
You can sometimes find these special menu items when the price for the item is more expensive than the rest of the items in the same section. Or better yet, you may luck out when another table orders the dish and see everyone’s heads turn. Since our visit, the tower has been more heavily advertised on Alfresco’s instagram so I guess the secret’s out.
Leche de tigre ("tiger's milk") is the liquid in the ceviche which consists of juices from the fish, Peruvian pepper, salt, and limes. It's what transforms the seafood in ceviche and gives ceviche much of its characteristic flavor and texture.