Peruvian Seafood Lunch at Amoramar in San Isidro, Lima
I'm starting this newsletter as a way to chronicle my ongoing adventures with Peruvian food. I've been writing about various aspects of Peruvian food for around six years now so I'm not sure exactly where to start. How about we start with yesterday's lunch?
Amoramar (the Spanish words for love and sea blended together) is located in the San Isidro neighborhood of Lima. It has been on our list for a while, but San Isidro is a finance and business-oriented neighborhood so we don’t often find ourselves there.
My first impression of Amoramar was how beautiful and open the space was. The restaurant formed a stylized frame around the natural space rather than overwhelming or displacing it. The abundance of natural light and lush greenery surrounding the restaurant set the mood for a relaxed meal. I noticed that the other tables didn't have the same rate of turnover you see at other restaurants. No one there seemed to be in a rush, and everyone seemed to be enjoying their Friday afternoon at Amoramar.
We were given a small but delicious amuse bouche and bread course to start off with. The spread accompanying the bread was a blend of house-made butter, honey, and specks of olive.
The amuse bouche featured a miniature version of pulpo olivio (octopus in olive) on toast.
We were presented with a physical menu in addition to a QR code.
The menu was divided into sections for appetizers, sandwiches, ceviches, other seafood dishes, and non-seafood dishes (Amor a Tierra-"Love to the land”). There was also a section for whole fish with different styles of preparation-charcoal-grilled, steamed, and fried.
For us, ceviche is always the main course. It's just sometimes hard to know which one to order. We ordered the ceviche carretillero which is a style of ceviche inspired by the ceviche served in markets and street carts all over Peru. The most distinctive aspect of ceviche carretillero is that it is topped with fried seafood so that you get an interesting dichotomy of fresh and cooked.
There are many variations of ceviche de pescado (the classic Peruvian fish ceviche), but they share many common elements-super fresh fish, the red onions, leche de tigre (the juice from the fish combined with lime juice, pepper, and salt), camote (sweet potatoes), and choclo (Andean corn). After trying hundreds of ceviche with these elements, I still find little surprises and twists in just about every ceviche.
The ceviche was made with the fish of the day, cachema, which is not the most common fish for ceviche. I sometimes joke that the fish of the day is always corvina (sea bass). The leche de tigre in this ceviche was extra creamy. The corn also tasted extra sweet. I wouldn’t be surprised if the corn was picked the day before. The highlight however was the perfectly fried calamari. The calamari was so good that it could've easily been served as its own dish, and people would line up to try it.
We couldn't order the black pasta that caught my attention while looking through photos on my iPad the night before. They were out of squid ink! We instead opted for the Pasta Vongole y Conchas.
The conchas (scallops) were perfectly grilled and some of the best I've had. The pasta was flavorful from being cooked in clam broth, though a little salty for my taste. The pasta wasn’t distinctly Peruvian, but Italian ingredients and techniques have a strong presence in Peruvian cuisine which is a fusion of many influences.
The pasta wasn't very filling and felt like a portion from a small plate restaurant so we ordered sandwiches which we saw the other table enjoy.
The sandwiches were an explosion of a flavor. Perjerrey are small but very flavorful fish. You have to be in the mood for it. The fish was balanced with delicious crusty bread and a mix of tartar sauce, mustard, red onions, avocado, and ají (Peruvian pepper).
Mariela said that I could order the food if she got to pick the dessert (our usual agreement). But this time I knew exactly what she would order. There's been many occasions where she asked the waiter if they had a dessert that was both hot and cold which I always thought was an oddly specific request. The moment I saw "Sarten de chocolate belga" (Belgian chocolate skillet) served with ice cream, I knew that it would be our dessert.
The dessert arrived on a piping skillet so we devoured it in minutes, before the ice cream completely melted. It definitely hit the spot.
Accompanying our meal were a Barbarian quinoa pale ale (the one beer on tap) and an aguaymanto chilcano (Pisco cocktail made with goldenberry).
This ended up being a fairly expensive lunch, definitely towards the higher end for Lima. Ceviche was around 60 soles (15 dollars). For reference, ceviche in a market is around 25 soles (6 dollars). Main courses which were fairly small, starting at 70 soles (about 17 dollars). However, the quality, ambiance, and service matched the price point.
Our meal gave us a good sampling of the menu. Other dishes ordered by other tables which caught my eye were the whole fish which was beautifully presented and the arroz con pato (rice with duck) which came on a personal cast-iron skillet. I also would like to try the black pasta when they have squid ink on hand!
Amoramar is located at Av. Pardo y Aliaga 672, San Isidro, Lima.