sunday, april 02, 2006

Pescados Capitales

Pescados Capitales has been one of the most esteemed cevicherías in the Peruvian capital since the brothers Vi­ctor and Zue Chang Say opened it four years ago. The duo have risen fast since opening their first restaurant in 1997 in Madrid and this restaurant is a testament to their prowess as restaurateurs.

The restaurant sits snugly on the end of Aveneda La Mar at the edge of the Miraflores district in Lima. It’s façade gives only the slight hint of the riches to be found inside but once through the large wood door you are met an airy elegance that sets the tone for your meal. The open feel of the restaurant’s décor is inviting and casual. The brick and wood layout evokes an almost zen simplicity in terms of design while staying true to the feel of a provincial cevicherías with touches like the white walls and bamboo thatch ceiling.

Pescados Capitales is a lunch-only restaurant so the layout is designed to capitalize on the daytime brightness and succeeds with a light cheery feel that is matched by the playfulness of the menu. It has been a hotspot for some time now and you rub shoulders with the coat-and-tie business crowd during the week and the fashionably-attired Lima glitterati on the weekend. The occasional gringo is not out of place either.

If you haven't got a reservation and have to resort to the stand by list, there is an airy outside waiting area with eight tables where you will be served appetizers and Bloody Mary's on the house. It's a pleasant wait in the redolent shade as you smell the salt water brought on soft breezes from the sea less than a kilometer away.

And the wait is worth it when the reward it being treated to some of the most innovative ceviches, tiraditos, and causas available in the city. Chef Wilfredo Castillo has taken these staples of Peruvian seafood and let his imagination run amok with joyful abandon. There is a gleeful delight in his concoctions that are reflected in the descriptions on the menu.

The name of the restaurant is a pun on the word pescado, which means "fish" and its similarity to the word pecados, which means "sins." So every dish on the menu is given the name of a sin or virtue and described similarly. And the menu changes weekly so there is always a new series of temptations to be testing. The English translation of the menu falls a bit short of fluency but has such delightful descriptions that the sense of humor still shines through. Where else can you have a dish with, "Claws of distraught and naive crabs that were walking around the Ancon Sea last night."?

Right from the start I was impressed with the food. I was left stunned by the exquisite and powerful of the Freudian Lust - coal grilled squid that has been marinated in the ají­ panca and paprika sauce typically used for anticuchos de corazon de res. The touch of hot pepper lingered on lips like a stolen kiss, making it hedonistically memorable. The delicate touch with the sauce combined with the straightforward style of preparation made the dish work wonderfully. Sometimes less really is more.

The Ceviche Gandhi or Patience was an interesting approach to this Peruvian classic. Rather than the distinctive acidic tones usually distinguishes a ceviche due to the use of lime juice in preparation this dish went for sweetness using a coronation sauce. It was essentially a ceviche mixto with tuna, prawns and squid but combined with mushrooms and slices of pear and mandarin orange. It also took the unusual step of substituting white onion for the regular red ones. While I hesitate to call it a real Peruvian ceviche I was delighted by its skillfull use of a new range of tastes on this standby of the country's cusine.

After such lofty heights the main course was almost a let down but they suffered only in comparison. The Grand Inauguration, was as regal as it's name, consisting a grilled tuna steak in an ají amarillo sauce on a puree of broad beans. It had a side of grilled asparagus and cauliflower ears so lightly fried in breadcrumbs they were almost tempura. The other main course was more straight forward and aptly dubbed Impatience. It was a grilled tuna steak excellently matched with a wispy chickpea and avocado salad that used a very subtle vinaigrette allowing the mix of fresh tastes to burst through.

The tuna steaks were perfectly done, arriving at exactly as ordered and the quality of the catch was excellent as well - as one would expect. (This is sometimes a problem in Peru where there is a tendency to overcook fish.)

Deserts leaned heavily on French staples such as crepes with fresh fruits rather than Peruvian classics. The cheesecake with elderberries and strawberry sauce was excellent and didn't last long on my table.

One pleasant part of the Pescados Capitales experience is the waitstaff. Table service in Peru can be a dicey affair. You never know what you are going to get and you should usually plan on taking awhile for things. Not here. Their attention to the table is as crisp as their blue shirts but they have mastered that delicate art of giving you feeling they aren't hanging over you the whole time you dine. This was easily one of the best wait staffs I have encountered in the country.

But with all this you should not expect this to be a bargain stop. The prices more in the range of fine stateside restaurants but, due to the exchange rate, you will find it is a steal in light of what you get in terms of food, atmosphere and service.

Pescados Capitales
Avenida La Mar 1337
Miraflores, Lima, Peru

Phone: 51 1 421-8808 / 51 1 222-5731
Open: Tuesday - Sunday, 12:30 to 5:00 p.m.

more:  Food | Restaurant Reviews 

posted by kleph @ 3:57 pm |

comment posted by: victor chang say on december 4, 2006 @ 12:21 am
Hi, Im Victor the owner of Pescados. I appreciate your words and I would like to tell you that now we open on mondays. You are welcomed anytime time you visit us¡¡¡
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