Piquant Peruvian pride
Claim to fame: Singlehandedly putting old Peruvian homestyle eateries back on the map
Reason to go: Fish and seafood tailored to your specifications
To look out for: Open for lunch only, with a no-resy policy that can make the wait very long if you don’t arrive early
Picanterías. As in picante. Of course ají chili peppers are going to take center stage at Héctor Solís’ recreation of said small, family run eateries, common in northern and southern Peru. Solís’ version boasts communal tables, generous helpings and clever takes on traditional dishes, making it one of the best places to discover the flavors that inspire true pride among Peruvians.
It would be difficult to find a cook who better masters the fieriness and aromas of ajíes. Solís learned the tricks of the trade from his parents who founded Fiesta restaurant in their hometown of Chiclayo over 30 years ago. He took those tricks to Lima where he opened a Fiesta outpost in 1996, slowly gaining recognition as one of the city’s most prominent chefs.
Fiesta is still alive and well, but the new star is La Picantería where Solís and his team are reinventing traditional dishes like rocoto relleno con chupe de camarones (stuffed rocoto peppers and stewed shrimp) and fantastic, simple pleasures such as sea urchin- or scallop omelet. Two big blackboards dominate the main dining room, one lists the daily menu, the other one the various ways you can have your whole fish prepared. A third smaller blackboard next to the bar lists the fish varieties and their weights. Let the waiter help you pick one based on the size of your party and your appetite. Depending on the heft of the catch, you could have half of it prepared as ceviche (La Picantería’s is considered one of Lima’s best) and the other half as jalea norteña (deep-fried and seasoned with ají sauce). Or you could opt to have it transformed into the powerfully fragrant fish stew known as sudado.