Tuesday, November 2, 2010

La Rosa Nautica

For 16 hours we hopped (to Newark), skipped (to Houston), and jumped (to Lima) our way down to Peru, landing at 10:30 at night after a 4-hour layover in Houston. Luckily, in the Houston airport, we had found a reasonably good restaurant (well, good by airport standards) and whiled away the hours with tenderloin steaks and a bottle of Tempranillo.

We’ve come to Peru for a variety of reasons. Some of the most famous sites in the world are here: Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, Lake Titicaca. When I went to school, we learned about “western” civilization…Phoenicians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and so on through Western Europe and into North America. If we learned anything about the indigenous civilizations of the Americas, it was that they were inferior and deserving of subjugation. So here’s a chance to learn about the pre-Inca and Inca civilizations…and about life in Peru today.

And Peru is becoming famous for a cuisine that marries indigenous cuisine with Spanish, Japanese, and Chinese influences. The strength is local ingredients and chefs who know what to do with an incredible array of fresh seafood, the biodiversity of the Amazon rainforest, and the abundant produce from the microclimates along the Andean foothills and valleys.

Our hotel in Lima – actually, in Miraflores, which has become a satellite to Lima – is only a 20-minute stroll down to the Pacific Ocean and that’s where we head the next morning. Nothing like ocean air to cure the hangover of modern air travel.

For lunch, we head to La Rosa Nautica, a restaurant built on a pier on the ocean. From our table, we look out onto the Pacific, with the waves rolling into the pier below us. Very relaxing. It’s still early (12:30 is early to eat lunch in Peru) so our dining room – there are 4 of them – is almost empty when we are seated. But it gradually fills up, mostly with families and by 1:30, it’s full…and still full when we leave at 3.

It’s not hard to decide what to have at an Oceanside restaurant. Michèle picks the Seabass Papillote, steamed with a bit of white wine, inside a parchment paper box, origami style, with carrot strips, zucchini, white leek and mushrooms, garnished “a la jardinera” rice.

I’m a sucker for “signature” dishes so my choice is the Rosa Nautica Seabass, cooked in a Pernod sauce, served with sea scallops and shrimps, on a bed of yellow Peruvian potatoes and topped with puff pastry.

Fresh seafood, well-prepared, it doesn’t get any better!

The wine list offers our first chance to try a Peruvian wine. We’re not sure what to expect, as Peru's signature alcohol is more Pisco (think grappa) than table wines. My pre-trip research tells me that Peruvian table wines are generally off-dry at best. But I know that Tacama has the best reputation (Tacama claims to be the oldest vineyard in Peru, and South America, tracing its founding to 1540). With some rudimentary Spanish (¿muy seco?), I order a bottle of Tacama Blanco des Blancos 2010, Ica Valley, 13.5% ABV. It’s a blend of Sauvignon Blanc (37%), Chardonnay (34%), and Viognier (29%). Aromas of red apple, pineapple, and banana with some floral notes coming from the Viognier. The Sauvignon Blanc shows up on the taste with more citrus than came through on the aromas, along with the red apple. It’s medium-bodied with a smooth acidity that really drops off before the finish. It works well with the fish and our Peruvian wine experience is off to a good start.

We finish by sharing a traditional dessert: El alfajor Rosa Nautica, stuffed with manjar and garnished with fior di panna ice cream. Manjar is essentially sweet condensed milk that’s been further thickened by reduction (very similar to dulce de leche), and it’s placed between two biscuits. Sorry, it was all gone before I thought of a photo!

Going to Lima? Put La Rosa Nautica on your list. Great ambiance, good food, good service!

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  1. I'm so jealous, you are always going somewhere exotic to drink wine. Have you read '1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Colombus'?

  2. No, but it sounds exactly like the book that I'm looking for! Thanks for the tip.

  3. I have been to Lima every January for the past five years to attend a music festival... and every year we have dinner at the Rosa Nautica. I also enjoyed the Rosa Nautica sea bass this year, as well as an Argentinean Malbec which I am online trying to find. :) I enjoyed your column, and am about to check your list of recommendations for that wine... buen provecho!