Fried Potatoes with Aji and Salsa Huancaina
Ceviche Mercado – Lemon Sole, Crispy Calamari, Mixed Chiles, Yellow Chili Leche de Tigre, Sweet Potato, Gigante Corn
El Cubanito Sandwich – Lacquered Pork Belly, Red Onion, Fried Bananas, Quail Eggs
Papas Rellenas Limenas – Potato Croquettes with River Shrimp, Octopus, Squid, Scallops
Yasi Chaufa – Wok Fried Vegetables, Hoisin Sauce, Farmed Egg Fritttata
French Toast of Chancay – Cheese Ice Cream. Figs and Pomegranate
Carrot Cake – Mascarpone, Butterscotch
House Tres Leches – Cold Citrus Cream
When Rafael Osterling’s eponymous Restaurant e-mailed guests a cancellation notice 24-hours prior to dinner as a result of renovations taking longer than expected it seemed as though there would be no opportunity to experience the Chef-Restaurateur’s Food while in Peru, but much like it was only discovered afterward that La Mar is owned by Gaston Acurio it turns out El Mercado is operated by Osterling and late-lunch of Friday provided a glimpse of his cooking on a more casual scale.
Spoke of in the same breath as La Mar when discussing Lima’s Ceviche scene, a Miraflores address at Hipolito Unanue 203 no less bustling than Acurio’s concept with well over one hundred seats spread across an open air space, guests arriving at El Mercado anytime after 12:30 should anticipate a wait considering Lima’s power-lunch population, benches on the patio or indoors offered in addition to complimentary Potato Chips and Sauce plus tiny glass bottles of Water that cost 9 Sol each.
Louder than necessary but not atypical by American standards, no soundtrack amplifying the noise but merely a result of too many bodies and/or too much booze, it was at a two-top just feet from the Bar that diners were seated and quickly greeted by an efficient but clearly overworked waiter, menus dropped off but his return delayed nearly twenty minutes.
Eventually allowed to order just past 1:45pm, a large table of ten now filled on the opposite side of a rail, it was not long after the ticket was placed that a large bowl of house Ceviche arrived featuring fresh and fried elements, the collection not as diverse as that at La Mar though both Sole and Squid were good and the Broth appropriately acidic.
Moving next to two Appetizers and one Entrée, the Papas Rellenas at El Mercado eschewing Beef in favor of chopped Seafood and all the better for it, those looking for something non-Fish would be well advised to consider the four-bite “El Cubanito” topped in juicy Pork plus Red Onions, Bananas and runny Quail Eggs while a dish titled “Yasi Chaufa” unfortunately fell flat thanks to overcooked Rice and flaccid Peppers beneath an Omelet that seemed like an afterthought.
Fortunately saving room for Dessert both here and at Don Tito prior, El Mercado’s collection of sweets a veritable who’s who of favorites, it was ignoring Churros and Crepes that French Toast, Carrot Cake and Tres Leches were requested, the question of which was ‘best’ better phrased as which was least delicious as the Carrot Cake was vigorously spiced but balanced by Butterscotch and Mascarpone while French Toast baked up like a Souffle and Tres Leches arrived moist yet texturally compelling with a fresh Citrus finish.