"I have the simplest tastes. I am simply satisfied with the best." - Oscar Wilde

"I came, I saw, I ate." - Au Gourmand

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Urubamba - April 17, 2011

Cau cau
If Peruvian cuisine were a stock sector, I would have rated it as “Strong Buy” and “Hold:” It is cheap with low multiples (have you ever needed to pay more than $20 for entrée?); and not only that, it also has a high expected growth rate (La Mar is coming, I hear). I would even go further and speculate that it is on the verge of supernormal growth. Get in now and don’t miss out! The downside, however, is the illiquidity – or the limited availability – of the Peruvian cuisine market in New York so that you cannot readily find many restaurants to invest in.

Tiradito* – Trout in aji amarillo

The fresh trout fillets were simply presented, covered in a gay, orange aji amarillo (Peruvian yellow peppers) sauce and served with gleaming pearls of Peruvian giant white corn. Despite having expected the creamy version of aji amarillo sauce and thus suppressing my disappointment, the simple sauce without the cream, in fact, was the rational choice, given the utter freshness of the trout – I suspect that they just swam over from the tanks at Mi Tierra Supermarket. The shot of pungent lime – taken to the utmost limit – followed by the tingling spiciness of the yellow peppers complemented the mildness of the fish (yes, aji amarillo was indeed spicy and I retract my earlier conspiracy theory).

*Tiraditos are sliced, whereas ceviches are cubed.

Pescado soup – Trout and cilantro

The same swimmingly fresh and delicate trout reincarnated in the cilantro soup. Visually resembling a murky, algae-infested pond (no, no, it can be pretty; just imagine Monet’s water lilies), it was, instead, infused with the subtle and lingering cilantro, cooked. The cooked cilantro changes properties when heated and becomes deep and earthy, thoroughly unlike the bright fragrance of the fresh cilantro; the effect produced was nuanced and lasting. The disintegrating rice absorbed all the layered flavors and provided body to the soup.

Cau Cau – Tripe stew with potato

The onomatopoeic names – are they? – of cau cau and tacu tacu seemed to fly in the face of sophistication and seriousness; however, the actual tastes are anything but. Cau cau is a stewed dish of tripe, yellow with tumeric. The tripe had been cooked to a perfect chewiness – manageable by human mandibles, instead of crocodilian, but not spongy. The pungent tumeric was softened by the fresh herbs so that it was not overpowering or overbearing. Again, the starchy potato cubes drank up the essences of the ingredients, which were delicious by themselves or mellow with the tripe. The accompanying white rice was rather well-cooked as well.

Tacu Tacu con Cabrito – Stewed goat over rice and beans

This dish had transformed my preconception, bias and prejudice toward rice and beans: it had opened my eyes and my taste buds to the possibilities and power of the two. The tacu tacu was substantial, savory and very deep. Although assisted by lard, it seemed to transcend beyond the earthly porcine fat: the flavor of the lard – but not the greasiness - was present, however every so subtle and, believe it or not, delicate and aromatic, which gentle touch I would not have presumed to be within lard’s capability or nature.

On top of the tacu tacu was the cabrito; dense and bold, and stewed so that the dark flavor of beer and aji bore into each string of the fiber of the lean and marginally stringy goat meat.

Leche Asada

The cooked milk was disappointingly bland – especially after forgoing flan in its honor – despite the advertised brandy. The burned top layer of the white pudding was not due to the caramelization of sugar as in crème brulee; instead, it was simply the custard being charred.

Arroz con Leche

The warm rice pudding was very simple with only raisins, milk and a sprinkle of cinnamon to help the transformation of rice; however, the mushy texture – al dente works charm here as well – of the rice made the plain dessert into a bland breakfast dish.

Chicha de jora – Alcoholic fermented corn and barley drink

The national drink tasted like a fruity beer. Although not a personal preference, I wanted to taste it as it sometimes makes way into seco de cabrito (stewed goat).

Disclaimer: There are certain risks in investing in developing countries, and one of which is legal risk. How “liquor” is defined under the New York Law, I do not profess to know; but this slightly gaseous and alcoholic drink has the potential of causing problems with the New York State Liquor Authority since Urubamba does not have a liquor license.

Address: 86-20 37th Avenue, Jackson Heights, NY 11372
Phone: (718) 672-2224


  1. Damn you. You tempt we with such beautiful food. And then at the very end, you tell me it's in Jackson Heights.

  2. You can call Peruvian "GARP (growth at reasonable price)". Very good review. I'm hungry!

  3. Jackson Heights is closer than Lima, you have to admit!