Friday, January 23, 2015

Chez Wong

***Special Post by Keith***
Of all the restaurants we planned to visit in Peru I was most excited to go to Chez Wong. Many claim that Chef Wong makes the best ceviche in the world right out of a small restaurant in his 'off the beaten path' house in the typically 'locals only' Lima neighborhood of La Victoria. If you want to eat at Chez Wong you have to email in advance or talk to your hotel concierge and cross your fingers. I emailed 3-4 weeks early and received a response a few days later that we were in!

Image via Trip Advisor
Like I said this restaurant is not in the typical tourist district and many online warn that the area is a bit sketchy. I will agree that it is a little far away from Miraflores and San Isidro but we ended up walking and did not feel unsafe at all. In fact, some friendly locals across the street even helped us find the nondescript doorway to the restaurant. There was a guy standing at the gate to the house who asked if we had a reservation before letting us proceed inside. A second person then greeted us, found our name and showed us to a small card table for two squeezed between two other tables. It seems that they are used to larger parties as all other tables were for at least four people.

I found this place while doing research before our trip and it seems that we are quite late to the party.  Chez Wong has been visited by many celebrities and dignitaries over the years including Micky’s hero Anthony Bourdain and his non-sexual life mate Eric Ripert.  The walls of the dining area were covered in accolades and pictures of Chef Wong proving his notoriety.

After sitting down we were parched and immediately ordered drinks. This was about the time I noticed Micky’s eyes glaze over and her head start to wobble, she suddenly did not feel well due to some combination of altitude sickness, dehydration and an ill-advised ice cube filled drink earlier in the day. Luckily she was able to hold it together for the duration of our meal but most of the eating was up to me.

There is not much ordering at Chez Wong, each course you basically tell the waiter if you want to eat that item and how many portions you want. First course is the famous ceviche of octopus and flounder, second course is a breaded flounder (which, along with a few other tables we did not order) and the third course is a flounder stir fry. Soon after letting the waiter know that we wanted the ceviche, and would be sharing one serving, Chef Wong made his entrance through the side door. It almost felt like when the lead singer enters from stage left at the start of a concert. He immediately made his way to the open kitchen and started prepping vegetables and the octopus. It was a well-choreographed routine, with his sous chefs quickly providing giant bowls for the prepped food and changing cutting boards without pause. Then the flounder appeared. Wong quickly manipulated, filleted and sliced the giant fish with the ease and laser focus of a master. Lime juice was added to the large bowls of seafood and the ceviche was almost immediately sent out to the tables.

The praise was accurate as this was the best ceviche I have ever had. Extremely fresh and more citrusy than others I have had it was also served with a side of hot peppers so you can regulate your own heat. I easily finished this without much help from Micky, but I assure you I felt quite guilty that she was not feeling well enough to enjoy this meal. My only other regret was that I did not know the Peruvian tradition of adding the leftover leche de tigre to your beer and I did not notice other tables partaking until after our plates were cleared.

Based on the research I did prior to arriving, and not wanting to fill up before the anticipated stir fry dish, we declined course two. After the second course was served Chef Wong fired up his wok, the flames in the kitchen were soon blazing and the aromas (and smoke) filled the room.

I don’t think I have ever had a straight fish stir fry but this was absolutely delicious. A salty/sweet brown sauce covered a mix of fresh vegetables and chunks of flounder. At this point I did wish for a scoop of sticky rice to sop up the remaining sauce, but that is a minor missing piece from what was my favorite meal of the trip. Once the Chef was done cooking the stir fry he noticeable loosened up and started interacting with the customers including posing for selfies with the patrons and a flounder! His reputation as the “Soup Nazi” of Lima is way overblown and I found this to be as friendly and welcoming as any restaurant we have been to.

It is a little more costly than you might expect based on the location and atmosphere, but I thought it was completely reasonable based on the high quality fresh ingredients and the reputation of the chef. It most certainly lives up to the hype. They do take credit cards which is a huge plus. Also, Lima now has Uber (sign up here) so we easily got a quick and safe ride back to our hotel. Unfortunately, Micky was not able to enjoy this meal as much as I did, but maybe we will return someday…

Total Rating: 4.3
Food: 5, Price: 3.5, Service: 4, Ambience: 3.5, Accessibility: 2

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