Even though I lived or worked in New York City — where you can get pretty much any type of food you like at almost any hour of the day or night — for more than a decade, I had never been told that of all the different types of Latin and South American cuisines out there, Peruvian food was among the best in the world — and actually was named #1 by Bloomberg.com in 2017.
It wasn’t until long after I first moved to Florida and met (and had dinner with) people from Peru or tried a Peruvian restaurant that I started to get the message. And, once I did sample the uniquely delicious cuisine of the Land of the Incas at an excellent Peruvian place in the Carrollwood area a few years ago, however, I realized that I had been missing out on something delicious all these years.
What I didn’t know, however, was that New Tampa would soon have its own Peruvian restaurant — named Lima, for the capital of the seventh most populous metropolitan area in the Americas.
Lima Rotisserie Chicken & Peruvian Cuisine owner Oscar Escudero and his family have brought a truly unique gem to the Publix-anchored New Tampa center plaza on Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd., in the location previously occupied by El Pescador Mexican Seafood, although they, of course, finally got the place open just a couple of weeks before Covid-19 shut down the local economy in March.
Start With The Chicken?
Even so, Oscar and his family and staff have been able to recently reopen Lima with a loyal following of customers who can’t get enough of Lima’s signature dishes like the Peruvian rotisserie chicken, which can’t be compared with anything you’ll find at Publix or Costco for tenderness, taste or the crispy, amazing skin. Jannah and I had to avoid the skin one time during the pandemic because we were still in the weight-loss phase of our diet — and honestly, we regretted it. It’s a must-try and it definitely is at its crispy, lip-smacking best when you dine-in.
Speaking of that, the inside of Lima is small, casual and appealing, and there are some other dishes that just can’t be as good for takeout or delivery as they are when you eat at the restaurant.
The one that springs instantly to mind are the uniquely beautiful and savory Conchitas Parmesana, or baked scallops on the half shell. It’s an order of four large sea scallops in butter, lemon juice and a thick topping of parmesan cheese.
I told Oscar that the only thing missing from this dish is a great, crispy bread or toast points because there’s enough cheese and butter left over after eating each scallop to make another whole appetizer.
Another dish that traditionally is served as a starter (in Lima’s case, it’s a large, shareable dish) that I already can’t live without is the Ceviche de Pescado, or diced fresh fish of the day ceviche (snapper in the top photo on the next page), which is raw chunks of fish in a traditional marinade of seasoned lime, aji rocoto peppers, julienne red onions and lots of cilantro. It’s served with a side of traditional Incan corn (with those large, thick kernels that soak up the sauce and taste so yummy) and a couple of slices of sweet potatoes.
The fish ceviche also is available as a trio, with the same amount of marinated fish divided into three smaller portions, each with its own delicious sauce — one with an aji Amarillo (pepper) cream, one with a rocoto cream and one with cilantro cream — all different and each so good in its own way.
For those of you who don’t share my shellfish allergy, the ceviche also is available “de Mariscos,” or with mixed seafood (fish, shrimp, mussels and calamari).
Another favorite is the Lomo Saltado Lima, which is a hearty dish of beef tenderloin tips wok-sautéed with spices, sliced onions, fresh tomato wedges, cilantro and a touch of soy sauce and vinegar served over a bed of crispy French fries and with a side of white rice.
What do the Peruvians know about wok-searing? Apparently, a lot! Peru is as far west as you can go in South America, so according to Oscar, when the country built its railroad to go from the desert coast of Lima on the Pacific Ocean to and through the Andes mountains that divide the north from the south of the country, many Chinese engineers and builders came across the Pacific and settled in Peru.
They brought wok-fired cooking with them and Lima (the city) became a hotspot for dishes that look and taste a lot like your favorite Chinese lo mein and fried rice
The lo mein is called Tallarin Saltado de pollo (although you can have it with steak or seafood) and features pulled “a la brasa” (rotisserie) chicken, with sliced onions, tomatoes and cilantro blended with delicious lo mein noodles, soy sauce and vinegar. The Arroz Chaufa (fried rice) has scallions, egg and a distinctively nutty taste and is topped with crispy noodles.
Speaking of side dishes, the black beans and rice, salad and fried yuca all get high marks, especially the unique (there’s that word again) spicing of the black beans.
And, while the rotisserie chicken (available in 1/4-, 1/2- and whole chicken portions, each with sides) is probably still the biggest draw at Lima, there also are other delicious starters, sandwiches and two kids platters for only $7 each.
When you dine in, you also owe it to yourself to try the ice cold Cusqueña golden lager beer of Peru and/or the Inca Cola, even though Coca-Cola came in and bought out the original Peruvian company. I also can’t even tell you how good the Alfajores are, but they’re cookie sandwiches topped with chocolate and powdered sugar and filled with dulce de leche creme. Decadent.
Lima (19062 BBD) is offering 15% off any take-out or dine-in order with the coupon on page 35 of our latest New Tampa edition & offers delivery through Grubhub, UberEats & Doordash. For info, call (813) 304-0205.