By Mikey Beats
San Diego DJ Mikey Beats, and his nurse wife Jenny, decided to take a vacation to Machu Picchu, Peru. For the next few days San Diego Free Press will publish their daily adventures. Read parts I & II, part III, parts IV & IV.5, part V, part VI, part VII, part VIII and part IX.
Tuesday 6/11/13 Day 10 – The last day in Peru
We awoke without alarms in the Embajadores Hotel in Miraflores, Lima where we planned on leaving our big back packs for the day while stuffing our little back packs with more Peruvian goodies to take home. After a continental breakfast that didn’t compare to the one we were accustomed to at Arqueologo but still was better than the processed American food we get in American hotels, we headed out the lobby, west towards the beach, to put beautiful sights in front of our eyes.
When we reached the top of the cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, laid before us was a 180 degree view of beautiful Peruvian coastline. Although the marine layer was thick enough to block out the sun, it was not powerful enough to block out the beauty of the sets of waves crashing onto the black pebble beach.
We walked north towards Lovers Park and took the standard shot of kissing each other while in front of the famous statue that depicts a man and a woman passionately kissing in a lovers embrace. We were warned that Miraflores was the PDA, public display of affection, capital of Peru, but we didn’t mind it too much as we were as guilty as the rest.
The lighthouse, Faro la Marina, was as far north as we went when we decided to turn south and head down to the beach. Since all of Lima was on a cliff, beach access was once every few miles through a road carved into that cliff. Pedestrians could walk down the road through a series of stairs and a declining sidewalk. Once we got to the bottom we could see the surfers up close. They seemed like ants from the view up top.
The water must have been pretty cold since all the surfers were in long wet suits, some with booties and hoodies on to trap their body heat in. South we pushed even further when we walked out onto a pier with a restaurant and bar at the end called La Rosa Náutica where we snapped some pictures and watched the surf come in.
We turned around on the pier and walked back to the beach to grab a cab that was quickly hailed in order to get to our 1pm reservation. Luckily I had done my research on Chez Wong’s contact info because the driver had no idea where his restaurant was, so he called with the number I provided. After a brief conversation and explanation on the phone, we drove north towards our reservation.
Chez Wong’s was based out of a house in La Vitoría, Lima and from the outside, you would never know there was a culinary expert within, preparing delicacies for his clients daily from 1-4pm. What laid before us was a standard South American security wall with two entry points; a thick door and a garage door.
We rang the doorbell at 114 Enrique León García St. and we were promptly received after our reservation was verified by host. The small transitional yard had a couple of plants, a mini ramp to the left and three stairs with a handrail directly in front of us.
There were two windowed doors both on hinges; one that was at the top of the ramp on the left, which must have lead to his private residence, and one on top of the stairs that lead into the make shift restaurant that was probably an entertainment room with a patio before he transitioned it. We walked into the restaurant and were seated at a small table for two.
One inside wall was decorated with many frames housing many articles, accolades and pictures of him with famous people. Another wall was dedicated to the Peruvian Navy and in particular, one Admiral from what appeared to be the early 1900’s. We were not sure if he served in the Peruvian Navy, but there was some sort of connection between the two not revealed to us.
There was seating for thirty but fitting thirty in that room would be very tight. I was facing the wall with all his culinary accolades and to my left was his kitchen, half inside used for his chopping of the vegetables and seafood and half outside in the patio that contained his stoves. He had three people working with him, one serving, one prepping and one working the cash register and hosting.
We were served drinks; Jenny got a Tres Cruces Cerveza and I a soda water. We were then asked if we wanted individual dishes or split dishes and we opted to split the dishes which later granted us one extra dish than what I would see everyone else have. At that time, there was a table of four already seated and three more tables would join in the lunch for a total of nineteen people.
Out came Javier Wong, straight to his prep table where he picked up one of his many knives and began chopping red onions. He was an older Chinese man with prescription sunglasses, a white Kangol on his head and a chef’s apron with his name, logo and Peru’s flag embroidered on it. That dude looked like a smooth operator.
A couple more tables were seated as he pulled out a large flounder that he quickly removed the skin from, cut out the filet and trashed the remaining carcass. We would see this process repeated many times. Our first course was a traditional ceviche with the flounder, red onions, salt, pepper and lime accompanied with a fiery, chopped red pepper on the side. This dish was off his cutting board and on our plate within 3 minutes and it was so simple and yet a perfected delicacy.
Our second course was more fresh fish cut sashimi style doused in lemon juice and sesame oil topped with minced pecans accompanied by a side of shallots and the same fiery red pepper as with the first course. It was equally as simple as the first course and every bit as much a delicacy. After the third course was prepped, he went to the outside kitchen and utilized the stove, setting aflame to whatever was in the wok something fierce, with flames shooting up through the uncovered patio.
I got out of my chair to document the master at work and started a trend of picture taking from all of his customers. When that plate came out, it was an Asian flavored dish of flounder, ginger, mushrooms, bok choy and seaweed in a brown sauce that sent my salivary glands working on overtime with every bite.
Other tables seemed to stop at this dish, pay their tab and leave, but the server asked if we wanted more. We said yes and then he asked me something else I didn’t quite understand and I automatically responded yes and nodded my head like a robot.
The server seemed a little puzzled and Jenny chimed in replying “No” for me. I was instantly embarrassed that I agreed to something I didn’t understand. Jenny laughed at me and said he asked if I had a peanut allergy. I knew she would never let me forget that language barrier mistake and make fun of me forever.
The reason he asked me if I had a peanut allergy was because the final course was a kung pao sweet and sour fish dish with pineapple, peanuts and zucchini. If licking the bowl was socially acceptable, I would have lapped up every last drop like a thirsty dog.
We paid the tab and got up to leave when Mr. Wong waived us over to take a picture with him holding another fresh flounder that he had just pulled out of his refrigerator. We were so happy that we excitedly jumped into a pose with the man responsible for our full stomachs and big smiles as one of his helpers snapped a picture with my iPhone.
We left skipping down the street to hail a cab to Lima’s city center where we would take a tour of The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. What drew us to this cathedral was a picture that Olina from the Marriot had shown us of the catacombs underneath.
When we walked up to the entrance, hundreds of pigeons were taking flight around the cathedral in a very eerie display of aviary attendance. We covered our heads and hurriedly got into the cathedral to begin our tour. As soon as we got in, the creepy feeling engulfed us of an old Catholic church frozen in time. Our tour lead us around the inside where paintings from the 17th century and older dominated the walls depicting old scenes of a time where the fear of evil dominated the Peruvian’s thought and forced repent.
We descended down to the underground catacombs where thousands of bones and skulls were on display that raised the hairs on the back of my neck. We walked further in the catacombs to look down a round pit where femurs and skulls had been arranged in a circular pattern and laid to rest. I had had enough of that creepy cathedral but held off and finished the tour just so I wouldn’t look weak by running out the front door.
We left the cathedral and went freestyle touristing, walking around downtown Lima destination-less, but enjoying every last minute. We stumbled upon some gift shops where we filled our backpacks up and stumbled further to Lima’s Plaza de Armas that contained Lima’s presidential palace. The palace was protected by automatic rifle wielding police and scores of surveillance cameras.
Jenny asked, “where is everyone?” I didn’t have an answer until we heard a roar come from across the street where we saw many Peruvians huddled around TV’s anywhere there was one. We quickly realized it was the Peru vs. Colombia World Cup 2014 qualifiers as Peru was in contention of participation in the Works Cup for the first time since the 80’s.
Jenny and I slipped into one of the bars where everyone was annoyingly quiet. I looked at the score and it was 2-0 Columbia and it would remain that way until the final whistle. Needless to say, Peru was a pissed off nation at that moment.
Shorty after the game ended, Jenny and I got in a cab to head back to Miraflores where our hotel was to freshen up and pack our things for the trip home. I got online to hit up Mike and the newlyweds who were all in Lima still and Mike responded, inviting us to a restaurant called Huaringas.
When we got there, nothing seemed that special about the place, until we ordered our dinner. I saw a guy eating some soft spring rolls that looked good, so I ordered them after we ordered drinks. They were actually called summer rolls and they came in two varieties.
One was like a philly roll with a fried calamari steak running down the middle instead of the standard imitation crab and was rolled with rice paper and not seaweed. The other was rolled up vermicelli and cucumbers with diced romaine lettuce wrapped in the same rice paper. Both were outstandingly delicious and they came with a dipping sauce that was a mixture of soy sauce, ginger, lime juice and sesame seeds.
We next ordered the chicken wings that came modified as if the chicken was ground up with spices, rolled in a ball with a chicken wing bone thrust into the middle giving it a drum stick look, then fried. That came with three dipping sauces: sweet and sour, BBQ and Thai chili which whether dipped separately or together triggered a rush of salivary juices flowing through the mouth.
This place wasn’t playing around. Next we ordered coconut and peanut grilled chicken tenders that were impaled with aromatic bamboo skewers and served with the same dipping sauce as the summer rolls.
After getting completely stuffed, Jenny and I realized it was time to leave Peru. There was no tearful goodbye with Mike, just a simple handshake from me, a hug from Jenny and a promise to see each other again. We got into the cab, grabbed our stuff from the hotel and were off for the long flight home.
It was the end of a long and wonderful journey with the love of my life. We met wonderful people along the way of whom’s lives for a short time ran the same path as ours. Or maybe it was our lives that ran on their paths such as the Quechua people of Peru where we were merely visitors in their land observing their way of life, culture and history. Although we may have reached the end of that journey, without a doubt the future holds promises of new lands and new stories to be told from the perspective of two love birds flying from country to country.
Mikey Beats Beltran is a native San Diegan and veteran of the local music scene. He started off as a teenager working at Soma Live in Bay Park and he’s currently the co-owner and Vice President of Sleeping Giant Music. He has over ten years of DJing experience that has taken him all over the US. He lives in Pacific Beach, with his wife Jenny, where he was recently elected to the PB Planning Group. You can follow him on Twitter @MikeyBeats.