Contigo Perú, an Oasis of Soups and Seafood

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Peruvian seafood in Buenos AiresA culinary treasure trove overshadowed by the famed Argentine beef, international cuisine exists, if not thrives, in the cosmopolitan center of Buenos Aires.

As a transplanted New Yorker spoiled by the cornucopia of culinary cuisines that used to call out to me from every block of Queens and Manhattan, I felt like something was missing after months of devouring juicy steaks, homemade pastas and colorful pizzas in Buenos Aires.

After all, variety is the spice of life, and my newly relocated palate needed some shocks of spice and foreign flavors.

Recalling other deliciously spicy dishes I’ve had in the past and encouraged by new friends from Peru, I decided to try out a few of the city’s Peruvian restaurants.

I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. Oh, how my tongue delighted in the hot, steaming soups and stews and the gastronomic goodness of seafood! Mussels and squid and shrimp, galore!

My favorite place is a no-frills restaurant called Contigo Perú on Calle Echeverría near the train tracks of the Barrancas of Belgrano station. A quiet, unassuming restaurant from the front, it actually seats about 200 guests.

Having become accustomed to Argentine cuisine, I at first felt a little lost as I perused the menu that featured parihuela (a seafood soup), jalea (an assortment of various foods), chairo (a beef soup) and aguadito de pollo (a light chicken soup).

But by studying the accompanying photos in the menu and peeping at the plates of those nearby, I knew I was in for a gustatory treat.

The cubiertos of the pre-meal bread sealed the deal. The bread rolls came with a small side of a pale yellow innocuous-looking sauce, which I spread on my roll. I bit into it and immediately my taste buds came alive to the spicy flavor of garlic and guacatai, which is kindred to cilantro and is known for its medicinal powers.

One of the popular dishes here is the chupe de camarones. Upon being seated, I saw the waiters making several trips from the kitchen, carrying a huge bowl of this red shrimp chowder with hot steam trailing after them. I was intrigued and ordered it. About a quarter-hour later, I had before me a tremendous bowl of fiery red broth with tomato and chili pastes, swirls of light cream and squid, mussels and shrimp bobbing on the surface. To top it all off was a slightly poached egg.

contigo peru belgrano buenos aires argentinaFor the less adventurous, I highly recommend the green noodles with chicken, a simple, delicious dish. The spaghetti comes in a pea-green sauce of spinach, basil and garlic, and the chicken is roasted to tender, juicy perfection.

Other popular dishes include pescado a lo macho, a grilled fish in a cream of squid, shrimp and mussels; a Peruvian-style paella; and an Asian-inspired arroz chaufa con mariscos, a stir-fried rice with seafood in soy sauce.

Granted that this is indeed a Peruvian restaurant, you can find ceviches of mixed seafood, flounder and shrimp; crisp pork, squid and fish rinds; and tamales which you can down with a fizzy pineapple cider or the traditional pisco sour.

conitgo peru belgrano buenos aires argentinaTo top off my meal, I ordered mazamorra morada for dessert, a “purple cornmeal mush” according to a verbatim reading off the menu. In less figurative wording, it is actually a gelatinous fruit compote of purple corn, pieces of pineapple, whole quinces or membrillos, and sprinkles of cinnamon. Never having tried a quince before, I was surprised by its resemblance to the prune.

The quince is quite popular here, and you can find pies and cakes of membrillo at the local pastry shops. Unsurprisingly, almost all of the quinces in the North American specialty markets are imported from Argentina.

If you want to explore some tasty treats in addition to the traditional Argentine fare of lomo or bife de chorizo, Contigo Perú (and Peruvian cuisine in general) is a gustatory jewel. Just make sure to brace yourself before you polish off that yellow sauce . . .

Contigo Perú

Echeverría 1627


Dan on March 6, 08

Probably not a “whole quince” in the mazamorra morada, since a quince is the size of a large grapefruit. The dessert typically has pineapple and apple pieces in it, and sometimes pieces of quince. Contigo Peru is definitely one of our favorite Peruvian spots as well – try their anticuchos and the choros a la chalaca next time you’re there – the former is strips of spicy, grilled heart, and the latter an interesting variation on a ceviche made with mussels, corn, peas, and lemon juice.

MJ on March 10, 08

I’m totally with the writer on this one! Last time i was in BA, I became a little fed up with Argentine parillas and was craving something different. This place sounds really interesting and unique. I cant wait to try it out on my next visit.

Caroline on March 10, 08

Hi Dan, thanks for the tips! I was a bit wary to try the anticuchos, but, based on your recommendation, I think I just might. I’m also curious about your other favorite Peruvian restaurants…

MJ, you should definitely try out this restaurant on your next visit. Especially if you want to veer from typical Argentine cuisine, this place will satisfy your craving.

César González on March 10, 08

As the resident Peruvian, I stand heartily behind the anticucho recommendation (har-har!) But seriously, after the seafood, they’re one of the foods we do best.

[…] and Sustainable Development Secretary, announced last Friday that Argentina has decided to ban fishing off one section of the shore of Patagonia. According to Mercopress, the protected area is south of […]

Enzo Rachi on November 12, 08

good article. but notice that “aguadito”, which translates literally as light soup, is exactly the opposite, a cilantro flavored chicken broth thickened with rice. the quirk is commonplace in peruvian cuisine. another cilantro favorite, a stew, is called “seco”, which means dry. but the stew is anything but.

steve on February 5, 09

haha dave your funny.

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