Food Culture, Travel

Culinary Evolution Strikes the Asia Boulevard South of Lima

Langostinos Flambeados en Pisco con Reducción de Salsa de Curry Rojo Piñas Brullee y Tierra de Curry con Especias Silvestres (Photo: Alberto Coraza Taco)

Change comes, sometimes with much gnashing of teeth and sometimes with delight. Still it comes. If nothing else it mixes things up and keeps them fresh. For this, the Asia Boulevard to the south of Lima is no exception.

As summer is on us, the highway leaving Lima to the south, towards its beaches, fills with cars wanting to escape the city’s heat and mess. Their drivers cannot wait to be on the beaches, stroll the Asia Boulevard, fill discotheques, line up around food carts, watch the motocross, and sit down for an elegant dinner.

As more and more people throng this popular destination, the food offered has evolved considerably over the last five years. The public coming to Asia is not people in general but includes people who travel regularly out in the world and know fine restaurants in Europe and elsewhere. They know what a fine dish is and, as a result, when they sit in a restaurant, they have expectations of receiving something fine. Their opinions are based on the quality of service and of culinary art and skill. When they give a place a good reputation, it marks the line between quality and those that do not quite make it. The restaurants of Asia Boulevard, as a consequence, become ever more sophisticated.

It was not always so. Its history begins some twenty years ago when the sands of Km. 97.5 on the Pan-American Highway South became known as the perfect place for spending a summer, just far enough away from the city, yet still within communication distance. The moneyed youths of Lima began going there to drink without any control. All that mattered to them was to be able to relax. They would arrive in the pickups and would forget their problems.

Doble Tartare de Salmon y Atun con Base de Papa Amarilla en Crema Horseradish (Rabano Picante) Palta con Aceite de Oliva y Brunoisse de Tomate (Photo: Alberto Coraza Taco)
Doble Tartare de Salmon y Atun con Base de Papa Amarilla en Crema Horseradish (Rabano Picante) Palta con Aceite de Oliva y Brunoisse de Tomate (Photo: Alberto Coraza Taco)

Little by little this place became known as the perfect place where the cool people would go to pass their summers. As a result, this resort took off. Soon, rustic discotheques opened; their owners were residents of the place. With the passage of years they kept improving their establishments. And Asia kept climbing in status and renown. Just setting foot in the place became enough to give you prestige.

On seeing the large numbers of people thronging to Asia, investors bet on its future and began to build a small boulevard where the discotheques were the principal offering. But every year it grew and drew more people. As a result, nearby, clubs, houses, and condominiums sprang up. All the most moneyed people of Lima had a place here. It was not long before clothing and fashion stores appeared.

Soon a small world had been built, with all the attractions of the city, though it was on the beach. From clothing stores, to car dealers, everything was there. It became impressive.

Of course, food was not far behind. From fast food offerings, to food carts, and fine restaurants, it is all there. Nevertheless, opening a top quality restaurant there was a white-knuckle moment for investors. Asia was a beach town and not a white-table cloth place. Entrepreneurs worried that in a place of little formality, where people went to play and have fun, sitting for a proper dining experience was not on people’s agenda. But that is where change began.

With the opening of an excellent restaurant, curiosity and expectations surged among visitors to Asia. One after another they entered the place. They smiled and went to see what all the craziness was about. But, when the service began that night, only a couple of young people showed up to try the new place. The chefs still worked hard and brought out amazing food, the best of their repertoire. The dishes arrived on the couple’s table and delighted them.

They fell in love with the place and then returned with family and friends who also returned with more. As a result the restaurant obtained a great clientele and the season was a success.

The next year, the restaurant opened again and the word spread. Other chefs also opened restaurants. Different options developed. Fine dining started competing directly with the scores of grills, seafood and chicken places, pizza joints, and so on. As a result, the chefs challenged each other to be ever more creative and refined.

Gnoquis a la Crema con Clorofila de Espinaca y Ragu de Variedad de Hongos con Reduccion de Vino y Aceite de Trufa (Photo: Alberto Coraza Taco)
Gnoquis a la Crema con Clorofila de Espinaca y Ragu de Variedad de Hongos con Reduccion de Vino y Aceite de Trufa (Photo: Alberto Coraza Taco)

The struggle for diners was great. But after five years of labor since the opening of these fine restaurants, the culinary level in the seaside resort has surged upward.

Now that Asia has such a sophisticated public that expects the best, the important cuisines of the world have now established themselves there. You now see chefs claiming authorship of their dishes. This is combined with a concern for cooking with ingredients that have a Denomination of Origen so people can appreciate terroir. All this combines with the ideas of fusion and refined culinary techniques to make really amazing dishes.

Asia is now a culinary destination in its own right. It is known, not just for its fine beach, but for its seriousness and artistry. Lovers of fine dining flock here.

The days when discotheques were the draw have passed. Asia now is the envy of others around the world.

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