Although Como Agua Para Chocolate has been open for 12 years, I only recently visited for the first time. The service at this restaurant – one of the few that serves authentic Mexican food in Lima – was friendly and attentive and the food was quite delicious. When I lived in Chicago for over 30 years, I frequently dined at and enjoyed many a Mexican restaurant, from gourmet Mexican cuisine to the local dives, so I was pleasantly surprised to find out about this San Isidro establishment and understood why it already has a good following.
The name of the restaurant, Como Agua Para Chocolate, translates into “like water for chocolate.” The owner chose this name because of her fondness for the popular novel by Mexican novelist, Laura Esquivel. Each section of the book begins with a Mexican recipe. The chapters outline the preparation of the dish and tie it into an event in the main character’s life. I highly recommend both the book and the movie.
The only other time I have had Mexican food in Lima has been at Barranco’s Burrito Bar, which is more of a dive with limited seating and with a much smaller, but very popular and tasty menu. Como Agua Para Chocolate is a larger restaurant with a much more expansive menu.
The interior of Como Agua Para Chocolate was decorated throughout with Mexican details and flair, including colorful pottery, bright and cheery walls of terracotta yellow with red and blue accents, lots of artwork and rustic wood tables.
One of the best parts of our visit was our friendly hostess and owner, Alejandra van Sprang, who chatted with us about her restaurant. I noticed she visited many tables to speak with other customers as well. Alejandra explained that she was going to serve us several plates with fish and seafood since she is originally from Veracruz, Mexico, which is on the coast.
We began our visit with a couple of cocktails. The champarita (S/. 22.50) arrived at our table in a large green-rimmed glass with salt on the rim. This combination of tequila, triple sec, lime juice and champagne was particularly refreshing on a steamy day. The submarino (S/. 19.50) was a Corona mixed with white tequila, topped off with a dash of Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce and served in a pilsner glass with salt on the rim. The beer lovers at our table really enjoyed this drink. Como Agua Para Chocolate offers 31 different tequilas as well as a tequila cocktail menu with seven different drinks. Of course they offer a variety of margaritas to choose from as well.
The food offered at Como Agua Para Chocolate runs the gamut of Mexican staples such as burritos, tacos, quesadillas, nachos, enchiladas and fajitas, as well as many specialty dishes using mole, fish and shrimp. We began our dining experience with a couple of appetizers. The totopos con guacamole y pico de gallo (S/. 17.50), a generous portion of tortilla chips and a rich and creamy guacamole served with the mixture of onions, tomatoes and cilantro, was delicious. Both the guacamole and tortilla chips are made on the premises and it shows. The shrimp cocktail we sampled included plump shrimp, large chunks of avocado, tomatoes, onions and cilantro and was garnished with tortilla chips.
The acapulco mixto (S/. 42.50) was a plentiful platter of tender and juicy strips of beef tenderloin, white fish, shrimp, chicken and chipotle with rice in the center. This was a very generous portion and would be perfect for sharing. The combination was a surprise and one of the table favorites.
The pescado picasso (S/. 32.50) used mild white fish fillets with a complementary sauce, which included orange juice, green bell pepper and fresh fruit (kiwi, pineapple and peaches). The light sauce did not overpower the fish and this surprisingly good combination was perfect for this warm, sunny day.
The fish tacos (S/. 32.50) used homemade flour tortillas, which we filled with chunks of white fish with garlic, tomatoes and onion. This simple and delicious meal can be ordered with homemade corn or flour tortillas.
The enchiladas de mole (S/. 37.50) contained three tortillas filled with grilled chicken breast bathed in a traditional mole sauce and accented with queso fresco, a soft, unaged cheese. The traditional mole sauce at Como Agua Para Chocolate is prepared using chocolate, seven different dried chilies, sesame seeds, almonds, peanuts, onions, cinnamon, cloves, anise and garlic. This is a very rich sauce and I have found in my experience over the years that people either love or hate this sauce. I happen to love it and was happy to have this dish served at our table.
The pescado estilo puebla (S/. 37.50) was another tasty seafood dish prepared with white fish and shrimp in a sauce of garlic, paprika, salsa verde (green salsa) and honey. The fish used in the majority of these dishes was congrio, and we found it to be both flavorful and mild.
On my return visit, we sampled one of the specialty dishes, the pescado a la veracruzana (S/. 32.50), which was a large fish fillet served with a sauce of white wine, fresh herbs, olives, capers and rice. The fish was perfectly prepared and this dish became one of my favorites.
For dessert, we shared crepes manjar blanco y chocolate – crepes with both chocolate and manjar blanco and served with vanilla ice cream and plenty of whipped cream. We also sampled the flambéed strawberries, which were served with both strawberry and chocolate sauce and accompanied by vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. Both desserts were S/. 19.50.
Como Agua Para Chocolate also offers a light (S/. 26.50) and a regular (S/. 29.50) executive menu. The light version offers three different choices of appetizers, six choices of main dishes and one dessert. The regular offers six appetizers, six main and three dessert options.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the Dutch bar located on the second floor. Alejandra’s husband, Onno, is from Holland and is one of the reasons for this wonderfully charming and popular sports bar. Onno is also in the kitchen preparing many of the dishes with the kitchen staff. I found the bar to be quaint and cozy and I have heard that it can be quite lively in the evenings, especially when expatriates gather to watch soccer and American football. Games of chess, darts and checkers are also available. The bar serves beer from Peru as well as imports from Mexico, Germany, Belgium and other areas of Europe, ranging in price from S/.6.50 to S/.45. The bar menu has an assortment of 17 different food items including chips and guacamole, nachos, quesadillas, chicken and shrimp brochettes, pizza, salad, steak, French fries and bitterballen (a popular Dutch meat-based snack typically prepared with a mixture of beef or veal, nutmeg and other ingredients, rolled into a ball and deep fried and served with dipping sauces).
This was a wonderful experience with good food at reasonable prices and portions that enable everyone to share. I’m looking forward to returning to Como Agua Para Chocolate soon.
Como Agua Para Chocolate
Pancho Fierro 108, San Isidro
Monday – Wednesday: noon – 4 p.m., 6 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.
Thursday – Saturday: noon – 4 p.m., 6 p.m. – 10:45 p.m.
Pub stays open late
Limited parking spaces in front of the restaurant
Parking garage nearby
Classic Main Dishes: S./29.50-42.50
Specialty Main Dishes: S./29.50-42.50
Traditional Main Dishes: S./22.50-36.50
Executive Menus: S./26.50-29.50
Tequila Cocktails: S./15-19.50
Wines: S./45-225 per bottle