Tapas are an institution in Spain. Beloved by Spaniards and foreigners alike, it’s a dining concept tricky to replicate outside the Iberian frontiers. Egalitarian by nature, tapas are affordable in Spain, sometimes even free, and aren’t defined by set menus or white linen tablecloths. With tapas you can order as few or as many as you like – there are no rules. Getting a tapas restaurant to be profitable is a challenge, but if it’s pulled off, a lot of fun can be had along the way.
27 Tapas brings its own version of tapas to the Lima dining scene. Opened last year, it is described as a sister restaurant to the well-regarded Lima27.
Both Lima 27 and 27 Tapas have the fortune of being housed in a beautiful 19th-century mansion, gracing one of the more exclusive streets of an already exclusive neighborhood, San Isidro. And yes, 27 refers to the zip code for the district.
Flanked by wood panel walls and featuring an open-air structure that makes it suitable for alfresco dining, 27 Tapas was established to be the accessible, fun, and cooler counterpart to the beautiful but more austere surroundings of Lima 27. Didn’t make a reservation? No problem! Didn’t have time to change out of your ratty sneakers and jeans? You might get a few odd stares, but you’ll be warmly welcomed.
Like the environment, the menu, created by chef Carlos Testino, is designed to be accessible, featuring 27 different tapas dishes, in addition to a selection of cured meats and more traditional rice and pasta plates, reflecting a mix of Peruvian and European cuisines. With so many options available, it’s best not to overthink it. And if you like pork and cheese, all the better.
Classic Steak Tartare (Photo: Monique Loayza/Living in Peru)
We started the meal with a play on classic steak tartare. The chopped steak was a respectable version of the classic, but I was more entranced by the cured egg yolk served off to the side. Usually not the main attraction of a tartare, the egg is prominently featured, serving as a delightful spread for the homemade rosemary crackers. The egg’s texture takes on a new form in cured state, reminiscent of that of lemon curd, and only amplifies the already luscious richness of the yolk. Who knew a plate of egg and crackers could be that good.
Up next, a tartare de conchas, served in a halved coconut, that was at first refreshing – delicate chilled baby scallops served with morsels of mango, aguaymanto, and lime sorbet. It would be delightful as an amuse bouche, or intermezzo, but its sweetness was overpowering after more than a couple of bites.
Their selection of mini sandwiches will please those who are still wooed by sliders. The arrival of the mini burger and fries served in a paper box, immediately evoked a whimsical fast food experience. However the presentation was the only memorable aspect of this dish – the burger was rather plain and slightly overcooked. If you must order a miniature sandwich, you’d be better off with the truffle-mushroom grilled cheese � mixto trufado. It was an umami knockout. Truffle oil, an overrated ingredient in my mind, is used with restraint here, and to great effect, as it should be.
Alongside that ethereal cured egg yolk, I was equally impressed by the delicate nature of the tapa intrusa � savory manchego filled profiteroles. Topped with a quail egg and slivers of rich chorizo, it was an elegant dish essentially composed of ham and eggs. But it’s such modest combinations that make tapas, and Spanish cuisine overall, such a pleasure.
Conito Serrano (Photo: Monique Loayza/Living in Peru)
Jam��n made a welcome reappearance in the dish conito serrano. Miniature cones filled with manchego mousse, laced with a pineapple syrup and topped with folds of jamo��n iberico. I liked the interplay of textures, although the presentation, composed of flexible metal wires, extended and molded into a vessel for the cones, seemed unnecessary. It was designed to be photo worthy, but I was just happy to eat more charcuterie and cheese, ingredients that aren’t too easy to source in Lima.
Aj�� relleno featuring osso bucco and mozzarella stuffed into a fried pepper was gorgeous to look at but lacked seasoning. Served with a parmesan foam that unfortunately seemed to be missing the parmesan, I couldn’t quite understand the thinking behind this plate. If it was meant to be a take on osso bucco and rocoto relleno, it lacked the most appealing elements intrinsic to the originals – the rich unctuousness of the former and the zestiness of the latter.
Torrija (Photo: Monique Loayza/Living in Peru)
Their dessert menu is not so grandiose as their savory offerings, featuring only 5 items. My companion and I, already quite satiated, were content to share the torrija. What appeared was a cube-shaped brioche soaked in tres leches, delicately scented with warm spices and served with a quenelle of vanilla ice cream. Aside from its cubist structure, it was essentially a humble bread pudding and a delicious one at that.
Set at a price point to attract a walk-in crowd not quite ready to splurge at Lima27, the main attraction, the tapas, range from about S/ 13 � S/ 30. You might need to order at least a few in order to fill up. Each dish is crafted to impress and assure you that, although you’re not eating next door, you can still have a refined experience and a playful one at that. Just choose wisely.
Tapas S/ 13 � S/ 30
Large plates S/ 21-46
Desserts S/ 14-16