This new Cevichera in Lima has a lot of spunk! Venturing into a new culinary territory, restaurant Agallas is making huge waves in the community.
A bit far from my “neck of the woods” (LaPunta), I ventured in a taxi with Marco, our photographer, to the heart of La Victoria to visit Agallas Cantina Cevichera which has now been open for six months.
The word “agallas” has several connotations….it can mean the gills of a fish, or it can refer to a person with guts, valor, determination, courage, and spunk. In slang, it can also refer to a person with “balls”.
A Different Kind Of Restaurant…
The owners and staff at Agallas have made a sincere commitment to an area not commonly known as a culinary district or destination and are reclaiming this neighborhood which has been assumed to be a bit dangerous. They are attempting to create impact and break the stereotypes. This takes guts. Agallas has a sense of social responsibility and strives to make a positive impact in the neighborhood. They are accomplishing this through promoting initiatives to unite neighbors and improve the district of La Victoria. They practice what they preach. Recently, Agallas held an event at the restaurant to help raise money for 17-year old Cristian Castañeda, a local fencing champion who was wounded by a stray bullet. He survived and has been receiving treatments and therapy. The event at Agallas donated 100% of their profits from this event. Agallas is also involved in various other local community activities such as soccer teams, etc.
Agallas also pays homage to the people of La Victoria…..hard-working individuals with pride and determination, many who have overcome adversity. One of the walls of Agallas is dedicated to some of these people. Eight large black and white photos pay tribute to a variety of working people (various street vendors, a recycler, seller of jewelry, a shoe shiner, fruit and vegetable vendors, a vigilante). People with guts.
Besides the social commitment of Agallas, they are also dedicated to supporting artisanal fishing and sustainability.
We sat down with one of the owners of Agallas, the energetic Mariano Escobal Rossi, a publicist by profession who is passionate about food and has now become a gastronomic entrepreneur. Mariano came up with the concept of Agallas. Mariano is dedicating his time to the managing operations of Agallas along with partners Daniel Cuesta and Ismael Matos, who offer operational and logistical restaurant management experience as well. Mariano has also been very instrumental in the design of “pop-ups” in restaurants and food trucks in Lima with his partners.
The fourth partner at Agallas is Chef Jimmy “Magic Hands” Rosales, who has well over 20 years of experience in the restaurant industry, 8 of those with Gaston Acurio ventures.
Jimmy put in quite a bit of time researching other bars and cevicherias and took many traditional criollo recipes and instilled new life into them for Agallas. His day begins daily between 4 and 5 in the morning at the Villa Maria del Triunfo fish terminal where he chooses the freshest fish for the restaurant.
Lately one of the new trends of restaurants is to offer traditional and affordable fare in a more simple environment. At Agallas they wanted to re-create a cantina/traditional bar/cevicheria experience with an essence of the past. At one time many years ago, at this very corner location, once existed a cantina. With this in mind, the partners of Agallas created a more modern version of this idea.
The new interior is bright and shiny, with an abundance of black and white and red as an accent color. Their signature mural is of an octopus with its tentacles wrapped around a fishing boat. The kitchen is open. The seating is simple and encourages groups of people to share and enjoy a ceviche or main dish with perhaps a beer. There is not one single ounce of pretension here at Agallas. This was a real experience, not a “fake” experience.
The Cold Food
The day of our visit the “fish of the day” was Lisa from the area of Huarmey (approx. 350 kms. north of Lima). This versatile fish was used in the preparation of many of the dishes we sampled the day of our visit.
We began our dining experience at Agallas with their Causa Acevichada (S/. 27), which did not disappoint. The mashed yellow potatoes were served with the freshest ceviche on top and accompanied by crunchy fried calamari. We then moved on to their Choritos de Barrio (S/. 18) which were excellent. Eight large and ultra-fresh mussels along with diced tomatoes, onion and choclo.
The Leche de Tigre Agallas (S/. 17), is one of three versions offered at Agallas. This version had an abundance of pieces of Lisa fish and shellfish combined with lime juice, a touch of aji amarillo, aji limo, and choclo. The addition of chifles inside the leche de tigre was a nice touch. A small skewer of fried calamari rests on top of the cup of leche de tigre.
Mariano was very enthusiastic for us to try the Ceviche Pimental (S/. 27) because of his fond memories of his life and time on the north coast of Peru in Pimentel, Chiclayo. This ceviche used the Lisa (fish of the day), slivers of red onion and incorporated ingredients from the north such as torrejitas de choclo (fried corn croquettes), sarandaja beans, and chiringuito (dried and shredded meat from the Guitarra fish). This ceviche was a star. It was made “in the moment” so the fish was still showing some pink and it was not overwhelmed or soaked in the lime juice since the fish was piled high on the plate. I will definitely return to sample more of their ceviches.
Agallas has five other ceviches to choose from, including the classic as well as regional styles of areas such as Marcona, Barranco, Chorrillos, and Huanchaco. Ceviche is mandatory at Agallas!
The Hot Food
The Arroz Norteño (S/. 28) was the first of the three hot main dishes we sampled. All of their main dishes are served in large white metallic trays. The mixture of shrimp, calamari, scallops, red onion, choclo, peas, salsa criolla along with the rice that was prepared in a northern-style with cilantro, chicha de jora and dark beer was a crowd pleaser, even for those of us that are not fans of rice. This was a traditional dish except for the addition of avocado that I felt made this classic even better.
The surprise dish for me was their Tallerin Saltón (S/. 27). I am rarely impressed by this dish in chifa and criolla restaurants, usually because most of the time this dish is overcooked, especially the noodles. The linguine was cooked perfectly (al-dente) and was tossed with a generous amount of seafood (scallops, octopus, calamari, shrimp), slices of red tomato and red onion. The dish was succulent and had just the right amount of “dew”.
We also truly enjoyed the Chaufa de Mariscal (S/. 25). Large pieces of the Lisa fish were breaded using chuño (a flour made from dried potato) along with sautéed bell peppers, green onion, and a perfectly soft-fried egg. To enjoy the full impact of this dish, you break the yolk and proceed to mix all of the egg into the rice mixture. This was one of the better versions of chaufa that I have eaten in awhile and I loved the generous amount of ginger I tasted in every bite.
In every dish we sampled, not one ingredient overpowered another. I strongly suggest and encourage the use of eating most of the dishes at Agallas with a spoon instead of a fork to enjoy the full flavor profile of the majority of the dishes.
Besides the dishes on the printed menu, Agallas offers daily specials as well.
Agallas has several beers and chilcanos available. On tap, they offer Candelaria artisanal beer and in bottles, Birra Bizarra Peru. The house pisco is Picaflor Ingrato (macerated piscos) which is used exclusively in their chilcanos or, if you prefer, a shot. It is also a wonderful digestive after your meal.
The artisanal El Chamán del Norte (S/. 7) is the house non-alcoholic beverage prepared with a combination of fruits (orange, pineapple, mango, and passionfruit) as well as several herbs (cedron, hierba luisa, and chamomile)…..a nice balance between sweet and bitter and served with only paper straws. It surprisingly pairs well with many of their dishes. Their house Chicha Morada is excellent as well and homemade.
Agallas has a great value/price for the quality/quantity ratio. Portions of the majority of plates can easily be shared and the food is delicious. The wait staff and team at Agallas were enthusiastic, attentive, and positive which made this a “feel good” destination for me as well.
Agallas now has two locations. Besides their La Victoria location, they recently opened up a spanking brand new locale in Chorrillos less than two weeks ago at Av. Alejandro Iglesias 145.
Agallas Cantina Cevichera has “street” with lots of heart, determination and guts.
Agallas Cantina Cevichera
Avenida Manco Capac 1100, La Victoria
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday: 11:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Capacity: approx. 45 people
Av. Alejandro Iglesias 145, Chorrillos
Starters: S/. 15-27
Leche de Tigres: S/. 12-18
Ceviches: S/. 24-28
Main dishes: S/. 22-28
Beer: small: S/. 8
large: S/. 12
artisanal on tap: S/. 12
Chilcano: S/ .15
Chamani : S/. 7
Chicha Morada: cup: S/. 5
bottle: S/. 15
Soda/Water: S/. 4
Desserts: S/. 4-8