Monthly Archives: October 2011

[Chicago] Pump Room

1301 N State Pkwy
(between Goethe St & Banks St)
Chicago, IL 60610
Neighborhoods: Near North Side, Gold Coast


Chicago has really developed into a foodie city in the last couple of years!  I remember when I last went in 2007, the good restaurants that were recommended by the tour books consist of steakhouses and Italian restaurants.  How the food world has evolved – nowadays, the choices are so diverse.  There is also a celebrity chefs culture developing in the city.  It’s so great!

On my recent trip, my fellow foodie colleague suggested that we dine at the newly renovated Pump Room.  It’s located inside the also renovated Public Hotel.  The decor is very modern and chic, in black and white.  Inside the restaurant, there are a lot of lanterns hanging over the dining area, which make it really cozy.  Even though the tables are close by each other, you can hardly hear the conversations of the nearby tables.  Maybe it’s the fact that the restaurant recently reopened, service is emphasized – waiters/waitresses kept coming by to fill up on our water, and even the manager came by to check on us.


For starters, we chose the roast carrot and avocado salad.  The carrot was nice and tender, and naturally sweet.  It was a good combination with sprouts and avocado.  I want to learn how to roast carrots like this!  $8


We also went for the pretzel dusted calamari, which come with 2 dipping sauces (mustard aioli and marinara).  The calamari was nice and crunchy, and the sauces complimented the squid.  $8


For my entree, I chose the Lake Superior whitefish with red bliss potatoes and spinach.  The fish was actually pretty big.  The skin was crispy while the rest of the fish sat poached in the juices.  Yum!  $18


My fellow foodie selected the grilled salmon salad.  He said the salmon was perfectly done (not flaky and the center was still slightly raw) and juicy.  $15


At this point, we were both so stuffed.  But, when the waitress brought the dessert menu around, we decided to take a look and ended up ordering this:  creme fraiche cheesecake with roasted figs and concord grape sorbet.  It’s the most fancy cheesecake I’ve ever seen!  The roasted figs and the tart grape sorbet brought a nice balance to the creaminess of the cheesecake.  It was the perfect ending to a really great meal!  $7


Thanks JA for recommending this restaurant and for being so patient while I take the food pictures!!!  🙂

Food in Peru – Part 2

Sorry for the long wait on the Peru installment!  And now, for the second and final Peruvian food post!


Lake Titicaca – Amantani Island

We took a 2D1N tour of Lake Titicaca which includes a homestay on Amantani Island.  This means that we stayed with a local family for a night, lived in their house while they cooked for us.  According to our tour guide, all of the families pretty much cook the same food, so you can expect similar food,  no matter where you stay.  The local families mostly live on potatoes, tomatoes and quinoa, which means there is very little meat in their diet.  We went meatless for a day…


Lunch – fries with pan-fried cheese and tomatoes


Quinoa soup with vegetables.  This was soooo good!


Muña tea – just fresh sprigs of the local mint/peppermint steeped in hot water.  Really helps with altitude sickness!


Lake Titicaca – Taquile Island

We also visited Taquile Island on the Lake Titicaca tour.  We were told that this island is special because it is the men who do the knitting!  For lunch, the tour company took us to a local restaurant.


Another version of the quinoa soup.  Also really good!


Grilled trout – fresh caught that morning from the lake


The views and the meal is just unbelievable



Sicuani is located in between Puno and Cusco, and is one of the stops on our 9 hour long bus ride aboard the Inca Express.  This is where the bus company stopped for lunch – lunch is included in the bus fare.


It looks like a village, but it’s really a restaurant


Buffet-style lunch.  Quality of the food is surprisingly great!



I don’t have the address or the name of this restaurant, but it is directly across from the Museo Inca, close by Plaza de Armas.  It is a small local restaurant, with 2 floors.  3 course lunch (local menu) only costs S/8 per person and the food is great!


Lemonade – in Peru it always come with a layer of egg white foam on top.  We were told that this keeps the lemonade fresh.


Appetizer/salad – fries with tomatoes and onions.  It’s actually a cold dish


Quinoa soup


Special of the day – fried fish


Inca Grill

Address:  Portal de Panes #115 Plaza de Armas, Cusco

Inca Grill is located in the Plaza de Armas in Cusco.  It is a more upscale restaurant and caters to a lot of tourists.  The menu itself is pretty diverse, ranging from pizzas and pastas to traditional Peruvian dishes.


Instead of bread, the restaurant starts with fresh fried potato chips, with a spicy green sauce.  I’m not sure if it’s the variety of potatoes they used but the chips were not that crunchy.


After days of eating Peruvian food, I was ready to try some other foods!

French onion soup.  The beef broth wasn’t too overwhelming and the onions were naturally sweet.  Yum!  S/23


Goat cheese and spinach stuffed chicken breast with elderberry and port sauce.  This dish was OMG good!  The elderberry and port sauce went perfectly with the juicy chicken and balanced the goat cheese.  The mashed potatoes were nicely whipped and tasted great with the sauce too.  S/39



Sacred Valley

At the Sunday market in Pisac, I came across this.  Can you guys guess what this is?

This fruit comes in a variety of sizes.  The smallest is like a plum size, while the largest is watermelon sized.  I’m not sure what the fruit is called, but the vendor told me that it tastes like melon.  I was a little doubtful, but decided to try it anyway.  And really, it was like a mini melon!


Tunupa Valle

Address:  Kilometro 77 Carretera Pisaq – Ollantaytambo

Our Sacred Valley tour included lunch in the Sacred Valley.  Since we all signed on with different tour agencies (and therefore paid different prices), even though we were on the same bus, the bus driver dropped us off at 3 separate restaurants for lunch.  The restaurant that we ended up at was really nice – it’s a hotel/restaurant.  Built like a huge Peruvian villa, there is the river running through the back, with llamas and vicunas running wild.  There’s also a live Peruvian band which played some really nice traditional music.


The restaurant seating – this is only like a quarter of the restaurant space



The ceviche station – pick your ingredients


The ceviche maker will then whip up fresh ceviche for you!


Roasted pork leg

Time to eat!  The green soup is actually a corn chowder.  Overall, I’m really impressed by the Peruvian buffets.  They offer so many varieties and yet can maintain the quality and taste of the food, in almost every dish.  Awesome!



Address:  Ave Ferrocarrill, no. 119, Ollantaytambo, Peru

This restaurant is located near the Peru-Rail train stop, so for those of you who are catching the train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu, it’s a good place to stop for a meal.  There’s free wi-fi and it’s right next to a stream.  It’s really soothing to eat a meal here, while listening to the gentle sounds of the water flowing.


Sandwich de chicharron – fried pork leg on top of onions and sweet potato slices.  Interesting combination but it works!  S/11


Aji de gallina – this is a traditional Peruvian dish.  Shredded chicken in a spicy cream sauce with raisins.  Yum!  S/23


Since I really liked the food at this restaurant, I came here for breakfast too.  Set breakfast which includes all of the below for only S/15.  Breakfast was also outstanding!

Orange juice


Breakfast – scrambled eggs with Andean cheese, cooked tomato chunks and toast


Hot chocolate.  I noticed that many of the more high-end restaurants make hot chocolate from scratch – meaning that they use the unsweetened Cafe Britt cocoa powder and mix it with steaming milk.  So, you’d have to actually sweeten your own hot chocolate.  🙂


And that concludes food in Peru, finally!  In the works are the recent LA and Chicago restaurants that I’ve been to.  Stay tuned!

Food in Peru – Part 1

Finally, I have time to write about the food I’ve tried on my recent trip to Peru!  Hope you guys enjoy it!

This post will be separated by the different cities that we visited, so for those of you who are planning on visiting Peru, hopefully this will serve as a good guidance.  🙂  Please note that prices are in Peruvian Soles.



El Pallar Restaurant

Address:  Carretera Panamericana Sur Km. 297, Subtanjalla, Ica, Peru

This was recommended by the lady running the hostel since she was worried about our safety going into the local Sunday market for breakfast.  So the taxi whisked us away to this restaurant.

We weren’t really sure what to order, since the restaurant staff didn’t speak any English, so we decided on a breakfast for four option.  Everyone at the restaurant was super nice — the owner came out to greet us and showed us his “zoo” in the backyard, while also offering complimentary shots of wine and pisco at 7am.  After our meal, our chef came out to explain the history of the restaurant and to see if we liked the food.

Our breakfast.  Can anyone guess what this is?


We later found out from the chef that it was stir-fried bull-meat.  The meat is tougher than beef but the sauce was really good with the bread!  S/24 for the 4 people portion




La Encantada Cafe

Address: Calle Bolognesi 592, Nazca, Nasca, Peru

Our taxi driver took us here after I explained to him, in my broken Spanish, that we were all really hungry and just wanted to eat some good Peruvian food.  At first we thought that this was one of those tourist restaurants, but the food was actually really good!

I ordered the seafood soup, which was excellent.  Even though the soup is listed as a main entree, it’s just soup. Remember to order a side of rice!  I think it was S/23 for the soup.


One of my friends order the lomo saltado – Peruvian stir-fried beef with fries.  Nice pyramid shape on the rice!  S/28


My other friend ordered escabeche de pollo – a chicken dish, which she really liked.  S/22




Pura Fruta

Address:  Calle Mercaderes, No. 131, Arequipa, Peru (just about a block from the Plaza de Arma, on the same street as the Burger King/KFC/Starbucks)

After wandering around Arequipa for a bit, we were hungry and wanted to find a good place for lunch.  We happened upon this place, on our way to the Plaza de Arma.  This place serves a good selection of smoothies and sandwiches!


My lunch:  large butifarra sandwich – Peruvian roast pork  S/9.  Yum!


Smoothie:  maracuya, melon y fresa (passion fruit, melon and strawberry) S/8.  This was a great combination!



Chi Cha por Gaston Acurio  

Address:  Calle Santa Catalina 210, int 105, Arequipa, Peru (this is literally across the street from the Monasterio de Santa Catalina)

For dinner, we decided to splurge on a more high-end restaurant.  Chi Cha was in our guidebooks and has pretty decent reviews on TripAdvisor, so off we went!  Apparently, the chef is pretty famous.  And there is a location in Cusco as well.


The restaurant serves an assortment of bread and breadsticks, once your food order has been taken.  Some of the bread is made from potatoes.  Freshly baked and warm.  Mmmm…


Starting off the dinner a drink – I ordered the Pichu Pichu which contains pisco quebranta, jugo de tumbo, hojas de albahaca, peachtree, ginger ale.  Really strong!  S/18


For appetizer, we shared a ceviche trio.  3 different types of ceviche with varying degrees of spiciness and spices.  Good!  S/38


Since freshwater shrimp is only limited to certain months of the year and was available in September, I decided to order the tacu cauche de camarones (creamy sauce of potatoes, onion, tomatoes, hot pepper, cheese and fresh water shrimps served over mashed arequipenean beans).  The freshwater shrimp tastes like crawfish but without the muddiness!  S/42




Tulipans Restaurant Pizza Bar

Address:  Jr. Lima 394/ esq. Jr. Libertad 414, Puno, Peru

There are a lot of tourist restaurants along one of the main streets in Puno and we just picked one out for lunch.  Most of the restaurants have a menu in front for you to peruse through.  Some even have promoters in front, like in some parts of Asia.  🙂


The menu


Since Puno is located at pretty high altitude (over 12K feet), we all ordered coca tea to alleviate any possible altitude sickness.  Trust me, the tea really works!   Also, just as a side note, coca tea leaves are used to make cocaine… so don’t get addicted!  😉  Inka Cola is also a must-try (although you can also get it in Peruvian restaurants in LA)… tastes just like bubble-gum!  S/3 each


Puno is located very near Lake Titicaca which has an abundance of trout and king fish.  So I ordered Tulipan’s king fish.  There’s even star-fruit as a garnish!  I thought star-fruit was only in Asia. :p  The king fish was pretty good, although a bit small on the portion size   S/26


One of my friends wanted to try cuy (guinea pig, yes guinea pig!) ever since we started planning our trip, so this was the first one that he tried.  I tried a very small bite – the meat was bland and the texture is similar to chicken.  I just don’t have it in my heart to eat a pet…. Most restaurants serve the whole carcass, so that you can see it and eat it in its entirety. S/30


One of my other friends ordered Tulipan’s special chicken – chicken cooked in white wine and it was really tasty!  S/25


For dessert, we all shared a banana flambe!  Yummy!  S/11



Restaurant “Karol”

Our hostel recommended this local restaurant for dinner.  It’s located near the main square.  When he said local, it was really local.  I think we were the only tourists there.  Well-prepared Peruvian home-style food and the prices are unbeatable.  Tourist restaurants generally charge at least 6 times more  for food than local restaurants.  Be prepared to speak some Spanish!


The limited menu – only 4 items!


Since it was really cold in Puno while we were there, we all ordered the caldo de pollo (Peruvian chicken noodle soup with potato and egg).  It comes with lime, green onions and roasted corn nuts on the side, which then you can leisurely sprinkle over your soup.  S/3

The toppings – the roasted corn is on the second stack


Caldo de pollo



Will try to post Food in Peru – Part 2 sometime later on this week.  Stay tuned.