Today I went back to a restaurant (for the third time!) that I wasn’t entirely convinced that I liked. It has been an interesting experience. The first time I ate here I was pretty excited. A lot of the other students had been talking about the restaurant and seemed to really like it.
The restaurant itself is very bright and pretty. It is entirely upstairs, and it is clearly a tourist-focused restaurant. The staff speak very good english and the bathrooms are some of the cleanest and largest I’ve seen here.
They have a small section with couches and some balcony seating. The lights above the bar are made with a central light that has plastic bottles attached. All of the artwork on the walls are pictures taken in Green’s organic garden.
I got the menus to browse, and despite the fact that I always look at the menu before entering a restaurant I always have to look at it again inside! There were two menus, the drink menu and the food menu. Unlike the usual menus, I actually looked at the drink menu. They have some pretty interesting fruit juices and smoothies. Despite the interesting selection, I have only ever had one. But, I keep coming back partially for this drink (and for other reasons!).
They have a rather extensive menu that includes a great deal of alpaca. I still have not tried alpaca here. It makes me think too much of cats because of how they are supposedly viewed by the locals. Apparently some people think of these animals (or llamas, I can’t remember which) like family, like brothers. Either way, it just creeps me out a little bit. People do say that alpaca tastes better than cow or lamb.
One thing I like about their menu is the little legend at the bottom. They label every item on the menu as being 80, 90, or 100% organic.
For my first meal, I was going to take the waiter’s advice and get the “mango, passion fruit, peppermint and soursop nectar,” but they were unfortunately (or fortunately) out of soursop. Instead, I got the one that sounded best to me, the “pear, apple, ginger and peach nectar.” This was a wonderful drink. The first taste to me wasn’t great, but that was because I had forgotten that it had ginger in it, and it was just a little shocking. Despite that, the ginger really blends in well with the other flavors. Unlike some places where you get fruit juice, you get the entire fruit with this one. They put all of the ingredients in a blender with a little water and a little sugar (I asked, I plan to try and replicate this at home!) and blend it until it is smooth. This gives it a little bit of a texture so that, while it isn’t quite a smoothie (no yogurt), it is a bit thicker than your average juice. The picture shows the juice when it is just brought out. Over time the thicker part floats upward while the juice sinks down. It is an interesting experience to drink a juice that changes as you drink it!
This first visit was soon after my visit to Pisac, where I discovered how wonderful pumpkin soup can be. So, when I saw that they had pumpkin soup here I wanted to try it. I wanted something more than soup, so I also got a side dish. Let me state once again, I don’t think that peruvian restaurants know the meaning of a small dish! Both dishes came out huge. I couldn’t have eaten that much if I tried! The second dish I got was a “taboule of quinoa with eggplant, asparagus, zucchini, tomato and olive oil.”
When I got the two dishes, I was shocked that I didn’t really like either of them. Neither of them had much spice, and the texture of the quinoa was rather off-putting when the flavor wasn’t good. The quinoa wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t good in that quantity. I could see myself liking it if it were a fraction of the size and served with a main dish. I was thinking that it would be a really slim possibility that I ordered two very different dishes and managed to get the two bad things off of the menu.
After this experience, I wasn’t really planning on coming back. I really loved the juice, and I had considered just coming for a drink and dessert (I might do that anyway – their food is expensive!). But then I got a photography assignment to tell a story. I got the option of “a day in the life of a stranger” or “a small business.” The one with the stranger sounded creepy. I don’t like taking photos of people without their permission, and I didn’t know anyone who I could do this assignment with without inconveniencing either them or myself. So I decided that I would do the small business and that I would use the Casa de Don Ignacio where I am staying. It would be convenient (and I wouldn’t feel creepy for stalking some small business that doesn’t know me) and I had been needing to take picture for myself, anyway. While I was taking pictures, Luis the manager asked me about what I was doing. When I explained my idea he offered to call Greens to ask them to let me take pictures there. He was the manager at Greens for a couple of years, and apparently saved them from going under. I decided to take him up on his offer because it sounded more interesting than doing it all at the hotel.
I got there a little early and the chef that Luis had spoken to hadn’t arrived yet. I decided to go ahead and order something while I started to take pictures around the restaurant. I could have just had another one of those great juices, but I wanted to order a bit more since I was getting this great opportunity. I ordered a quinoa croissant since I was still a little full from breakfast. I also got another juice. The food arrived, and it was sooo much better than last time. The croissant was warm and it came with butter and blueberry preserves. I don’t know if there was much quinoa in it, but however they made it was good!
After how much better this food was, I was vaguely planning on returning before I left. Today, I was actually planning on going to the much-cheaper Mutu that I discovered yesterday, but they were closed. There was no sign, so I don’t know what their hours are…
Anyway, I decided to come back to Greens. I made a few menu choices, but I was having trouble deciding. I asked the waiter his opinion and he chose the item that I was least likely to pick. I decided to go with it anyway. I got the caprese sandwich. The item was described as “buffalo mozzarella, basil, tomato, pesto and balsamic reduction on a whole wheat ciabatta.” This item was 90% organic. And of course, I also got juice.
I got the plate, and it was absolutely gorgeous! It came with a little salad that had a flower in it. I have heard about edible flowers in salads, but I had never seen one before! The flower had a surprisingly spicy flavor to it. The salad dressing was interesting. It was slightly sweet, but not sugary. It was brown and seemed to have freshly ground pepper in it. The salad was good (and interesting), but the sandwich was wonderful! It was toasted and it had far more tomato than I am used to eating. Despite my general dislike of tomatoes, they seem to be much better here (or maybe I am simply more open-minded about what I eat when I am traveling…). It had lots of fresh basil and a little bit of sweetness from the balsamic reduction. I think that the rest of the sandwich balanced out the sweetness so that it was just a hint instead of being a sweet and sugary sandwich.
After all this food, I decided that I needed to try dessert. I was leaning towards their chestnut pie, but after how good the sandwich was I decided to take the waiter’s advice again. I still think that the pie would have been really good, but the chocolate and coffee mouse were great. I got the dessert, and it was unusually large for a rich mouse. I didn’t know where the coffee flavor came in until I managed to dig down a little bit. There was a second layer. The top layer was chocolate, and it was thick and creamy and very rich. The second layer was coffee, and it was fluffier and lighter. Unfortunately, I ate to the point that I felt slightly ill. Again. I seem to do that a lot…
I don’t know what the white bit on top is. I suspect that it is yogurt. I have heard that yogurt here is thin like this, but since I am not a yogurt fan I don’t have a basis of comparison. Either way, it didn’t add much flavor. It is pretty, though. The cookies were really good. They helped to mute the intense chocolate flavor until I dug down into the coffee part. They were a little crumbly and pretty tasty.
Out of three visits, I will say that I really like this restaurant. I would definitely like to come back if I have time, but at this point I have quite a few restaurants to return to and not much time. Maybe I should put this restaurant lower on the list because I disliked the food the first time, but maybe not. The juice is always good, after all!
Update – 8/9/2013
Today is my last full day here in Peru. I got done with school early because of finals (I only had to drop my Photography portfolio off, so no Photography class), so I decided to have an early lunch before the farewell dinner tonight. I was really craving that juice again (I’ll need to look into a version of that I can make at home…) so I went to Greens. Now, I’m kind of wishing that I had tried something new for my meal (I got the Caprese sandwich again), but it was still very good. No flower in the salad this time, but they did have an appetizer they brought out. I think it was quinoa hummus (they have that on the other sandwich I was considering) with some carrot sticks. It was really good, with a bit of a kick without being super spicy. It was rather chunky, too.
For a bit of background on part of the reason I didn’t get the sandwich with hummus (which sounded really good), I finally gave in and went to Jack’s Cafe the other day with my Photography class. Many of the other students talk about how this place is great. A few have even said that this place has the best food in Peru. I hadn’t wanted to go to an American restaurant in Peru (1. they would get it wrong, 2. I am going back to America now). I was finally won over when they mentioned that it is a little bit Mediterranean. Maybe I got the wrong thing, but the salad I got was not very good tasting. It had some tomatoes cooked to the point of melting, some cheese, avocados, some eggplant that was really bitter, olives and a tiny bit of dressing. The lettuce pieces were too big for my mouth, and that’s saying something (and I really don’t like salads that you have to manually chop to fit into your mouth). It came with hummus and pesto to go with (pita, but not really) bread. I deliberately filled up on bread. That is not a good recommendation for a restaurant. Maybe I did pick the wrong thing, but the only reason I got this salad was because nothing else really sounded good. Even then, the hummus was really bland and I assumed that this was the style of hummus in Peru.
Anyway, back to Greens!
After my appetizer, juice and sandwich I decided that my last day in Peru should be spent trying to make myself Ill. I gave in and got the Chestnut pie. I have never had a chestnut before, and I somehow managed to dissolve the assumption that it would be similar to pecan pie in the US before I got it (I don’t know if I would have gotten it if I thought it would be like pecan pie…). Anyway, this was a truly spectacular dessert. It was a piece of pie with a small scoop of ice cream and caramel drizzled under the dessert. It also had a little crunchy, crumbly cookie with it. The pie was warm and it had a thick, buttery crust. It wasn’t crumbly, just sweet like a cookie that is heated and turning into crumbles. The filling of the pie was more like an apple pie than a pecan pie in design. It had the chestnuts tossed with something sweet and crumbly and warm (it was very similar to the crust). The caramel drizzled on the plate was not US caramel. It was a bit richer, but I still wished there was more. The ice cream was really interesting. It wasn’t smooth, it had an extremely crystalized texture. Personally, I really like that in an ice cream, but I know that a lot of people wouldn’t like that. What was really interesting was the flavor. Particularly when combined with the texture, it reminded me of snow ice cream (when you get snow from outside and mix it with milk, sugar and vanilla). It was really good.
I’m really glad that I went back. Even if I could have gotten something new off of the menu, I am glad that I finally got the chestnut pie. I have been eyeing it since I first saw it on the menu!