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December 2016

Let Me Tell You about My First Time

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My friend and fellow PageDaily editor Daniela and I were invited to preview the spring menu at Bar Paya, an East Village restaurant and wine bar specializing in authentic Peruvian cuisine with a contemporary twist. As I walked into the restaurant, escaping the cold, I immediately felt like I escaped New York itself. Dark and cozy, the restaurant is lit with just 1 stunning, modern chandelier over the marble bar at its center. Candles are scattered across the bar top, with dimmed clear bulbs hanging over each table—the perfect spot for date night. Wine bottles line 1 wall, while the others, paneled in natural wood, are decorated with personal photographs taken while travelling in Peru. I couldn’t wait to be seated—and eat!

The menu is made up of 5 different, and I recommend ordering 4–5 plates per couple, ideal for sharing. Since my dinner date and I were hungry (read starving!), we ordered 5 plates, starting with the guacamole. Minutes later, a giant plate of mashed avocado with huge chunks of lobster and shrimp sat in front of us. We dug in with toasted plantain chips, and I never tasted better guacamole! I didn’t care that it wasn’t Mexican; this dish made me a convert to the twist. While we were devouring the first course, our second dish arrived—my first ceviche. We went with the tuna ceviche, served with pineapple bites, Peruvian corn, and a scoop of sweet potato. This might have been my favorite dish of the night, but there were plenty more on their way, and I was excited!

Next came grilled-chicken skewers marinated in aji amarillo, a Peruvian yellow chile pepper that gave the dish quite a kick, and grilled hanger steak with yucca fries and 3 dipping sauces. I was in protein heaven! Both meats were mouth-wateringly delicious, and the fries were a perfect, crispy side dish—especially since I’ve decided I want to live on potatoes for the rest of my life (hey, a girl can dream).

Last up for our savory dishes was what our waiter called “a hidden gem,” the barbecued-duck dumplings. A Peruvian causa—a traditional dish made by layering mashed potatoes with tuna salad and avocado—came with a gourmet twist. Ours were served on a thick potato base topped with shredded barbecued duck, then garnished with a toasted plantain. Another first for me—duck—was a success, and a hidden gem it definitely was!

Since we passed on cocktails at the start of the night, we ordered drinks with dessert (panna cotta with pisco tangerines, coconut, and almond slivers) for a great end to the night. I went with the Aji Punch, a spicy and tart cocktail made with mango nectar, pisco (brandy), and spices, while my date went with the Pomegranate Mojito.

After an adventurous meal (for me) and my first experience with Peruvian cuisine, I can’t wait to expand my palette even further! AND I can’t wait to go back to Bar Paya to sample its new brunch menu, this time with my favorite Peruvian coworker, Dania Slochowski—who has been quite envious since I recounted my meal. —Lindsay Leff

Bar Paya
65 Second Avenue, New York
212.777.6965

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