Yet another great Peruvian success story involving food, proving that it doesn’t matter how little you start out with, so long as you offer up plates of delicious Peruvian food and you have that special touch – a touch that is strangely commonplace in Peru – you’ll make a success of yourself.
I had heard of the place with the famous leche de tigre once or twice, but when I was bombarded with news of it from three different people in the space of 3 days, I knew I had to pay a visit. Surprisingly this spectacular little restaurant its on one of my well-trodden roots in the heart of La Victoria.
The story begins in 1989 when the Aymar brothers decided to open a small stand outside the stadium of the famous Alianza Lima football club. To hungry fans they sold ceviche, arroz con mariscos and chicha morada. The brothers had the special touch and soon built up a legion of fans of their own. It grew increasingly difficult to serve hundreds of people from a small stand, plus they were making good money, so why not, they thought, go legal.
Now employing 13 people to help out, serving from a decent food-cart and selling a larger variety of dishes to a larger number of people, there was one event that pushed them into the world of formality.
A famous sports commentator tried their food and couldn’t believe his taste-buds. “This is the real deal” he exclaimed, or in Spanish, the verídico. The name stuck, and he told everyone about it.
With increased fame and fortune, the brothers were able to leave behind their food cart and use the money they had saved to open a small restaurant, adding tables and décor as they could afford.
With the increased space the menu grew and the customers kept coming. In reality, they had only moved a few metres away, to a building just opposite the stadium. Match days would see the place packed, while locals would visit most other days.
Players from the Alianza Lima football club were also regulars. Training sessions mandated a visit to El Verídico for a leche de tigre, the manliest most macho of Peru’s world famous seafood items. The highly acidic spicy lemony fishy run-off from the ceviche making process is said to make you stronger, and if true, Alianza Lima definitely has to this day an advantage over other teams. The leche de tigre served in El Verídico de Fidel is not just a small amount of juice in a glass… it is a stomach-searing bowl-full and comes with fish, sweet potatoes, corn, and more seafood.
As their fame grew at the end of the 90s, Fidel, one of the brothers, travelled abroad to study the fine art of gastronomy. On his return, and very enthusiastic, he expanded the menu and expanded the restaurant. With his natural skill he invented several new dishes.
In 2001 the restaurant grew yet more and a second floor was added. It was still however a well kept secret, a locale known only to Alianza fans and locals. This changed with a visit from celebrity chef and reinvigorator of Peruvian cuisine Gastón Acurio. Presented on his show as the best place in Lima to have a leche de tigre the secret was out. Business boomed and Gastón is honoured with a huge portrait hung outside.
And I have to say, the restaurant’s success is very well earned. The food was amazing. And the leche de tigre so big I couldn’t finish it all – at least not with my stomach lining intact.
Thoughtfully, you can buy mixed dishes or piqueos so you can try a wide variety of menu items while only paying the price of one.
I met the one and only Fidel and requested the customary photo with him – he has thousands of himself and famous visitors plastered across the walls. Although I am the most famous person I personally know, Fidel was still happy to oblige.
Friendly waiters took me to the upper floor where to this day Alianza Lima players regularly visit and eat. None there that day though, but there and hundreds of photos.
And here are some of mine…