The Hidden Museum

2013.Jul.23 Tuesday · 2 comments

in Food & Recipes, Life, Restaurants

I had to put my foot down about hanging around the house “visiting”. Enough is enough already, and Henry’s here for the next month, he can do more visiting after I head out early next week. So we got out and about for a portion of the day yesterday.

Sopa de Habas

Though, first, of course, we had to be fortified with a big steaming bowl of fava bean soup whipped up by Maria.

Barrio El Golf
Barrio El Golf

I knew in the back of my mind that Trujillo had to have some nicer sections of town, it’s just that on the two previous visits, pretty much what we did is stayed circumscribed within the downtown area and the northeast section, La Libertad, where the family lives. Our other ventures tended to be outside of town. But we took a drive through one of the posher areas with Henry’s brother-in-law (does that make him my brother-in-law once removed, or is there some other designation?) – El Golf – that seems to be pretty wealthy families and a lot of politicians and military higher-ups. Most of the homes aren’t even overly visible, being behind high walls with security around them, but there are some nicer homes and apartment buildings along the main boulevard.

Museo Cassinelli Mazzei
Museo Cassinelli Mazzei

Most interesting for us, however, was the Museo Cassinelli Mazzei. Henry had heard of it but never been. It’s a small, private museum, currently hidden away behind a massive construction project. Entering the building you pay your 7 soles and are then escorted through a series of security doors that take you down into the basement (it felt a little like the opening to Get Smart!, where, on display are close to a thousand artifacts, mostly pottery, from the pre-Incan era in the general area of Trujillo. This is a small part of a private collection of over six thousand artifacts that Juan Cassinelli Mazzei, an Italian amateur archaeologist, collected over the years. The balance of the collection is locked up in a private bank vault somewhere in town, inaccessible to the rest of the world, a true shame. He died last year and his son is now in charge of the collection – from what little I was able to glean, he’s willing to have the collection moved to a larger museum, or even have a new one created specifically for the collection, if a) the government will help finance the project and b) if the security of the collection can be assured, something that is, I gather, a big problem here – and not just security from thieves out and about, but those within t government as well. Rather than select out a few representative photos, I put up a Flickr set with all the photos I took during our unfortunately brief visit to the museum.

El Celler de Cler

Given that most of the folk we know here in Trujillo don’t tend to go out to fancier restaurants we decided that in order to try a few nicer spots we’d have to rely on TripAdvisor and FourSquare recommendations. Unfortunately the listings are pretty limited pickings, and seem to tend towards cafes, sandwich shops, and pizzerias. I don’t know if that’s a function of the local economy and/or culture which might explain the latter, or that either tourism is lacking, transient, or just more budget oriented, which might explain the former. There are fancier restaurants in town. We were downtown at the time (after the museum Henry decided we needed a couple of hours relaxing, so we went to a local spa to steam…) so we went to the Plaza de Armas to try one of the spots – La Llave – which was listed as one of the top, nicer Peruvian restaurants in town, but turned out to be a sandwich shop, albeit a quite pretty one – so we walked a block or two to El Celler de Cler, where we found a somewhat more elegant setting, along with a beautiful balcony surrounding the second floor, where we sat down at an al fresco table for dinner. surprisingly given the setting, the table was immediately set with paper placemats, cheap plasti-pak condiments, and a little ramekin of garlic croutons in lieu of bread.

El Celler de Cler

The menu is decidedly not Peruvian for the most part, despite once again being listed as a top Peruvian spot – the appetizers are basically different salads and not much else, the main courses there are about a dozen different ways of preparing beef, mostly just different international sauces, a couple of chicken dishes, and a dozen different sauces for fettucine. We didn’t feel like wandering on further, and it was a nice setting…. Henry ordered up a mixed salad to start – great fresh vegetables with a really good vinaigrette.

El Celler de Cler

And I went for the tomato salad with red onions and the same vinaigrette – adding in those garlic croutons upped it a notch as well.

El Celler de Cler

Henry wanted pasta, and picked with “alfredo criollo peruano” – which seemed to mean, in the end, an alfredo sauce made with cream and slices of ham. It actually wasn’t bad, nicely seasoned and balanced, and the pasta was cooked properly.

El Celler de Cler

I decided on the chicken breast with the “pisco stir fry” as it would be translated – pretty much a stir fry of bell peppers, onions and tomatoes with a little soy and a healthy dose of pisco. Slightly saltier than I would prefer and the chicken was just a touch overcoooked, but overall a good dish, and I loved the crunchy roasted potatoes on the side.

We also had a bottle of local wine, Tabernero Blanco de Blancos, a blend of Chardonnay, Chenin blanc and Sauvignon blanc that was surprisingly good, though way overpriced at 90 soles – nothing on the wine list is less than 70, and that’s a wine that in the States probably sells for $10-12, or less than a third of the wine list price – as noted in one review back in Lima, there are hefty import taxes and costs here, but that shouldn’t apply to domestic wines – still, wine here is generally pretty overpriced, and, likely few people other than tourists drink it. Service was friendly, but slow and a bit scattered – we ordered food and water first, then about ten minutes later the wine, but the last arrived a good ten minutes before the appetizers, and the water didn’t arrive until we were done with those, and then our main courses arrived about 5 minutes separate from each other. Still, we had a good time and it’s certainly a place I’d recommend if you’re in the Plaza de Armas area, though I wouldn’t likely make a trip to there just to try it. And, other than the wine, quite reasonably priced – total bill was 170 soles, of which 90 was the wine, so two appetizers, two main courses, two bottles of water for 80 soles, or about $30 with tip.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Gonzalo Gil Lavedra July 24, 2013 at 06:21

Hey Dan how are you we met a few years ago, we had dinner at you place, when I was living in Lima and went to BA to visit my family. Now we are living in Thailand. Anyway there are some cool places to try local food in Trujillo like El Mochica on Bolivar street specially good is the “shambar” soup.
If you have time why don’t you go to Chiclayo I found the food there to be excellent specially at Fiesta restaurant of the Solis family, and on near by Lambayeque there are plenty of great places to eat. If you read spanish I suggest you buy the regional Peruvian guides by Rafo Leon there is one one the North that is excellent Guia de la Region Norte you can find it in any big mall in Trujillo at the book stores highly recommended specially their cultural sections. Good luck with your trip.

dan July 24, 2013 at 10:16

Gonzalo, great to hear from you – we’ve been to Chiclayo in the past, but that’s three hours away, not exactly a place to pop out to for lunch. And unfortunately we didn’t get to have shambar on Monday (the only day it’s served in Trujillo) because we were having our fava bean soup at the family household. We’ve done a lot of the traditional stuff in the past here, this time we’re trying to get to some of the newer, fancier, creative places – they’re just turning out to be harder to find than we’d expected. We have a short list and hopefully will get to a couple more – I have one coming up in the next post that we got to yesterday.

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