Recently a new sandwich shop opened on Calle Berlin called Hot and Cool. Having heard good things about it (and never being one to pass up a sandwich), I went to check the place out yesterday and I’m glad that I did. No sooner had I sat down and began the delightful process of deciphering a new menu, than chef Julio Caballero came over and introduced himself to me.
Now, chefs are always interesting people to talk to (especially when you’re sitting in their restaurant) because they always get excited about everything that’s on their menu. Julio Caballero was no different, and almost instantly he sprinted off to the back to procure a bottle of the new Aji he had just mixed up and a couple pieces of bread to try it on. He poured a healthy serving on a piece of bread and offered it to me. Having seen that trick played before, I hesitated.
“How hot is it?” I asked.
He smiled and chomped on the bread happily, then served me up another. I watched him for a few moments to see if he started to sweat (although that indicates nothing when you’re in the presence of a chef–they can take their hot sauce), and finding he didn’t, I decided to give it a try.
The Aji sauce was the second hottest I’ve had in Lima, but it was a good kind of hot and I found I could manage it. It was the kind of Aji that let its presence be felt for about 10 minutes in your sinuses and the back of your throat. Chef Caballero watched me deal with his Aji intently and seemed pleasantly surprised that I didn’t go sprinting off to douse my head in a bucket of water (I have eaten Aji before–if you don’t like hot food, I suggest you politely decline the Aji).
Moving on to more important matters, Chef Caballero gestured at the menu and smiled as he asked, “what can I get you?”
Figuring I might as well take advantage of his expert opinion, I answered, “what’s the best thing you’ve got?”
Now, asking a chef what his best dish is, is like asking a parent which is his favorite child. There will be a lot of hemming and hawing, and a lot of nonsense like “they’re all equally good,” but if you push either a chef or a parent long enough they will eventually let an answer spill. In the end, Julio Caballero pointed me in the direction of his “Mechado” sandwich.
The Mechado turned out to be marinated beef that melted in your mouth, with lettuce, tomato, red pepper saute, boiled eggs and mushrooms. It was delicious, and it got even better when doused in the curry/mayonnaise sauce that the chef trotted out proudly. I washed the sandwich down with a large glass of pineapple juice and was imminently satisfied.
Hot and Cool takes pride in being a simple little sandwich shop, but I was pleasantly surprised at the attention to detail, the quality of service and the food. The Mechado was easily one of the best sandwiches I’ve had in Peru, and at 8.5 Soles, it was a bargain. I’m definitely going to become a regular and I hope to see you there!
Hot and Cool
Berlin 511 Miraflores