Truth be told, Seth’s actual birthday left quite a bit to be desired. His twenty-sixth fell on a workday, a Tuesday to be exact, and since we both work semi-long hours, we had planned to celebrate the following weekend. Well, I couldn’t just do nothing on the actual day, so during my lunch break I hurried to the grocery store, purchased a jar of Nutella and a few baking goods, and prepped the cookie dough for a batch (or three) of the Nutella-stuffed brown butter and sea salt chocolate chip cookies Seth had been eyeing on Pinterest. When my office clock changed from 7:59 to 8:00, I started to panic. What if I couldn’t bake the cookies before he got home? The surprise would be ruined! Everything turned out A-okay in the end due to Seth having to work until nine. Unfortunately, his timing also meant that we had little to no local options for dinner. As sad as it sounds, we ended up walking a few blocks to a street vendor and eating some questionable choriperros. (God, I really hate that piña sauce the vendors squirt atop their hotdogs.)
Saturday rolled around and we decided we should celebrate Seth’s birthday properly. After a full day of holiday shopping, we walked by La Macarena to see if Sipán, our first-choice Peruvian restaurant of the night, did in fact exist. (I had read several rave reviews online, but I had also seen several restaurants registered to that address.) It turned out that the storefront was empty, either out of business or closed for renovations. We then decided to go with our backup plan, a Peruvian hotspot in Usaquén by the name of 80 Sillas. The restaurant translates to ’80 Chairs,’ the exact number of seats in the house.
When Seth and I arrived in Usaquén, we saw throngs of people shopping at Hacienda Santa Bárbara, strolling around the square, and looking at lights. There’s no way we’re going to get into this restaurant, we thought. Lucky for us, most of the neighborhood’s visitors were just that—visitors. They were in the area to buy nice things for their loved ones and to snag some cheap street food, namely mazorca and empanadas, for themselves. Seth and I easily secured a table at 80 Sillas, ordered a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, and began to tackle the menu of ceviches. After some debate, we settled on a bowl of ceviche de pescado (pictured) with ginger, garlic, mango biche (green mango), fish sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, lime, and basil and a bowl of ceviche de pulpo with crunchy bacon, onion, papas criollas (Andean potatoes), suero costeño (fermented milk, similar to sour cream), lime, and cilantro. Both were very good, but I enjoyed the textures, flavors, and color of the latter more. It was all at once gummy, crunchy, and soft; fresh, salty, and tangy; not to mention, purple! For our second course, we shared the tiraditos de salmón—basically, salmon carpaccio served with roasted skinless tomatoes and a honey and red wine reduction—and the pulpo a la brasa—grilled octopus served with salted potatoes, caramelized onion, and a roasted red pepper aioli. Even though the pulpo a la brasa listed many of the same ingredients as the ceviche de pulpo, I was interested in comparing the gustatory impact of the different methods of preparation. Each dish was indeed unique, although I must admit I preferred the novelty of the colder version. The warmer reminded me very much of our week in Barcelona, when we dined at an obscene number of tapas bars. (If only wine were as cheap in Colombia as it is in Spain!)
After dinner Seth and I headed to the main square in Usaquén, where we purchased two cups of canelazo—a hot toddy of water, panela, cinnamon, cloves, lime juice, orange juice, and, most importantly, aguardiente—and admired the festive lights. All in all, I think Seth had a very happy birthday.
[80 Sillas: Calle 118 # 6A-05, Bogotá-Colombia]