Restaurant reviews

Restaurant review: Molle Café & Bistro

Sheila Christensen Jeanneau

Nestled in a restored colonial building, this new spot to Barranco serves up quality dishes infused with creativity. Where will you go this weekend for brunch?

Restaurant review: Molle Café & Bistro

(Photo: Living in Peru/Marco Simola)

A couple months ago I started to hear about Molle Café & Bistro through word-of-mouth from various friends and on various Facebook food pages. The “buzz” was all about this fabulous breakfast and brunch spot located in bohemian Barranco. One of the things I miss about living in the U.S. are the bounty of breakfast and brunch joints, so I was eager to visit Molle.

The day of our visit to Molle, I realized I had previously met chef/owner, Matias Cilloniz several years prior in the kitchen at the Australian Embassy residence where he was working as a private chef. Matias was born in Lima and raised in Chincha. He graduated from Le Cordon Bleu Peru in gastronomy and culinary arts and went on to cook at various stints at the Four Seasons Hotel in Miami, at the Hilton in Queensland, Australia, kitchen staff at Central in Lima…just to name a few. Matias also created his own catering and consulting company. Prior to opening Molle, Matias could be found cooking various evenings side by side with Monica Kisic in a pop up at Barra 55 in Barranco, where together they created original and amazing organic menus.

(Photo: Living in Peru/Marco Simola)

When you enter the light blue colonial building at Colonia 131, you immediately notice the narrow hallway that leads to Molle. As you walk down the hallway of this beautifully restored colonial building, you will notice several small shops on the left side (artisanal gelato at Bosco Magico; Babel Bookstore and Ropa MM-Mirella Martire, a clothing boutique).

The decor at Molle is casual, understated and comfortable. You will find a good amount of eclectic artwork on the walls throughout Molle. The table area in the very back has great natural light and an array of hanging plants from the high ceiling. Molle has a cozier vibe and capacity for 44 people (32 at tables and 12 at the bar). The stoneware and plates used for the dishes and their subtle, earthy colors and textures also complement both the earthy cuisine and the subtle vibe of Molle.

(Photo: Living in Peru/Marco Simola)

The name of this cafe/bistro was inspired by the Schinus molle tree (also known as the Peruvian Pepper tree), famous for its fabulous gnarled trunks as it ages and the pink peppercorn berries that it produces. Matias has taken the approach in his cuisine of staying grounded in soil and soul. His dishes pay homage to the earth and its ingredients by his commitment in always selecting the best quality local and seasonal ingredients available.

The kitchen was bustling with enthusiastic teamwork when I passed by so I knew good things were to come. Molle continues with its simplicity by offering a diverse, but not overwhelming menu. We sampled nine different dishes the afternoon of our visit.

Our two starters were the perfect “comfort foods” for this dreary weather, and for me, both were reminiscent of the food I ate quite often in the German neighborhood I lived in many years ago in Chicago. The pork terrine with a peach chutney (S/ 26) was the first starter we sampled. Two hearty slices of pork terrine (the lean meat and fat portions of pork which are coarsely ground and compressed, brined and baked in a mold) and accompanied by slices of baguette and a slathering of mustard. The peach chutney was the perfect accompaniment with the pork. I enjoyed the concentrated textures of this plate and the richness.

Pork terrine (Photo: Living in Peru/Marco Simola)

Our second starter, nuevo rosti (S/ 18), was most definitely one of my favorite dishes. Rosti is typically a Swiss dish and is a type of a fritter (looks a bit like an oversized hash brown patty) prepared with coarsely grated potatoes. In this case, Molle uses coarsely grated yuca instead of potatoes. The crispness of the yuca compacted together then pan-fried and finshed in the oven and accented with pickled onion, kimchi (fermented Korean cabbage), mustard greens and a special house-made artisanal sour cream was satisfying on every level.

Nuevo rosti (Photo: Living in Peru/Marco Simola)

We sampled a couple different salads. Quinua dishes are in restaurants everywhere these days and after awhile they all seem to look and taste the same. At Molle, their quinua salad (S/ 24) stood out due to its presentation and ingredients. The combination of three kinds of quinua, together with small pieces of grapefruit, green apples and Andean mint (muña) and accents of dots comprised of avocado and goat cheese feta was light, earthy and fresh. A recent addition to the salads at Molle is their root salad (S/ 22). This was a colorful plate of various root vegetables (beets, carrots, onion, etc.) which were served smoked, pickled and raw and accompanied by Sacha Inchi seeds and sauce. It was obvious that great care was taken in the plating and presentation of this salad.

Quinoa salad with dots of avocado (Photo: Living in Peru/Marco Simola)

I am a huge fan of breakfast/brunch and in particular, egg dishes. Eggs Benedict has always been a life-long favorite for me. The Eggs Benedict (S/ 24), did not disappoint. Two perfectly prepared free range soft-boiled eggs served on top of rustic toast and tender slices of slightly smoky pork ham (from Delifrance) and generously bathed in hollandaise sauce. I am a bit obsessed when it comes to hollandaise sauce, and truly enjoyed Molle’s version prepared with burnt butter, white wine vinegar and worchestshire. I was surprised that no citrus (lime or lemon) was used, but this version definitely was rich and exceptional. Any citrus would have compromised the flavor of this particular hollandaise. I will definitely return for this dish.

Eggs Benedict (Photo: Living in Peru/Marco Simola)

The French Toast (S/ 22), was prepared using a high-quality authentic brioche bread from La p’tite France. The two thick slices were generously coated in a egg mixture and cooked nice and crispy on the outside with a slightly spongy texture on the inside, exactly how French toast should be prepared (there’s nothing worse than soggy French toast). A homemade guava syrup accompanied the French toast. I think for the 22 soles price, perhaps they could throw in a couple of slices of bacon for free. Bacon is available as an “extra” for an added cost.

The two dishes above are offered on the brunch menu. The french toast can also be found on the weekday breakfast menu. Due to the popularity of Molle’s weekend brunch (offered from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) no reservations are accepted for brunch. Saturday the restaurant is bustling and Sunday is packed all day, so be prepared for crowds.

We shared three main dishes. My two favorites were as follows. The palta a la plancha, botarga, nibs de cacao, hinojos (S/ 20) was a pleasant surprise. The grilled avocado, finely-grated botarga (salted, cured fish roe), cacao nibs and fennel slices made for a surprisingly rich and flavor packed dish. The slightly intense flavor of the botarga added a “kick” which elevated this dish. The fennel contributed freshness and the cacao nibs an interesting crunchy texture. Together all of these high quality ingredients complemented and balanced each other.

Palta a la plancha (Photo: Living in Peru/Marco Simola)

Our second main, pulpo a la plancha, col morado, pituca, masato (S/ 30) was comprised of grilled octopus, a grilled half wedge of purple cabbage and a purée of pituca (a Peruvian root vegetable, part of the taro root family). The octopus was tender and seasoned perfectly. We enjoyed the earthiness of the grilled purple cabbage. The pituca purée was a first for me and not one I am familiar with. The plating of this dish was simply beautiful and the light eggplant colored stoneware plate it was served on made this visually pleasing. I noticed many of the tables were ordering this dish the day of our visit.

Pulpo a la plancha (Photo: Living in Peru/Marco Simola)

Molle takes great pride in its organic coffees and utilizes top-quality Slayer espresso machines. They offer an array of excellent Peruvian coffees from Cusco, Puno, and Cajamarca, as well as from Ethiopia and Africa.

Matias likes to frequently change the menu at Molle. What you may have ordered in August quite possibly will no longer be available on the menu in October. In order to stay true to the seasonality and freshness of ingredients, the menu constantly needs to change. This also allows for no boredom, more fun and pushes for constant learning and improvement as well as keeping the creative juices flowing.

Beginning next week, Molle will offer four desserts on their menu: Sauteed bananas, miso butterscotch, curry and sour cream; plum, strawberries, kombu, and bitter chocolate meringues; goat yogurt mousse, tangerine and tomato jam, thyme and olive oil crumble and French toast. And coming soon…all-day waffles!

Also, don’t miss the live music and tapas that Molle offers every Thursday evening.

Matias Cilloniz is a sensitive and thoughtful chef and his commitment and dedication is to provide simple, balanced dishes with quality ingredients infused with creativity. The overall quality of food at Molle makes it well worth a repeat. I look forward to returning to Molle to see what Matias and his team and their unbridled and enthusiastic creativity come up with next.

Please note, Molle Cafe & Bistro is located inside the Colonia 131 building located at Prolongacion Av. San Martin 131. If you arrive at Av. San Martin 131 you will not find the restaurant. You need to go a bit further down. For reference, Molle is located next door to the popular restaurant, Isolina.

Molle Café & Bistro
Prolongación Av. San Martín 131

Phone: 489-5459
Reservations accepted Tuesday thru Friday
No reservations accepted for Saturday/Sunday Brunch

Parking available 1 block away
Closed Monday
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 8:30 a.m.-11:00 p.m.
Sunday: 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

Breakfast served Tuesday-Friday: 8:30 a.m.-11:00 a.m.
Breakfast: S/ 6-22
Lunch & Dinner served Tuesday-Saturday: 11:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m.
Starters: S/ 5-45
Sandwiches: S/ 18-25
Salads: S/ 20-24
Mains: S/ 20-50
Dessert of the week: S/ 15
Brunch served Saturday’s & Sunday’s: 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Breakfast: S/ 10-24
Sandwiches: S/ 16-25
Salads: S/ 18-24
Mains: S/ 20-30
Snack/Cocktail Menu: S/ 3-45
(currently available evenings only, but beginning next week, available all day)
Tasting Menu: S/ 88 (six-courses, excluding beverages)
Coffee beverages: S/ 7-12
Juices/Extracts: S/ 8-12
Infused Waters/Soda: S/ 4-12
Beer: S/ 8-16
Cocktails: S/ 20-30
Wine list varies

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