If you think back to my Mochikas post (assuming you have read my blog since then), I mentioned that the "diversity" of food in Vancouver is somewhat misleading. There really is no such thing when every other restaurant is Asian. Hey, I don't personally have a problem with that because I love Asian food. However, as much as we are hailed for our cuisine, it is pretty one-dimensional. So when I got an invite to try out Vancouver's newest addition to the Peruvian restaurant scene (which is not a large one), they didn't have to ask twice. Viv and I were expecting to try a few items and call it a day, but they sent out dish after dish until we couldn't eat no more. I can honestly say that we got a good gauge of the food and a food coma as well.
We started off with 2 beverages. The Chicha Morada was purple in colour due to the use of purple corn. It was sweet as a result and the pineapple juice only added to it. It had a cider-type of flavour from the use of cinnamon and cloves. The Chicha De Joar (not pictured) was intensely sweet due to the fermented corn. Despite the sweetness, we could really taste the alcohol content as well. As for the food, we had one each of the Tamal Criollo and Tamal Verde. The Tamal Criollo was full-flavoured with a touch of spice. It was a bit zesty too benefiting from the hot peppers. The texture was slightly gritty, but by no means hard nor dry. On the other hand, the Tamal Verde was milder with a herby hit (from the cilantro). Both were served with roast pork which was also full-flavoured and a bit salty. However, when combined with the pickled spicy onions and a bit of the tamale, it was a tasty bite.
Next up was some Anticuchos or skewered beef hearts. It was served with half of a boiled potato (which seemed to be seasoned and roasted as well) and green onions topped by hot sauce. The beef heart itself was slightly chewy and seasoned aggressively. The potato was fantastic as it was crisp on the outside, while soft on the inside without being mushy. A dab of the onions and hot sauce with the beef heart really amped the flavours. Arriving buried beneath a whackload of marinated red onions was the Cocktail de Ceviche. It consisted of raw fish marinated in lime juice, peppers and the aforementioned onions. There was cooked corn and toasted corn served on top. We found the cubes of fish to be of a good size. They were bouncy, tart (but just enough) and not fishy at all.
A familiar dish showed up next being the Papa a la Huancaina or boiled potatoes topped with a sauce of spicy cheese, hot peppers and milk. I've had this a few times and locally, at El Inka Deli. This particular version was quite pleasant with soft potatoes that still retained their shape and a cheesy sauce. Viv thought it was on the saltier side, but I enjoyed the good amount of flavour, especially when the potatoes were essentially a blank canvas. Originally, when we were perusing the menu, we really didn't give the Pollo a la Brasa a second thought. I realize it is a popular Peruvian dish, but roast chicken didn't really seem as interesting as some other items. Thank goodness we left the ordering up to them. The roast chicken leg was freakin' fantastic! As you can clearly see in the picture, the meat was plump and juicy. There was a lot of flavour due to the excellent marinade. Yet what really stood out was the chicken skin. It was completely rendered resulting in a crispy texture which also highlighted the exterior seasoning.
Our favourite dish of the entire meal was the Causa Rellena de Camarones. This was essentially an elaborate potato salad, yet it was a very tasty potato salad. It consisted of shrimp, peppers, onions, peas, carrots and mayonnaise sandwiched in between layers of mashed potato seasoned with lime juice and yellow hot pepper. Unlike the potato salad found at the family BBQ (unless it is a freakin' gourmet version), this one had heightened flavours (due to the lime juice and peppers) as well as a few different textures (like the pop of the peas, snap of the sweet shrimp and the crunch of the peppers). Moving along, as we were beginning to throw in the towel, we had the Ceviche de Pollo. This was spicy stewed chicken with onions marinated in lime and spices. This one I have to say was not one of our favourites. There was nothing wrong with the flavours as there was a bit of spice, a good lime bite and some sweetness. However, the chicken thigh was pretty tough on the most part. That made it a bit difficult to eat.
On the other hand, the Aji de Gallina was a much better chicken dish. It consisted of shredded chicken in a Peruvian yellow hot pepper sauce with ground walnuts and Parmesan cheese. This was packed with flavour with the saltiness from the cheese, spice from the peppers (but not overly spicy) and creaminess from the evaporated milk. It went really well with the rice. Okay, we were bound to get an Empanada somewhere during this meal and yes, it did show up. This baked pastry consisted of beef and onions. There was a sweet glaze on the flaky pastry which added to the already sweet filling. Hence, the wedge of lime was necessary to provide some balance to the flavours. Next was the Seco de Res Con Frijoles or stewed beef with cilantro, onions, potatoes and red peppers. We found the beef to be rather dry and chewy, however, the flavours were interesting (especially the cilantro as I shockingly didn't mind it). I liked the pop of the large sweet peas, as well as the soft beans on the side.
For our last savoury dish, we had the Lomo Saltado de Carne. This could be considered a fusion dish of sorts with elements of Asian flavours, in particular the use of vinegar. Hence the tangy hits with the steak, onions, tomatoes and peppers. The flavours were fine here as well, but once again, the beef was pretty tough. Lastly, we were presented with Alfajores and Lucuma Gelato. Alfajores are shortbread cookies with dulce de leche filling. These were sweet but not stingingly so. We loved the creamy filling. As for the lucuma gelato, it was definitely different. The texture was dense and mealy, yet sweet at the same time (because the lucuma fruit has a dry flesh). This was sweet, if not, educational way to end a really long meal. It is important to note the portion sizes were reduced so we could sample more food. But in the end, we were too full to walk. Overall, there were some really good dishes which would require a return visit.
- Lots of choice on the menu
- Some good flavours (albeit a bit mild)
- Something different
- Some meats (other than the really good Pollo a la Brasa) were dry
- Parking in the area is a challenge