Explore the piquant delights of the Americas’ first fusion cuisine at this charming west-sider.
Peruvian cuisine became something of a national foodie obsession four years ago, when USA Today and the Culinary Institute of America, among others, singled out its unique fusing of Asian and Latin traditions as a rising dining trend.
Not that you’d notice in Phoenix, where Peruvian restaurants routinely come and go. At the moment, we have three, by my count — the exquisite El Chullo in midtown Phoenix, Tumi Fine Peruvian restaurant in Chandler and now, 3-month-old Andes Peruvian Restaurant in West Phoenix. Owned by chef Oscar Graham (who also ran Tumi before selling it earlier this year), Andes is homey and utterly lovable, featuring just about every classic dish a homesick Peruvian could want.
Read: I hope you’re in the mood for lots and lots of potatoes.
The appetizer section is rife with them, featuring a classic cold dish of papa a la Huancaína, boiled and sliced potatoes mantled in a velvety, faintly spicy sauce containing fresh cheese and aji amarillo, the mild Peruvian pepper whose yellow color reflects the Incas’ sun-worshipping roots. Usually a favorite for me, this paler, blander version needs salt and more of that fruity aji amarillo. However, papa rellena, a crunchy, deep-fried mashed potato croquette, is just right, stuffed with a salty-sweet combo of minced beef, hard-cooked egg, black olives and raisins. Even better is the causa rellena de camarón, a cool, pretty layer cake of aji amarillo-tinted mashed potatoes, sparked with lime and intersected by a layer of mayonnaise-dressed shrimp salad, then topped with crispy fried shrimp, hard-cooked egg, olives and red bell peppers. Marinated beef heart – sliced, skewered and grilled – is excellent, too, offering up robust beefy flavor and the spongy texture of beef tongue.
Peru is equally famous for its ceviche, and the most decadent pick at Andes is the aptly named orgía de marisco – an, ahem, orgiastic platter of white fish, shrimp, scallops, mussels, calamari and octopus, marinated in lime and pisco. The ceviche is accompanied by crispy, flattened tostones (fried plantains) and huge, creamy kernels of choclo (Peru’s savory white corn). If you prefer your seafood cooked, not acidulated, go for an entrée of Los Andes Jalea, a shareable platter of lightly battered and fried fish strips, smoothed with plucky salsa criolla (red onions, aji amarillo, lime and cilantro) and served in a steaming heap with sautéed crab, shrimp, scallops, calamari, octopus, clams and mussels.
Lomo saltado, a juicy, soy-sparked stir-fry of beef tenderloin, onion, tomato and tangy cilantro sauce, served with rice and french fries, is a classic example of Chifa – Chinese cuisine fused with Peruvian – and you’ll love it. Seco de res – Peruvian beef stew in cilantro sauce – is just as good, a crazy-tender comfort food dish sided with creamy Peruvian white beans.
Desserts are outstanding, so save room for thick, luscious crema volteada (Peruvian flan) and exquisite alfajores (melt-in-your-mouth shortbread cookie sandwiches filled with rich dulce de leche).
If you’ve never gotten around to trying Peruvian food – one of the most interesting and sophisticated fusion cuisines on the planet – now’s the time and here’s the place.
Andes Peruvian Cuisine
Contact: 6025 N. 27th Ave., Phoenix, 602-368-9205, losandesphx.com
Hours: Tu-Sa 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m., Su 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m
Highlights: Causa rellena de camarón ($9.95); anticuchos ($8.95); orgía de marisco ($18.95), Los Andes Jalea ($19.95); lomo saltado ($13.95); pollo a la brasa ($15.95 ); picarones ($5.95); alfajores ($4.95)