Perched above Pamela’s in Shadyside is a Peruvian store and restaurant going by the name of La Feria. It claims to be a sister restaurant to Pamela’s, which is strange considering the utter lack of Peruvian in Pamela’s menu, but there it is. And despite the lack of guinea pig and alpaca on the menu, I was eager to see how Pittsburgh would do Peru.
Nino’s Place in Gardena is one of the many Peruvian holes in the wall that seem to dominate the food scene in that part of LA. Yet, the place remains unique in that it offers just about the biggest Peruvian menu I have ever seen. In fact, I think the only things missing at Nino’s were alpaca and cuy. On the outside, Nino’s claimed to also offer up Mexican food, but these seemed no more than an attempt to get people through the door.
A lot of Latin American restaurants feel the need to include Mexican food to draw otherwise unsure customers in. For that reason, I am always excited to find ethnic restaurants sticking to their goods. One such restaurant is Peru Chix, basically a hole-in-the-wall type of place in Gardena. Peru Chix has such Peruvian favorites as Lomo Saltado, but I kinda thought chicken would be the way to go.
The Valley is a weird place. Seriously. Despite having worked there for more than two years, I had no idea that there was a section of Van Nuys that felt like being transported to downtown LA. Yet, to grab some Peruvian at Puro Sabor, I found myself in said section. It was definitely weird, but usually the strangest parts of town have the best food. I hoped this would be the case.
For a strange little town south of Los Angeles, Gardena packs a surprisingly diverse amount of food. Contributing to this diversity is a Peruvian place called El Rocoto. Its menu is vast and although neither alpaca or guinea pig are anywhere to be found on it, I had no trouble finding delicious-looking things to eat. But before ordering, the waiter brought us out a nice bread basket with their namesake sauce and another one to eat with the bread. It was an interesting mix, but I definitely enjoyed the sauces.
Originally situated near USC, Mo-Chica was a place I’d been wanting to get to for a while. The only trouble was that…well…why would I ever hang out around USC? Fortunately, earlier this year they moved to central Downtown LA to bring their Peruvian delights to a more cultured audience. I found my way to Mo-Chica for lunch and quickly found out they had themselves an interesting lunch special. And by interesting I mean that you couldn’t order any entrees without getting the lunch special. The lunch special included two sides and a dessert, which were different every day. In truth, they could have said all entrees come with two side items and a dessert, but for some reason the wording made me feel like I was somehow being cheated.
Not knowing what I was in for, and being led to believe that I was heading out for a night of cheap cocktails and free food, I headed to Picca Cantina on Pico. Unfortunately, although I had been promised free food, a miscommunication led to food being regularly priced. But this regularly-priced food still looked quite good and the bartender gave us our first round of drinks for free to apologize for the confusion. The menu consisted of some great-looking Peruvian dishes with a bit of a tapas flair. I ordered myself a Cusquena beer and then we got busy with ordering food.
Once upon a time I was totally on top of the food blogging world. Not so much that I was a good food blogger, but that I knew everything that was going on with food in LA. New restaurants, restaurants closing, new Taco Bell items. You name it, I knew it. But then I got busy with my real job and fell out of the loop. So when my buddy invited me out to dinner at A-Frame in Culver City, I really had no idea why he wanted me to go. But then with a little research I found out it was Ray Choi’s (the Man behind Kogi and Chego) newest restaurant escapade and was not to be missed. The old unvegan might have gone opening day, but the new unvegan let this restaurant opening get away from him, but was plenty excited to try it out.
Although it seems like I’ve reviewed just about every truck on the streets of LA, there are still a few waiting for an unvegan visit. Lomo Arigato is no longer one of these. This truck dishes out Peruvian food and although they don’t fuse this with any sort of Japanese food, they still threw the word “arigato” into their name. This confused me, but I couldn’t let the strange name distract me from food. There were only three dishes in their menu and although they all looked pretty good, I decided to order their namesake, the Lomo Saltado.
Alpaca wool is known to be some of the softest and warmest wool in the world, which made it even more intriguing to me as a meal. When I was traveling in Peru, I knew the meat of that woolly animal had to be tasted.
My quest wasn’t easy, and the translations on the menus didn’t make it any easier. During the course of the trip, I happened upon a dish called “German Nicket to the Pleasure,” “Red Shoe,” “Chicken a la Coca-Cola” and the most frightening of all, “Chicken Locust.” At a restaurant in Puno, I ordered the seemingly simple “Spaghetti with Meat Sauce.” When it arrived, it was spaghetti, some sort of yellowish sauce and a massive chicken breast just plopped atop the noodles, where you might typically picture a diminutive meatball.