Peruvian Infusion Confusion

20 Sep

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Many years ago in the first year of our food group’s existence, we traveled to Corona, Queens for a dinner at a restaurant called La Pollada de Laura (Cooked in Corona). The restaurant was simple yet comfortable and owned and run by a Peruvian family. The ceviches were plentiful and perfectly “cooked” in lime juice and chili peppers. The fried seafood in the jalea was fresh, crispy and accompanied by a salsa criolla while the lomo saltado, beef with onions and fried potatoes was piquant with citrus, the contrast between the beef and the grilled onions along with the French fries, perfection. We ate until we were bursting and the food, including all that fresh fish, dessert and beer was well under our $20 budget. We wondered how such a place with prices like that could exist. Sadly, La Pollada de Laura did not exist much longer; it closed a few years after our experience there, but the restaurant set the bar for all other Peruvian restaurants we have visited since.

So when Mike from Yonkers sent out the email announcing his choice of Carta Brava and noted that the food was Peruvian, he included, in parenthesis “again,” I was hopeful but not optimistic that the very high bar set almost 15 years ago could be met.

The restaurant, a small, really more of a takeout place located on a side street in ethnically diverse, New Rochelle, noted on its sign that it served “Peruvian Infused cuisine.” Why would good Peruvian food need an infusion of anything, I just didn’t know, but I did try to keep an open mind.

When dining at a Peruvian restaurant the ceviche is always a must and both Mike from Yonkers and Eugene ordered the mixed ceviche. It arrived in a small bowl, the fish cooked by the acid though whatever else was infused in it diluted some of its usual bold flavor.

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Ceviche

The jalea, a fried mix of seafood; fish, squid, shrimp was done well, not greasy and complemented by the spicy house made criolla sauce. But, and I know I was asking too much, it just could not compare to the mountain of seafood that was the jalea of La Pollada de Laura.

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Jalea

Gerry’s chicken leg, also known as pollo a la brasa,  arrived presently beautifully on a white platter; the rotisserie chicken glowing a deep bronze color  and served with green (cilantro) rice. The dish was a very pretty picture but left Gerry wanting more, something that never could have happened back at La Pollada de Laura.

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Pollo a la Brasa 

Finally, after most of us, Mike from Yonkers excluded of course, were done, Zio’s lomo saltado with beef and shrimp arrived. Also assembled with attention to photographic detail, the saltado was flavorful but again, the authenticity, or was it something else, was just missing.

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Lomo Saltado

“I think this is suburban Peruvian food,” I said to Gerry who nodded his agreement.

“It needs an infusion of something but I just can’t say what,” he said.

No one else could either and we were even more speechless when the check arrived and put us well over budget. We’ve overpaid for meals in the past, but this one left us hungry and nostalgic for a real home-cooked Peruvian meal on Northern Boulevard.

 

Carta Brava

6 Division Street

New Rochelle

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