I came across a new place to get a taste of Peru recently. It’s called A Taste of Peru, and it’s a small eatery tucked away in a corner shop at South Orange Blossom Trail and West Taft-Vineland Road.
If you think you’ve been seeing a lot of Peruvian restaurants open up lately, you’re not imagining things. In fact, the annual report conducted by the National Restaurant Association on food and beverage trends listed Peruvian food number one under its ethnic cuisines What’s Hot list for 2014. In the past year, I’ve had two Peruvian restaurants open within two miles of my home.
Peruvian cuisine is rich and varied in styles, with influences from the native Incans and explorers and immigrants from Spain, China, Africa, Italy and Germany.
Unfortunately, many of the Central Florida restaurants that purport to be Peruvian offer little more than rotisserie chicken. I love me some rotisserie chicken, but there’s much more to Peruvian cuisine.
If the country has a national dish, it would arguably be lomo saltado. It’s a sort of stir-fry entree that offers a taste of the indigenous with a bit of Asian influence. It features strips of meat, usually beef and usually marinated in soy sauce and vinegar, stir fried with onions and tomatoes, with myriad herbs and spices. It is typically served atop fried potatoes with a side of white rice. Double starch -- my favorite.
A Taste of Peru’s lomo was both simple and complex, with big, chewable hunks of onions, hot pulpy bits of tomatoes, a sprinkling of fresh parsley for both color and flavor, crispy fried potatoes and a resulting sauce that suited the rice.
It was all flavorful and filling.
The space is small and very red. Tabletops have cloths topped with white butcher paper. Napkins are tearable paper and the flatware is a bit tinny. But the woman who greeted me and served my food treated me as though I was the only person in the place, which I was.
One of the televisions hanging on the wall next to the words A Taste of Peru (just in case you forgot where you were) was showing a Peruvian television program that was filmed in Peru, Nebraska. It was an amusing look at how a busload of Peruvians arrive in the tiny town and set about teaching them the food and culture of their namesake. I didn’t see a rotisserie chicken during the entire program.
A Taste of Peru is at 9521 S. Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner. Most entrees are in the teens -- my lomo saltado was $12.99. The phone number is 407-857-2734.