Ever since my trip to Peru back in 2014 (has it really been over three years since I crossed off the biggest item on my bucket list?), I’ve become a fangirl of famed Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio. While I didn’t get to eat at his most famous restaurant in the Peruvian capital (Astrid & Gastón) due to time constraints, I did eat at another of his in the city of Cusco (for my review of my meal at Chicha, click here). And after learning that another of his restaurants was at the uber posh Mandarin Oriental hotel in Miami, I for sure added that to my culinary to do list.
Even though I hadn’t been to Chicago in over six years and had so…many…restaurants to try there, when I discovered that Acurio was indeed in the Windy City of all places, well, you can bet that reservation was made without a second thought. Located in the city’s hip and less touristy/more locals River North neighborhood, the interior was minimalist, with subtle decor suggesting Peru and its cuisine.
When in Peru (or in my case at a Peruvian restaurant), one orders the quintessential cocktail, the Pisco Sour ($12). It consists of Pisco (a type of brandy), egg white, lime, sugar, and amargo chuncho bitters. D opted for the beer he fell in love with while there, a Cusqueña ($7) which is a Peruvian-style Pilsner. In the course of the meal, he also tried a second beer, an Ecuadorian one called “Latitud Cero.”
Instead of bread, we were given fried plantain chips with a slightly spicy dipping sauce. I would have been fine with just these and my Pisco, although I suspect eating so many of the chips is what accounted for me feeling so full once I got my entree.
We were a tad lame in regards to our appetizer ordering. We both went with the Empanadas ($5 each). I opted for the Pollo which consists of rotisserie chicken, red onion, raisins, black olives, and recoto cream while D selected the Carne de Res which is beef sirloin, red onion, and huactay sauce. They also had a vegetarian option, a tamal-style one. Had I not gotten up at 4AM that day and been on the go over since, I would have tried Beef Heart Anticucho ($10) which is a Peruvian-style skewer adorned with beef heart (yes, that’s correct), potatoes, corn, and polleria sauce. But being dead tired, I was just not up for venturing into the unknown world of beef hearts.
For my entree, I went with a selection from the Chifa area of the menu. (Chifa is cooking that incorporates Peruvian and Chinese elements. Back in the late 19th century, droves of Cantonese immigrants came to Peru for work and ended up staying.) I ordered the Chaufa Aeropuerto ($24). This is Peruvian pork fried rice, shrimp tortilla (remember in the Spanish-speaking world, excluding Mexico that is, tortilla refers to a type of omelette), and spicy garlic. This was delicious but my biggest regret was that the portion was huge, I couldn’t remotely come close to finishing it, and since I was traveling, I wasn’t able to take it home with me. Ladies, if you go here with a guy who has an enormous appetite, recommend he get this one. He won’t leave hungry.
D selected a tried and true favorite of his, the Lomo Saltado ($32). I had made this before and obviously this was something we ate a lot of while in Peru. It’s a sublime beef tenderloin stir-fry with scores of tasty accompaniments. However, the size of his entree was noticeably smaller compared to mine so in hindsight, I somewhat wish I had ordered his, and he mine as I know he would have liked it.
Sadly, by the end of the meal, we were both dead exhausted and in my case, ridiculously full so we didn’t get dessert. Not to say Los Picarones ($8), warm pumpkin and sweet potato fritters weren’t calling to me. Next time…
It’s always fun to dine at a restaurant that is somehow tied to a destination you simply adore and in my case that would be Peru. While I’m not sure when I’ll be back to Peru, where there’s a Gastón Acurio restaurant, I will come.
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