Thursday, February 4, 2010

Peru Mucho Gusto!

Restaurant: Peru Mucho Gusto!
Address: 7755 L St.
Website: None.
Genres: Peruvian, Asian
Check Constraints: None noted.
Chain: No. | More Omaha Locations: No.

  • Papa a la Huancaina (4.50)
  • Chicken Chaufas (8.50)
  • Crema Volteada (3.00)
Peru Mucho Gusto is a tiny place that is not exactly hard to find, but is unfortunately not very noticeable. It's tucked back in a tiny strip mall, in the hinterlands of L street between 72nd and 84th, and the interior of the place actually reminds me a lot of the Lithuanian Cafe and Bakery, but unlike that place, Peru Mucho Gusto has almost nothing BUT ethnic food, and oh what food it is.

Papa a la Huancaina is basically a baked potato, chilled and sliced, then doused liberally in a cheese sauce made with some Peruvian hot pepper. There is also half a hard boiled egg and an olive on the plate, but really... potatoes and cheese. It has just the right amount of heat for me, too, enough that I really can say "That's hot." but not so much that I can't devour half the freaking plate.

Other appetizers you'll be hearing about include this killer fried pork stuff and papa rellena, which bears little relation to the not so great dish I had at the Cuban place. Papa rellena is, uh... well, mash a potato, then form the mashed potato around a mixture of meat, raisins, and some other stuff, deep fry the whole damn thing, then coat it with that same spicy cheese sauce from the potatoes above. It's so good we had it twice.

We actually came here twice before doing the review, because the first time we forgot to write down what we had. Turns out, first time up, I had aji de gallina, which is a lot like papa a la huancaina, only there is an almost curry-like mixture of cream, cheese, shredded chicken, and hot peppers atop the potatoes. Also, a side of killer spiced and peppered rice that must be tasted to be believed.

This time, I went for Chicken Chaufas, which is a Peruvian/Chinese fusion dish, basically a Peruvian take on fried rice. It seriously blows regular fried rice out of the water any day of the week. The spices used really give the chicken an amazing flavor, and the rice and veggies go with it amazingly well. As a side note, the dish is huge, and even I was unable to finish it. It's actually something a whole table could consider grabbing as a side dish for everybody, it's just THAT BIG.

They did not have any cheesecake, which I had a craving for, so I ended up trying crema volteada instead. It was described as "Peruvian flan", which didn't help much, as I have never actually had flan. When flan was described to me as "custard", that was also not helpful, as the closest thing I had ever had to custard was pumpkin pie. I had very limited dessert choices when I was growing up and got dessert at all (holidays). Turns out, I can't really describe this stuff very well, aside from saying that it has an interesting texture, like pudding only much more firm, but it's delicious, if a bit cloying after a while. I'd suggest splitting one with somebody unless you have a real sweet tooth.

So yeah, that's pretty much Peru Mucho Gusto. We went here twice, you should too. At least. Every appetizer on the menu is pretty much pure gold, the main dishes are high quality, and there's a bunch of random stuff you can try, so just go eat. With, uh, mucho gusto, or something.

  • Iced Tea ($1.79)
  • Tamal ($3.50)
  • Seco De Carne Con Frijoles ($10.00)
  • Creme Volteada ($3.00)
My uncle and I once had the good fortune to actually go to Peru, on what should probably best be termed an "ecotourism" trip. Most of our time was spent at a lodge on the perimeter of the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve (if you're curious, the company we booked the trip through is here), so it's not like I spent a week in Lima for the cuisine or anything. Most of our meals were cooked at the lodge, actually, and were very good if not extravagant (as an aside, if you ever get a chance to try red-bellied pirahna, don't pass it up. They look bony but they're good eats). However, on the several-hour-long trip upriver to the lodge we stopped at a village along the way for lunch. I regret that I was tired enough I never caught the name of the village, or the name of the restaurant we ate at, but we were served a large plate of rice and about half a chicken each.

I mention that story so that I can tell you this - the first time we came to Peru Mucho Gusto, I ordered the arroz con pollo, a fairly standard chicken and rice dish. The first bite of the chicken caused a flashback like I thought only happened in movies; the taste and expression of the dish were almost identical, and for a moment everything about the trip came rushing back. Now, I'm the first to admit that a sample size of two makes for really poor statistical significance, but it lends credence to the restaurant's authenticity, at least.

The seco de carne, also a traditional dish, was also excellent, though I don't recall having it on the trip. It's a beef stew, made with Inca corn beer, and as you may well know through cooking adventures of your own, beer plus beef is almost always delicious. As with most dishes at Peru Mucho Gusto, it's pricey, but you could actually order multiple dishes and do family-style dining, if you wanted, and probably come out ahead. The tamal was basically a tamale, as you may have already guessed. They're not identical; primarily the same elements are used to construct them, but the spicing's different, as well as the texture. The custard was firm and delicious - perhaps a little worse for the wear from being in the fridge for a while, but still very good.

I should mention here, after having found out post-eating, that you can apparently request a heat level when you order your food; this is not made apparent by the menu or the staff. Hopefully you have as good a time here as we did - it's nice that Omaha has such a wide variety of ethnic cuisines, and we should attempt to keep the ones we have thriving.

  • Papa a la Huancaina ($4.50)
  • Lomo Saltado ($9.50?)
  • Arroz con Pollo ($8.00)
  • Chicha Morada ($2.00)
No, I did not eat two lunches at once, but I do remember what I ate both visits. The first time around was the Papa a la Huancaina and the Lomo Saltado. The Papa a la H. were decent. They are as ND has described, and the heat creeps up on you. I would probably pick one of the other appetizers we had ahead of this on my own though, such as the Papa Rellena. That was some good stuff. Definitely give that a try. There were also some Yucca Frita (fried yucca) around the first time. It was ok, but I wasn't really a big fan of that either.

The Lomo Saltado was really good. Tender beef strips, tomato, pepper and onion on top of french fries. The sauce/juices were tasty. They made the side of rice really good and had a bit of spice to them. The dish was very filling with lots of potato and rice. The prices on some of the beef dishes may have gone up a dollar or two since that visit, but they also have more options.

I had the Arroz con Pollo on the second visit. It's the same dish Cham had the first time around. The rice had a fairly strong cilantro flavor at first. It was mixed with various cooked veggies and came with chicken on top. The color of the chicken made me wonder if it was cooked through, but it appeared to be. The whole thing had good flavors and was plenty of food.

The Chicha Morada was a very interesting drink. It was made from corn (blue corn, I assume) and pineapple, and you could definitely taste both in it. It was a dark blueish purple and the flavors made it a little odd to drink. Though, it did go well with the food.

  • 'Seafood Sampler w/Rice' (9.50?)
  • Chicharron con Camote (8.00)
  • Arroz con Pollo (8.00)
  • Chicha Morada (2.00)
I will note that I cannot remember at all the name of the seafood dish I got the first time, but it was a rice deal run through with all sorts of minor seafood, including a shrimp with the head still on it and an oyster and... well, it was not wholly to my taste, but it wasn't bad, all the same.

The second visit is a bit more vivid. The Chicharron con Camote (ND's aforementioned 'killer fried pork') was an incredible pork dish that came, I believe, with sweet potato chips, but the important thing is the fried pork, which tasted so very good. Browned normally then fried, I think. Definitely a strong appetizer. The first time we went we couldn't get it, though, so there may be availability issues (the menu hints it's more a weekend deal, but we didn't go on a weekend, so.)

I also went with the arroz con pollo, and while there were no flashbacks, it was good all on its own without misty memories of South America. Moogle is right about the cilantro, which was pretty well balanced, in my opinion (you want unbalanced, let Cham make you food with cilantro in it). I think this is a reasonably solid dish for anyone to get here, but I think I'd want to try some of the beef dishes next time.

The chicha morada was thick in the mouth (think grape juice, but a little thicker) and had an incredibly unique flavor that I really liked. I don't think I could drink it every day, as it stands, but I'll be drinking it next time I go back.

1 comment:

Lirazel said...

I enjoy reading all of these, but this is the first one that has made me want to grab my spouse and say, "We're going to Omaha!" And when he asks why, I will say, "To eat Peruvian food!"