Bridging the gap between tradition and modern tastes can be a tricky culinary adventure, but at Andina Restaurant, the Pearl District’s renowned Peruvian restaurant, this challenge has surely been met, with delicious results. This is thanks to a menu that offers the best of Criollo comfort food and the modern Novo-Andean cuisine that reflects the country’s burgeoning global influence.
Peruvian comfort food, called Criollo, are the dishes you would find on the tables of every family throughout the country. The recipes are a legacy, passed on from the Spanish colonists who settled in the South American country where they applied their cooking techniques and recipes to the local ingredients found in their new country.
For an authentic Criollo plate I would suggest Andina’s Arroz Con Mariscos. This Peruvian style paella is a mix of fresh seafood that includes mussels, octopus, shrimp, fried white fish, and bay scallops mixed with sofrito de ajíes-infused rice, and salsa criolla on the side. ($19)
For a lighter meal try the Humitas de Queso, a traditional Peruvian corn tamale with ají amarillo, mozzarella and cotija cheese. ($8)
The 1980s were a transformative time for Peru, when political upheaval and nationalism created a cultural environment ready for fresh ideas. This movement served to inspire the chefs in Cuzco’s professional kitchens and they began applying global culinary techniques to their traditional Peruvian folk recipes, resulting in the birth of a new cuisine appropriately named Novo-Andean.
Andean and Asian fusion is found in Andina’s Hongos Saltados V, where wild mountain mushrooms are mixed with wok-fried onions, tomatoes, soy sauce, garlic, and ají Amarillo peppers. Served with Yukon Gold papas fritas and garlic rice brings the best of two continents together on one plate. ($23)
Andina’s chefs regularly surprise their patrons with innovative dishes, as the soup du jour proved during my visit to the restaurant. Fresh vegetables and two slivers of pear surrounded by a rich broth were filling, fresh, and full of flavor. ($9)
Of course, I had to experience a Peruvian dessert! Andina has a great dessert menu and you’ll have a hard time deciding which sweet treat to try first. I decided to make my decision easier by ordering a trio of crème brûlée called Plato de Crema Quemada. Each ramekin highlights a distinct Peruvian flavor, and that day my tray featured a well-balanced choice of chocolate, cardamom, and one with a very mellow kick of pepper. Delicious! ($10)
My dining companion chose the Cotta de Café con Lucuma. An espresso panna cotta, with layers of lúcuma mousse and alfajor crumbles topped with a whipped chocolate ganache. Don’t ask me to choose sides in this battle, because both desserts were amazing! ($9)
Andina Restaurant is located on the corner of 13th and Glisan, right in the heart of the Pearl, at 1314 NW Glisan St. They open at 11:30 a.m. and offer happy hour menus. http://www.andinarestaurant.com