Amuse-bouche A re­view of Sa­bor Peru­ano, plus a pre­view of Santa Fe Res­tau­rant Week

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS - Pa­tri­cia West-Barker

Sa­bor Peru­ano, the most re­cent res­tau­rant in­stal­la­tion in the DeVar­gas Cen­ter, was opened by Peru­vian sis­ters Adriana Braw­ley and Su­sana Hamil­ton last fall. The café — which now shares the area with a cheer­ful re­tail shop fea­tur­ing tra­di­tional Peru­vian tex­tiles, pon­chos, pil­lows, boots, blan­kets, cloth­ing, toys, and more — has 10 ta­bles, five in­side the shop and five in the mall cor­ri­dor, where the col­or­ful hand­crafted goods and bright table­cloths brighten the in­dus­trial land­scape.

You won’t find ce­viche, per­haps Peru’s most fa­mous culi­nary ex­port, here — pos­be­cause sibly very fresh sushi-grade raw fish could break the bud­get of a small land­locked café. What Sa­bor Peru­ano does of­fer is a range of well-pre­pared dishes that showthe cases four of coun­try’s most pop­u­lar (and abun­dant) in­gre­pota­toes, di­ents: corn, quinoa, and ají amar­illo pep­pers.

Ají — what Peru­vians call their na­tive chiles — have been grown in Peru for thou­sands of years; the amar­illo va­ri­ety — a fruity yel­low-orange chile that’s been de­scribed as tast­ing like “liq­uid sun­shine,” is ar­guably one of the most im­por­tant ingredients in Peru­vian cook­ing. Corn and potatoes, which orig­i­nated in Cen­tral and South Amer­ica, were con­sid­ered sa­cred foods by the coun­try’s in­dige­nous Moche and Inca civ­i­liza­tions. And quinoa, the re­gion’s high­pro­tein “mother grain,” shares the pep­pers’ long his­tory of cul­ti­va­tion in the high An­des. Over gen­er­a­tions, th­ese in­dige­nous sta­ples min­gled with foods brought to Peru by Span­ish con­quis­ta­dors, African slaves, and Ital­ian, Chi­nese, and Ja­panese im­mi­grants to cre­ate a unique fu­sion of fla­vors and cul­tures.

Three of the four ap­pe­tiz­ers on the reg­u­lar menu are built on a base of yel­low potatoes. The pa­pas a la

Huan­caína — a tra­di­tional cold dish of sliced boiled potatoes napped with a creamy ají amar­illo sauce and gar­nished with hard-boiled eggs and black olives — was some­what bland, with no sign of the medium heat the golden pep­pers usu­ally bring.

The causa rel­lena limeña — a ter­rine by any other name — on the other hand, was a sum­mer pic­nic on a plate. For this dish, potatoes are mashed, kneaded, and mixed with lime juice and that ubiq­ui­tous yel­low chile paste and then lay­ered in a ring mold with a well-sea­soned chicken salad and av­o­cado slices. (The veg­e­tar­ian ver­sion omits the chicken and in­creases the por­tion of av­o­cado.) “Peru­vians love may­on­naise,” Lima-born chef and restau­ra­teur Ricardo Zarate writes in his book The

Fire of Peru, and that af­fec­tion is put to ex­cel­lent use here.

The sopa de quinua, a chicken veg­etable soup en­riched with quinoa, was sim­ple and sat­is­fy­ing, as was the agua­dito de

pollo, a chicken-veg­etable-rice soup turned a lovely shade of green by the ad­di­tion of an abun­dance of minced cilantro — an herb brought to South Amer­ica by the Span­ish. The

sopa de ce­bada, an­other tra­di­tional An­dean soup, gets its heft from bar­ley (also of Span­ish her­itage), beef, car­rots, spinach, and more potatoes. All the soups ben­e­fited from a squeeze of the lime that ac­com­pa­nied them — none more so than the bar­ley, where the cit­rus spritz cut through the fatty broth and bright­ened the en­tire bowl.

Sa­bor Peru­ano has only two en­trees on the reg­u­lar menu:

lomo saltado, a juicy stir-fry of beef ten­der­loin pop­u­lar through­out Peru, and ají de

gal­lina, a poached and pulled chicken breast blan­keted with a yel­low ají sauce, en­riched

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