In­fused with Peru­vian f lavour

Moun­tain herbs and black mint cre­ate unique take on ro­tis­serie chicken

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Weekend Life -

ac­coun­tant to open Pio. And from Fri­day through Sun­day, son Paul han­dles or­ders and ser­vice. The rest of the week he works as an en­gi­neer in Fort McMur­ray. Mariza’s hus­band Raul helps out, too, mak­ing sure the qual­ity re­mains con­sis­tent, and Rahim Ibrahim, San­dra’s boyfriend and the per­son cred­ited for the in­spi­ra­tion be­hind Pio, han­dles mar­ket­ing.

The fam­ily four­some has con­verted a rec­tan­gu­lar, strip-mall space into a pleas­ant, 40-seat res­tau­rant. It has the look of a fast food joint — and you can grab lunch-to-go in a flash — but you can also sit down for a more com­plex Peru­vian meal. Ceviche made from red snap­per is on the menu along with an­tic­u­chos — grilled chunks of beef heart served with grilled pota­toes. And there’s a quinoa salad filled with broc­coli, av­o­cado, cu­cum­ber, mint, onions and pep­pers to bal­ance off the chichar­rons — big pieces of fried pork rinds.

Open since early July, Pio is al­ready a busy place. It’s open Tues­day through Sun­day from 11 a.m. into the early evening.

This is a big year for La­tinin­spired restau­rants in Cal­gary. I know of at least three places in the works in ad­di­tion to El Char­rito, the ta­que­ria I wrote about re­cently. And then there’s Oro Azul, a new Mex­i­can res­tau­rant at 3725 Memo­rial Dr. S.E. (403290-0901).

Jose Ri­cardo Ro­drigues and Beatris Gil, a cou­ple orig­i­nally from Guadala­jara, Mex­ico, cook up tacos and tamales and a list of Mex­i­can spe­cial­ties at their new res­tau­rant. In­cluded in the spe­cials, which change daily, are mol­ca­jete Oro Azul, a dish of steak fa­ji­tas, grilled shrimp and veg­eta­bles and melted cheese, and the torta ahogada, a pork sand­wich bathed in a salsa of chili ar­bol, tomato and lime. There’s even a dish they rec­om­mend for hang­overs — a big shrimp cock­tail packed with cu­cum­ber, tomato, av­o­cado and spices.

But the tacos and tamales are the big sell­ers at Oro Azul. They do 10 kinds of tacos, in­clud­ing pork with pineap­ple and a grilled mush­room and as­para­gus combo. The fill­ings for the tamales are sim­i­lar.

Oro Azul lit­er­ally trans­lates as Blue Gold and refers to the sea of blue agave used to dis­til tequila. (Ro­drigues likens it to the black gold of Al­berta’s oil.) And, true to form, Oro Azul has a fine se­lec­tion of tequi­las to go along with Mex­i­can beers.

The Ro­drigues-Gil cou­ple has also run Las Tor­tillas at 4100 Marl­bor­ough Dr. N.E. (403-2733555) for the past four years. There, they make corn tor­tillas that they whole­sale to var­i­ous Latin mar­kets and restau­rants. They used to serve tacos and tamales there, too, but since open­ing Oro Azul, they’ve closed the food ser­vice side of Las Tor­tillas.

They have fam­ily work­ing in both out­lets; two daugh­ters run Las Tor­tillas while two more are servers at Oro Azul. The cou­ple also re­port that a new staff mem­ber is on the way. Beatris is set to de­liver their twelfth child in Oc­to­ber.

Stu­art Gradon/cal­gary Her­ald

The Mora fam­ily, which in­cludes, from left, Paul, San­dra, Mariza and Raul, owns and op­er­ates Pio Peru­vian Ro­tis­serie Chicken in Cal­gary.

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