The cuisine of Peru, like many South American countries, reflects influences from the indigenous population, including the Incas, as well as cuisines brought in with immigrants from Europe (Spain and to a lesser extent, Italy and Germany).
Peruvian cuisine is unique in that it also exhibits a strong Asian, primarily Japanese, influence. That’s no surprise since nearly 20 percent of Peru’s population is of Asian descent. Some of their ancestors were brought to Peru in the 1600s by Portuguese slave traders, many more emigrated to serve as field hands and stayed after their contracts ended.
Rice, corn, potatoes in addition to quinoa, are staples for the Peruvian diet. The main source of protein is primarily fish and seafood, derived from Peru’s extensive coastline. But beef, chicken and goat dishes are popular as well. The spices range from mild to very spicy. Some dishes that are popular throughout South America, such as empanadas that will be familiar to North American diners, while others are more specific to Peruvian culture.
In the past decade the number of South Americans living in Florida has more than doubled and Florida is home to more Peruvians than any other state, so it’s no surprise that there are quite a few Peruvian restaurants out there for you to try. The latest entry is Ceviche Street, which relocated from Hallandale Beach, taking over the Oakland Park space formerly occupied by D’Mar Seafood.
Ceviche Street’s owner/chef Sergio Riglos has done an excellent job putting his own stamp on the storefront restaurant. Although the lights could be a few lumens lower (I felt as if I was about to be interrogated) and the music could be a tad quieter, Ceviche Street offers a beautiful dining experience and the soon to be opened bar room will only make it better. Until the bar room opens you’ll have to make do with homemade sangria, excellent pisco sours and chicha morada, Peru’s favorite soft drink. The corn based beverage reminds me of the ice cold grape Crush I enjoyed as a child.
Appetizer choices include Tuna Fortuna, in which Peru’s Asian influences are evident. Seared fresh tuna tops a baby arugula salad. It is lightly coated with a passion fruit dressing and garnished with dollops of wasabi mayo and aji amarillo aioli with a drizzle of sweet soy sauce reduction. Oysters are served Peruvian style, with chopped red onion, tomatoes, jumbo Peruvian corn and fresh lime juice. Other appetizer selections include tamales, a mouth-wateringly delicious potato cake topped with crab meat and spicy wasabi and huancaina, a Peruvian favorite, served with a choice of either potato or yucca fries and drizzled with garlic-cheese sauce.
Entrée options include a Peruvian style paella with a choice of seafood medley or just shrimp, fried ahi tuna topped with sautéed tomatoes and caramelized red onions and escudo a lo macho; crispy fried fish topped with shellfish sauce topped and seafood. It’s not all about the seafood though, carnivores will enjoy the grilled lamb chops or Peru’s national dish; lomo saltado; chunks of tender beef with fresh onions and tomatoes served with house fries and white rice. The same dish is available in a seafood version as well.
Pasta lovers will go gaga for the fettuccini, served with a choice of creamy red bell pepper sauce (with grilled chicken) or Asian style, with sautéed onions and tomatoes (accompanied by a choice of chicken or seafood). If the scallops are available on the day of your visit, you must give in to the decadence of the plump bi-valves swimming in black butter, Pecorino Romano and Parmesan cheese.
Of course, you should try the restaurant’s titular dish; offered in five renditions (priced from $13.95-$16.95), all made to order. There’s everything from an all-shrimp version, to the classic mixed seafood, as well as one with Asian flavors and one combining fish and Moroccan octopus with black olive tapenade and flecks of red bell pepper.
Dessert selections include lucuma ice cream or a double cookie stuffed with dulce de leche. Lunch and dinner are served daily, breakfast is served on weekends. I urge you to visit Ceviche Street before it becomes so popular you can’t get in.
Other places to sample Peruvian fare run the gamut from fast food to haute cuisine, all within minutes of Wilton Manors.
199 E Oakland Park Blvd., Oakland Park
401 E. Las Olas Blvd. Ft. Lauderdale
1672 E Oakland Park Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
Bravo Gourmet Sandwich
2925 NE 6th Ave., Wilton Manors
1388 East Oakland Park Blvd., Oakland Park
Ceviche by the Sea
2823 E Oakland Park Blvd., Oakland Park