Visit Sabores del Peru for authentic Peruvian fare!

Photo by (c) Martin St-Amant

Don’t believe F. Scott Fitzgerald when he wrote that there were no second acts in American lives. He’d never been to the Peruvian restaurant Sabores del Peru.The restaurant, which opened its first act on the west side in 2007 to mixed reviews, raised the curtain on its second act in July, this time on South Academy Boulevard. The second act, for many reasons, is stronger than the first.Directing this incarnation are Peruvian owners Juan and Ana Ramos, who took over from the founder. The second Sabores de Peru has the same delicious, distinctive cuisine, but better timing, a better atmosphere, and a supporting cast of hearty, generous Puerto Rican cuisine whipped up by the chef.The new address on South Academy attracts a lunch crowd in camouflage and hard hats — the real workers of the city. Most come for comforting mounds of mild Puerto Rican pork chops, yellow rice and fantastically soupy pink beans.The regulars seem to gravitate toward the weekday lunch buffet ($11.30) of rich, filling traditional Puerto Rican favorites such as mofongo (fried yucca, seasoned with garlic, olive oil and pork cracklings, then mashed).The Puerto Rican food here is truly excellent – not too oily and delicately seasoned, but for me the real draw is the Peruvian.Peruvian cuisine has a mix of unexpected influences. The coast gets a strong flavor from Asian immigrants. The mountains still hold tight to ancient Incan traditions, such as potatoes and tiny, flavorful, yellow aji peppers. The two influences collide in Lomo Saltado ($11.25), a classic Peruvian lunch dish that is essentially an Asian-style beef stir-fry with tomatoes, peppers and red onions, tossed with french fries. It sounds odd, but it is delicious.Just as mixed up is the Tallarin Saltado de Carne, translated as “beef spaghetti.” It is Western-style linguini tossed with sirloin strips, aji peppers and an Asian-style soy and vinegar sauce that makes it a light and delicious take on lo mein.At the original Sabores, diners could order a classic native Peruvian treat called Anticuchos — chunks of beef heart marinated in cumin, aji pepper and garlic and grilled on a skewer. The second Sabores has this same Andean dish ($7) but also offers a chicken version ($8) for squeamish northerners. It is delicious and moist, with an amazing, bright yellow aji pepper sauce and a mild potato and sweet potato dish on the side.The ceviche, which is originally a Peruvian dish, is not to be missed. A small plate ($9) of raw tilapia chunks comes doused in fresh lime juice, a nest of slivered red onion and lots of salt. The salt and lime almost instantly cure the fish. I’m not a tilapia fan, since this farm fish usually tastes a bit like the tank it was raised in, but here it was fresh and light — as good as you can expect on South Academy.On the side, Sabores offers a classic Incan accompaniment of giant, mild Peruvian corn and dried, salted Andean-style “corn nuts.”Service in this tiny restaurant is excellent. The owners, both Peruvian, speak perfect English and have an inviting friendliness.They also have an inviting dessert tray. For the final act, the caramely flan takes the stage as an enormous, heavy wedge big enough to prop a door open. Do not tackle it by yourself. A thin chocolate cake is so rich and dense that it tastes closer to fudge. Classic rice pudding steals the show with a sweet creaminess that needs no translation.The good prices, friendly atmosphere and terrific food from two countries truly deserve a standing ovation.


SABORES DEL PERU 4 stars out of 5(Bravo!)Address: 2536 S. Academy Blvd.Phone: 447-9646Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, noon to 9 p.m. Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. SundaysEntrees: $8-$14Vegetarian: Rice and beansAlcohol: NoCredit cards: Yes

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