Thursday, January 5, 2012
It's the new year and I can't think of a better place to kick it off than Peru. The country that invented ceviche holds a special place in my heart but I quickly discovered other Peruvian dishes to love as well. Stepping into the steaming South American heat is a welcome relief to Chicago winter weather but I had to settle for the cozy warmth of Between Peruvian Cafe. My hubby and I journeyed there for our first dinner with the social dining network, Grub With Us. Between the sultry ambiance, the tasty dishes and the gregarious group of diners, many of whom were Peruvian, it was almost as fun as munching a meal in Lima.
The decor grabbed me as soon as we walked in. The space is covered with crimson walls, sheer curtains over banquettes and interesting lighting as you can see above.
I stared at these quirky chandeliers for quite awhile, trying to figure out what they were made of. They really supplied the restaurant with a sexy, mysterious vibe.
Besides ceviche, the other Peruvian invention I love is the delectable Pisco Sour, on the right. Between Peruvian Cafe actually boasts a pisco bar, with a myriad of combinations. Pisco is a brandy or aguardiente distilled from the white muscat grape. It's the national drink of Peru although Chile claims it as well and there's a furious debate that continues over which country originated the drink. The drink on the left is actually a beer martini that my hubby gulped down. I refused to try it so I can't tell you what it tastes like.
This is the ceviche classico, called the best ceviche in Chicago and I agree totally. It's Leche de Tigre style, with cilantro, red onion, glazed sweet potato and Andean corn. It might look like a simple hodge podge of ingredients but together, they dazzled my taste buds. The mixture of lime with other seasoning just made it so favorable. We ate these with the homemade plantain chips in the first photo. I could have eaten this all night but there were five other dishes to try.
Chupe de Camorones or traditional Peruvian prawn soup was the next course. My shellfish allergy kept me from sampling it but it smelled wonderful and was quickly slurped down by the rest of the group.
The Peruvian version of paella is called arroz con mariscos and it was studded with octopus, squid and shrimp. Salsa Criolla topped it off and it also proved a favorite with my shellfish eating new friends.
I ended up shoveling down lots of this dish, which after the ceviche, was my favorite. It's a stir fry noodle dish with chicken and fresh tomato. It tasted like a Peruvian seasoned pasta dish, which is always a hit with me. I also had a tilapia dish that was okay but not as memorable as Tallarin Saltado, which is what this delicacy is called.