Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Restaurant That Keeps Me Coming Back... By: Karolyn

Karolyn is a High School English Teacher who works and lives in the city of Chicago. She enjoys reading, writing, running, eating, travelling, and movie-going. Karolyn says if she had to choose her favorite foods, she'd go with spicy foods and comfort foods. She believes that going out to eat should be a celebration of food and is a great way to introduce yourself to a completely different culture.

(Taste of Peru was featured on Check, Please! in Season 6, but we loved Karolyn's passionate review so much, we decided to re-visit them. You can check out Taste of Peru on Check, Please! here.)

The restaurant that keeps me coming back is Taste of Peru. I have frequented this restaurant for the past two years. Though located in a strip mall of sorts on the far north side, there’s nothing strip-mall about this place. It’s not fancy, but one whiff of the spices and joy coming from inside and I was hooked. Having had the opportunity to visit Peru, I was introduced to the authentic dishes that so many Peruvian restaurants here have forgotten: strips of ceviche (none of that chopped-up-into-tiny-martini-glasses kind), real corn tamales, beef heart shish kebab (or, for the perhaps less adventurous, chicken), Cau-Cau (tripe stew), fried plantains, and my favorite: Aji de Gallina (a shredded chicken dish topped with a walnut cream sauce and hard-boiled egg with potatoes and rice). True comfort dish! Most beef and chicken dishes are served authentically, meaning with both rice and potatoes. Carbs are not to be dodged here!

The staff never rushes you, even if you are finished and there is a line out the door. If you have wine or beer left, you are welcome to stay and drink up. Since the friendly staff is of Peruvian background and seem to maintain close ties to their homeland, you may trust that they know authentic Peruvian food, and they are happy to help you choose from their vast menu of deliciousness the dish that suits your fancy or threshold for adventure.

The last time I was here, it was Peruvian Independence Day. There was celebratory Peruvian music in the background, and everyone--whether Peruvian or not--got into the celebration. The owner was handing out Pisco Sours. I had several Pisco Sours in Peru and never really enjoyed them as much as I enjoyed his. Talking with him, I was instructed that the next time I come in, I should bring my own Pisco and he would personally mix it up for me. He assured me that I would never turn down a real Pisco Sour, musing that I must have gone to the “bad” bars. Talk about genuine hospitality. I will be going back with a bottle of red wine…and a bottle of Pisco! While I normally don’t order dessert, that night I noted that they have Mazamorra Morada, i.e., purple corn pudding. In Peru, purple corn is also made into a wonderful juice drink. I decided to give the dessert a try. The presentation wasn’t the best—it just came in a water glass—but the sweetness brought me back to Cusco where I first had purple corn juice. The texture was almost like a rice pudding and it just burst with flavor. 

This, for me, is the sign of a true restaurant: one that awakens your taste buds, celebrates and embraces different cultures, and awakens memories.

Taste of Peru
6545 N. Clark St. 
Chicago, IL 60626 
(773) 381-4540

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