Los Andes

Dave’s Review

Peru may offer some of the most exciting cuisine in Latin America. The gastronomy claims its good fortune thanks to some significantly important factors: supportive climate conducive for flourishing vegetation, geographic location relative to the mountains and ocean, and the country’s willingness to meld contemporary cookery from a diverse immigrant influence of Spanish, African, Asian and European into their ancient Peruvian ones.

The staples of Peruvian and Bolivian (as well as much of South America) cuisine are corn, potatoes and beans. Although similar in staples, regional cuisine does vary from country to country and city to city because the preparation of ingredients, variations in spices, and cooking techniques are influenced by four continents of culture and 200 years of colonization.

La bienvenida a Los Andes Restaurante! Bolivian born, second-generation Brothers Cesin and Omar Curi are carrying on a family restaurant tradition in a delicious manner!

Ceviche! Cerviche! I liked it so intimately I had to write it twice. Los Andes packs a martini glass  with Tilapia, squid, shrimp, mussels in a citrus, cilantro, red onion, garlic marinade.  A fresh, flavorful and perfectly balanced appetizer well worth the trip alone.

On a more adventurous note, Cesin insisted we try a classic Peruvian and Bolivian street food – Anticucho de Corazon (small pieces of grilled skewered meat marinated in garlic, onion, cilantro chopped, vinegar, lemon juice – I believe) served over roasted potatoes with a creamy mint and goat cheese sauce. Classically, the meat is beef heart. In this case it was beef heart. Now before you fade away into obscurity, try to put this into perspective. The heart is a muscular organ that shares the  similar textures and mild taste of all the other muscles. If you think your beloved steak is not a muscle, think again.  Also, lets not be hypocritical regarding the foods we are willingly eat. For example, common hot dogs and/or lunch meat ingredients include meat by-products, fat, sodium erythorbate and sodium nitrite. Beef heart ingredient; beef heart. By the way, the Anticucho de Corazon was terrific.

An additional standout appetizer was the homemade Saltenas (Bolivian chicken pie) made from a sweet corn pastry dough and stuffed with chicken, peas, olives and potatoes.  Served with spicy pico – jalapenos and garlic relish. This flawlessly prepared baked “pot pie” is exciting enough to make you forget that you just ate beef heart!

As if the appetizer courses were not enough, Cesin brought out a sampling of all four Bolivian soups on the menu: Fricasé – pork and hominy in a spicy broth, Sopa de Mani – peanut soup with beef, Locro – Chicken, rice, plantains and/or potatoes, and Chairo –beef and barley with vegetables.  Although the broth in all samples was one-note in flavor, they were all bountiful and had a good taste.

Of course there were entrees; the pieza de resistencia!  The Pique a lo macho – steak and chorizo with tomato, onion and pepper in a spicy wine sauce served over thick cut french fries. This hearty dish was quite good. Including sautéed tomato was an excellent way to help cut the heaviness of this dish. The sauce was a bit over-salted, especially in light of using chorizo.

Parillada a Los Andes – ‘grilled’ meats – rib eye, beef short rib, chicken thigh, sausage, served with yucca, cheesy rice and ensalada rusa (potato salad) – diced potatoes, vegetables (peas and carrots), and red onion. This dish was brought out with a side table and a portable burner to keep warm. I’d be willing to bet that this could have fed a family of four! The meats were simply grilled and perfectly spiced.

The Pescado a lo macho (fried tilapia, shrimp, squid, mussels and clams in a beer based broth with tomato and a side of rice) was a clear favorite. The fish was fresh and flawlessly prepared. Regardless of where you dine, the freshness of the fish and the attention paid to properly cooking it should never be compromised.

Los Andes is a winner because the quality of the fish was superb, the Curi’s hospitality was sincere, and the prices were enviable.

Chris’s Review

Quite often, the places you wouldn’t hang after dark have some of the most authentic and unique food.  When Rhode Crew founding member David e-mailed me of our next review spot, I thought this would be an opportunity to head to a part of Providence that I would not normally frequent and savor some of the local grub.

Bolivian and Peruvian restaurant, Los Andes on Chalkstone Ave. would provide me with a meal fit for a Bolivian King.   We didn’t pretend to know anything about the cuisine choosing to utilize the friendly and knowledgeable staff to educate us on the menu and the different offerings.

As an avid TV viewer of all things food, one of my favorite TV takes is Food Networks’ “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” It is a show that highlights certain celebrity chefs’ favorite bites across this great land.  I recently experienced one of those moments at Los Andes.  Repeat after me “salteñas”!! I know it sounds like a Spanish term for a soup cracker, but it is something special and Los Andes restaurant is the purveyor of these gems.  A salteña is a Bolivian version of a chicken pot pie, but with a twist.  The dough is a cross between a corn muffin and a pie crust resulting in a sweetness that is a wonderful contrast to the spicy chicken filling. They were the first thing we tried and for $2 it took all my power not to order 6 of them for my meal and nothing else.  They only thing that kept me from following through was my desire to try other ethnic dishes and the fact that we ordered a tremendous amount of food.

The next offering was a sampling of all of the soups that Los Andes offers. I would order each one of them, but for the sake of time and space I would recommend the Fricase.  This soup contains slow cooked pork butt in a spicy broth with hominy.  It was delicious.  I was not in a seafood mood initially, but the Ceviche’ Martini quickly changed my thought process.  An exotic combination of seafood, citrus and cilantro, this refreshing appetizer and traditional South American staple was well represented here.  Following my sudden change of heart and newfound seafood craving, the entrée that I enjoyed the most was a dish called “Pescado a lo macho”.  This was a potpourri of seafood including fried tilapia, squid, mussels, and clam in a spiced beer and tomato broth was outstanding.  All I can say is don’t be intimidated by the location.  Broaden your horizons and palate by venturing out to Los Andes.

903 Chalkstone Ave Providence RI 02908 (401) 649-4911

El Paisa

Dave’s Review–

The name Paisa derives from the Spanish word paisano (one from the same country). The Paisas are a people who inhabit the region over northwest Colombia in the Andes. In the midst of this mountainous area, the cuisine is highly influenced by an abundance of beans, rice, corn, pork, beef, tropical fruits, potatoes and vegetables.

Colombian food is characterized by the blending of European cuisine with aspects of African and Spanish populations. Bandeja paisa, (Spanish for “Paisa Platter“) is a traditional Colombian dish that is very popular, especially in the Paisa Region. It is generally composed of one meat, carne asada (grilled steak), carne molida (finely ground grilled steak), chicharrón (fried pork rind), or filete de pescado (fillet of fish) and, rice, red beans, yucca, sweet fried plantains, a fried egg, a small white corn arepa, and sometimes chorizo (sausage).

I have to say that at first, I was a bit apprehensive about going to a Latin American restaurant equipped with only an elementary grasp of the language, culture and its cuisine. The good part was that I had no preconceptions either! My overwhelming desire to find great local food keeps me out of deep pocketed chain restaurants that sadly vie for the very real estate that privately owned establishments once dominated.

My concerns were quickly allayed. The menu was very well-organized in both Spanish and English. We were greeted warmly and sat quickly. Sandra (our server) was extremely helpful, attentive and patient.  Recommendations from the staff included the Colombian Platter (i.e. bandeja paisa). Which included a choice of meat (grilled: beef, pork, sirloin steak or chicken breast – stewed: roast beef, cow tongue, pan-fried: flank steak, or rotisserie chicken) rice, red beans, fried bacon, round maize bread, sweet fried bananas and salad ($12.00).

I’m sure Scott will get into greater detail about the specifics of what we ordered, but let me say that El Paisa and the Zuleta family should be proud of their culinary contributions to the community by offering us such an authentic, welcoming and affordable dining experience.

Scott’s Review–

Wow! What a find, Colombian food. I know absolutely nothing about it except how to use a fork, knife and delicately guide it to my palate! After one trip to El Paisa, I feel like I have taken the prerequisite to Colombian Epicurean Delights 101.

Let’s get right to the food. Shortly after arriving, a nice fellow showed up to make sure our trip to El Paisa was fruitful. Caesar was his name.  With his guidance, our table soon looked like this.

Let’s talk about this interesting side dish…

The most intriguing item I found on this dish is the fried bacon. This reminds me of the time I was in Copenhagen.  I was searching for the city’s “dish”- that universally accepted dish/delicacy of the Danish people. Aside from herring every-which-way-you-want-it, if I remember correctly, a dish of “stegt flaesk” was the recommendation. I have to tell you, when I was in one of Copenhagen’s most popular restaurants and I had just finished my “herring with 3 different marinades” appetizer, the main course of stegt flaesk showed up. I almost broke out laughing in the middle of the dining room. It appeared to me that the dish of Copenhagen was nothing more than thick cut bacon fresh out of the fryolator!  Getting back to El Paisa’s presentation of the bacon variant. I wish I could call Scotty on the Enterprise and tell him to beam El Paisa’s fried bacon (chicharrón) over to Copenhagen’s culture council. I love the way this bacon is presented. It almost resembles a “rack” of bacon if there was ever such a thing. This was fascinating. We all know bacon is a guilty pleasure. (If my Rabbi ever finds this post and then finds out I’m a certified BBQ  Judge, I will be playing this tune!). We know what a bad rap it has with respect to our circulatory system and our caloric intake. So what do I do when faced with potential life and death eating situations? I justify it. And this is what I kept telling myself after every pluck of bacon morsel off the rack well into the next 72 hours after the actual meal. “Well…I am only tearing off the “meat” of the bacon, leaving most of the fat and the rind behind.” Even I know when I’m bullshitting the bullshitter! Nonetheless, grab this wondrous piece of guilty pleasure – embrace and savor it.

For the rest of the dishes…I could go on and on, but for the chicken and steak dish… just order it. The sautéed onions were perfect on these dishes – just enough, extremely tasty and not overpowering. You put a char coating on anything (like in the picture) and I’m drawn to it like a bear is to honey. Close your eyes when your fork yields a portion to your palate. Savor the Columbian spice profile that makes up these sumptuous dishes. The fish dish was very good also – not overwhelmed by spices – delicate, flakey and alive with flavor.

The grand finale:

All I’m going to say is this….Tres Leches Cake!   Again, simply fascinating! I could launch into a diatribe about this  delicacy but I am already late with this review and David is going to kick my #*%! If I don’t get this review in before the  next scheduled Fork in the Rhode meal – which just so happens to be in 89 minutes! I will however leave you with this  recent observation:

Today is Saturday morning. Just over 5 days, 18 hours and 4 minutes since I ate this dessert at El Paisa. I was rummaging  through the fridge late last night for just a tasting of something sweet. Low and behold I happened to stumble upon a white  Styrofoam container. You guessed it –Tres Leches Cake! I had bought a slice for my wife after we finished the meal. As  usual this was sitting in the fridge about to be thrown out for rigor mortis… or so I thought.  With fear of tasting Tres  Leches Gone Bad, I preceded to close my eyes and slowly put a forkful in my mouth. I kept thinking…”5 days old in an unprotected, loose-fitting, take-out container.”

It was as if I had brought the cake home not 5 days ago but 5 minutes ago. How they infuse the milk in that cake and how it retains it along with the moisture is a mystery that I may never unlock!

El Paisa Resaurant. (401) 726-8864. Central Falls 598 Dexter St Central Falls, RI 02863