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

AJ’s Restaurant

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Scott’s Review–

I am going to be honest with you. I recommended that the RhodeCrew should review this place. It just goes to show you how a “find” can be right under your nose, and if you’re not one to try restaurants off the beaten path, treasures like AJ’s can be missed. I think one of the reason’s I hesitated for so long in stopping by AJ’s was its location. It is kind of in an area where many vacant store fronts currently reside – the patch of Main Street between the “strip” in downtown West Warwick and Route 117.

Freshly baked muffins! Freshly baked “anything” for that matter, has me at first bite. Once you walk into AJ’s for breakfast, you will feel like you are at the epicenter for breakfast in West Warwick. Recently I have been attracted by anything pistachio. When I learned of their pistachio muffins, I went nuts. There’s nothing like the taste of a freshly baked & then grilled muffin in the morning…it tastes like….victory??

Anyway, here is what gets my orange juices flowing in the morning….grilled, I repeat, GRILLED home fries. If I walk into a breakfast joint and their home fries are deep fried, it’s a deal killer. The grilled home fry is a work of art and in certain areas in the country, they are about to be added to the endangered species list. This is why I love those Jersey diners…you never know what kind of grilled home fry concoction you’ll be served –but it will be good and grilled. AJ’s does a great job of preserving the art of the home fry. Slap on some ketchup and if that is all I eat for breakfast, I am content. Doing the low-carb thing? Great, hand over your home fries and enjoy your plain egg whites!

Lately, I have been real picky about my omelet’s color. I prefer my omelets yellow as in “scrambled egg” yellow. I don’t like it when an omelet shows up on my plate like it didn’t put on any sunscreen after a hot sunny day at Scarborough Beach. I requested my omelet “yellow” and it showed up yellow.

Poached eggs – here’s another deal killer. If you fork a poached egg whether it is Benedict or solo, there better be a lava flow of yolk immediately following. AJ’s has consistently nailed this often overlooked detail on poached eggs.

AJ’s employs the team approach in serving you. You may be initially served by one waitress but by the end of the meal, almost every waitress will have made it over to your table with one thing or the other. I will warn you…they will drown you in fresh brewed coffee. I ha d to eventually put the jelly tray on top of my coffee cup to let them know I didn’t need a refill after attempt #5!

David’s Review–

AJ’s Restaurant is an example of what every town needs…a local breakfast joint where the menu is as straightforward and unpretentious as its staff.  I had a feeling this might be a special place when I first walked into a busy AJ’s for breakfast one morning and could tell that the only person who had not been there before was me!  If this revelation should ever strike you upon entering a new restaurant, do not fear the unknown, but embrace the journey for which you are about to embark.

The standout menu items were the freshly baked selections from within the glass case at the counter.  Scott was right on the money about the muffins. We had pistachio, corn and blueberry which were all hot, moist, light and excellent. Believe me, corn muffins are easy to make badly, and if you happen to violate the golden rule of serving bakery the same day, corn muffins can be a downright danger if they get lodged in your throat without proper ventilation and irrigation.

In addition to the muffin appetizer was my order of eggs Benedict.  Getting poached eggs cooked properly is a challenge for even the best restaurants, and always a gamble to order when dining with others because if the yolks are served hard-cooked, your friends will be done eating by the time the kitchen has rectified the order.  Well, fear not fellow diners, AJ’s served perfectly cooked poached eggs! The Hollandaise sauce could have used a bit more lemon and seasoning but was still buttery and good.  The potatoes were grilled perfectly, but also could have used some salt, pepper and onion.

My experience at AJ’s was a good one and I’m thrilled to have found a new breakfast place worth revisiting. I think we all need a place where “everybody knows our name.”

AJ’s Restaurant 1365 Main Street West Warwick, RI 02893 (401) 828-4160