This is it. The picture that made me drive two hours & fifty-three minutes, 174.54 miles from home sweet home, to eat at Andina, Portland's only novoandean pit-stop--& now we have the great fortune to sample Emmanuel Piqueras Villaran's passionate fare at Mixtura in Kirkland of all places! While you can read into the soul of a chef in many ways, Emmanuel's genuinely heartfelt journey back to his homeland in Food & Wine made me a believer that this guy was for real with one-of-a-kind Peruvian food worth our own trekking. Can't wait try out his new venture, but every seat was booked this past weekend (presumably for early Valentine's diners like us) & it looks like for now, the place will be standing room only with gushing reviews like this from the Seattle Times.
So while Villaran has moved on to his own venture, a stop at his old stomping grounds was worth a thousand llamas, the kitchen now headed up by Coque Ossio of Lima who studied with Alain Passard of Michelin three-star fame. Not a bad catch for the City of Roses! The vast menu of Entradas (a.k.a. appetizers) hasn't seemed to change since Villaran's departure, so the legacy continues with an artful assortment of colorful plates with maximum flavor--all for five bucks a pop! I love Portland---the U.S. foodie capital of small plate offerings.
Thankfully Andina was flexible with our reservation as we needed time to digest our cheese & wine course in the hotel room & check out McMenamin's teeny-tiny Detention Bar down the hall since it closes at 10 pm on Sundays... When we waltzed in, there was a jazz ensemble in full swing & the place was packed with an eclectic clientele whose collective body heat gave the place a tropical warmth. Warning--do not wear wool or you will sweat like a sheep!
With pushed up sleeves K. & I were ready to dig in, so we were put at ease by our server who seemed A.) genuinely knowledgable, B.) relaxed, but efficient, & C.) did a great job of not over-selling us, but patiently took our three rounds of ordering without a grunt or sigh. Now where are you going to find that in Seattle? I know you're not *supposed* to show your face on your blog, but there's a certain giddish glee in this shot that describes the menu at Andina better than words.
First off, you're served a progressively spicy series of sauces in which to dip your bread: the first features fresh Andean herbs which are grown by local farmers exclusively for the restaurant; the second features a sweet & sour blending of tropical fruit & aji amarillo, the Peruvian pepper that has a delightful burn; the third was a knockout of chilies & ground peanuts, like the savory sauce used in Papas a la Huancana. Such an intricate maze of flavors lay before us whetting our appetite for everything yet to come... I wish more restaurants would take notice & get more creative than garlic & herb-infused olive oil. On this trio alone, I was already hooked. Como maravilloso!
There's much to recommend , but the toast of the town was the Causa (a lime-infused pressed potato cake) called the Mixta Nikkei: raw spicy tuna flavored with fresh lime juice, crab salad, & shrimp with crisp panko-like coating, fanned avocado slices plated up with a chile-infused aioli. Every element fell into perfect place & after we tasted it, we should have eaten a family-style portion--it was just that good. This was the first delight we ordered & we nearly did it again for our last bite.
So here's the rest (click each pic at the bottom of this entry for a ringside seat. It is a romatically lit restaurant afterall... ) From left to right: Papa a la Huacaina, Causa Morada, Wantan de Mariscos, Anticucho de Pulpo, Choros a la Chalaca, Conchas a la Parilla, Chicharron de Pollo
The picks: Anticucho de Pulpo, tender octopus skewered above caper-studded yucca; Choros a la Chalaca, meaty mussels served with a cold salsa that sang to Ken with its sweet corn simplicity; Papa a la Huacaina, chilled purple potatoes with a sauce so exotic, demure & creamy, it was hard not to dip your fingers onto the plate to retaste.
The pans: Causa Morada, too much of a good thing, the trout was piled mile-high leaving us smoked out; Wantans de Martiscos, call it what you will, they're still wontons; Chicarron de Pollo, quinoa-crusted chicken sounds good on paper, but over-fried (see picture); Conchas a la Parilla, our worst dish by far, tender scallops in a puckering sour sauce that was bitter to the end. Damn! That was the last dish we ordered, but dinner was so good overall, it hardly marred our memory.
Andina: A Taste of Peru in the Pearl
1314 NW Glisan, Portland 503.228.9535