Los Balcones del Peru - PK's Review w/pics
For zee pictures, visit zee blog:
Balcones del Peru
1360 N. Vine St.
10.06.06 - Friday, 1:00 PM
Myself + 1 guest (Fellow food/writer extraordinaire, Jess
Where do two devoted and hardcore foodies/bloggers go for a first-time luncheon gathering?
We go ethnic, baby. All the way to Peru.
Los Balcones del Peru has received a lot of hullabaloo since it's opening, and for good reason. The ever-popular Mario's, just south of this haunt, deserved a little Peruvian competition. It hasn't been all raves and lovefests, but for the most part, Balcones is adored. As a recent visitor to the country in question, I was absolutely craving an experience here. So, when world-famous writer/food blogger Jess, of LA Food Crazy fame, tapped me for a lunch powwow, I had a prompt answer to the age-old 'Where should we go?" question.
I did my homework first. I read the many reviews, scanned the Chowhound postings, and landed on a very informative breakdown from blogger Alejandro on his Peru Food blog. Not only did he review the food, but he offered an awesome history of the famous balconies in Lima, for which the restaurant is named. Good stuff. Made me hungry.
Jess and I got acquainted and salivated over the menu. Beef, chicken, seafood - it's all covered. And more ceviche options than I ever thought possible. It's times like these that I wish I had an insanely efficient metabolism and an appetite to match. Oh wait, I have the appetite. Curses.
Anyway, we ordered two of the most-oft raved about dishes, but shied away from Jonathan Gold's beloved favorite - not because I don't believe Mr. Foodie, but because I felt like living on the edge. So crazy, I am.
Service was prompt and friendly, but the place was almost empty. The space is dotted with small replicas of Lima's famous balcones, and that's the only offered ambiance. Tidy, spacious, but certainly not wow-worthy.
Here's what we had:
Just sodas. Nuttin' fancy.
Nondescript thin bread
Los Balcones del Peru Ceviche
-- Calamari (both fried and raw), a luscious white fish, and shrimp marinated in lime yumminess and spiced up to an impressive degree, served with various veggies and real-deal Peruvian corn from le Andes!
Oh.My.God. I could live happily ever after with this dish. It's just insanely good. Super fresh seafood, and calamari so tender it's almost as if Mr. Squid is posing as a stick of butter. The heat was intense but didn't overpower the other flavors, and that gigantic Peruvian corn is the perfect compliment in taste and texture. I loved this all over the place.
Saltado de Mariscos
- Strips of seasoned beef and veggies served on fresh cut french fries and a side of white rice
My my, this two was outstanding. Such an awesome carb + protein combo, although I feel the rice is unnecessary. The smoky flavors and awesome texture contrasts made me ecstatic. I've since tried the chicken version, and it's equally delicious. The quality of ingredients, for the price, is stellar. I'm sold.
Damage for 2 sodas and 2 entrees was about $25, before tip.
RESTAURANT REPORT CARD - Los Balcones del Peru, Visit 1
Ambiance - C
Service - B
Food (Taste) - A-
Food (Presentation) - C+
Wine/Drinks - N/A (just had non-alchies)
Value - A
Vibe/Energy/Scene - C
Overall Experience - B
Final word - yeah, so, it's a wee bit lacking in the ambiance department, and this isn't your fancy pants palace, but the food is original, inexpensive, and absolutely outstanding.
I drive down to the divey Nory's at Knott and Cerritos in the OC for the best Peruvian food, however no ambience for those of you concerned with that. But I have tried most every place mentioned above. The other Nory locations farther south in the OC (other family members) are nowhere near as good IMHO. They do have wine and beer, but warning, total local place and often very busy, it's small. At lunch during the week, they are extremely busy with workerbees from Cypress and beyond.
I was fortunate to be there years ago when they were first starting and were photographing all their menu phots, and felt privileged to sample most of their menu features. The amazing thing is their consistency, most of the time most everything tastes pretty much the same and fabulous.
I've been to El Rocoto. Husband and I thought the food was pretty good but not amazing. Our meal was okay, but we don't plan on returning. And I should note that my husband is from Peru, and I've visited, so we do have a sense of what Peruvian should be like. I'm eager to try Los Balcones and see if they can meet our Peruvian cravings!
This year alone, I've tried Mario's, Don Felix and Los Balcones de Peru and let me tell you, between the three of them, Los Balcones was my absolute favorite. I've told quite a friends about it and hopefully, it'll stick around for a long time. If you'd like to see pics of some of the other dishes, check out my photoset below:
As for El Rocoto, I think I'll have to make way there sometime soon as well. I'd definitely like to check out the restaurant that "modernist" thinks is even better than Los Balcones. :)
Modernist! Yes, twas a supreme pleasure to meet the legend :)
Thanks for the El Rocoto tip - I am so there. I spent my time in the peruvian amazon, and am going back in December. The food was so fresh and astoudingly flavorful, and I think Balcones captured that essence. But you've totally got me jazzed to head south and try that seafood rice - thank you!!
i too recently came back from 5 weeks in south america which also included peru. did you go to astrid y gaston? holy shit that place is awesome.
i've eaten at los balcones a few times. its pretty good. they also have pretty tasty anticuchos, and i always get the cebiche. i find saltado a little too heavy for my tastes.
if youre down by lax/south bay, you should check out el rocoto. i think its the best peruvian in the area. great seafood rice...
nice meeting you last night!
prices are moderate, hovering around 10 bux an entree give or take a few bux. the place is crowded, often with a lot of cops, teenage japanese americans, peruvian families. the feel is bright and cheery and the food is fresh. i usually stick to seafood dishes. they make a good leche de tigre, cebiche de pescado, arroz con mariscos. i like the northern dishes, but i havent tried their cau cau yet. i'd say go with a group and try everything!
I did go with a big group to El Rocoto once and loved it...
The saltado's at LBdelP aren't as good as ER or Mario's, IMHO. But, I think the fresh fish dishes and ceviche are much, much better...plus they have great beers, can't rememer if El Rocoto does or not.
PK and David, it was great chowin' w/ youse.