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Jun 9, 2007 09:45 AM

Machu-Picchu, a Peruvian restaurant in Sparks

Machu-Picchu is a new Peruvian restaurant that opened in Sparks on Oddie Boulevard between Sullivan Lane and El Rancho Drive. I ate there last night and enjoyed the food, but I think the challenge for me and other Chowhounds is finding a distinctive dish that makes Machu-Picchu a place to recommend.
Machu-Picchu, named after the ancient Incan city in Peru, is the building most recently inhabited by the coffee shop Cozy's and what was originally a chain fish-and-chips place. It's clean but they haven't done anything to remodel since it was Cozy's, as far as I can tell. Very plain inside.
The server was friendly but had a hard time describing the food, perhaps both because English is his second language and because he was young. I asked about the soup of the day and he described it as having meat and vegetables. Well, that describes about 80 percent of the soups in the world. I wasn't able to get any more of a description out of him, including what kind of meat was in the soup.
I ordered Sopa Criolla, described on the menu as "beef and noodle soup slightly creamy with a bite," Tallarin Saltado, described as "Peruvian style lo Mein, Spaghetti and assorted vegetables and beef."
The bread arrived first and it was the only bad part of the meal. It was light and probably pretty tasty when it was fresh -- perhaps even homemade -- but this bread was dry and almost hard. I suspect dry bread is not a Peruvian tradition. I should have sent it back. Call me a wuss.
The soup arrived and it looked like cream of mushroom soup with egg like you see in egg flower soup. I can't remember what kind of noodles it had. The egg was a nice contrast to the thick creaminess of the soup. The meat was in small pieces. It was nice soup, a little different. But for $6, I'm not sure I'll get it again.
They brought the Tallarin Saltado out with the soup and this is very easy to describe. It tastes almost exactly like stir fried chow mein with soft noodles. Even the small slices of beef with the dish tasted like stir fried Chinese food. The only change up between the Tallarin Saltado and Chinese food was that the Peruvian dish had fresh purple onions. The noodles are so much like lo mein that I wouldn't be surprised if they bought them from an Asian market. I asked the server and he said it was an authentic Peruvian dish. It wasn't like there was some fusion going on.
I enjoyed this dish. But after I ate it, I was wondering what would make me get it for $11 at Machu-Picchu when I can get it for $7 at any number of Chinese restaurants in the Reno area.
They have a $2 drink called Chicha Morada I'd recommend people try. The menu says it is made of black corn that is boiled with pineapple, cinnamon and clove and then mixed with sugar and lemon. Basically it's tea made out of corn. The pineapple, cinnamon and clove were all distinctive in the drink. I liked it.
The trick with Machu-Picchu is to find more unique dishes that will give us a reason to eat there as opposed to say El Sazon restaurant a hundred yards away in the same shopping center. Right now I can say I've eaten at a Peruvian restaurant and kind of add that as a notch to my belt to show I've eaten at a diverse group of restaurants, but we need something that makes it unique.
The to-go menu had a lot of items I didn't see on Friday's dinner menu. Some of the fish dishes look interesting. There's a Bisteck a lo Pobre described as a traditional Peruvian steak served with rice, French fries and fried bananas topped with eggs. There's a Tallarin Verde described as spaghetti made with a flavorful basil and spinach sauce.
I'll try it again. I ask other Chowhounds go to Machu-Picchu and report back on more interesting dishes to try.
2258 Oddie Blvd.
Sparks, NV

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  1. Thanks Steve for the report. Do they have a separate lunch menu and if so what does it look like? (Lunchtime is when I'm in Sparks and therefore most likely to go....). I'm interested in the Tallarin Verde; I like both spinach and basil. I'll have to skip anything with fried bananas, sorry...

    Was the waiter Peruvian, or just not a native English speaker? Assuming he speaks Spanish (or that maybe there will be another server when I go) I will try and get translations for any specials on the menu.....

    1 Reply
    1. re: janetofreno

      The waiter looks Peruvian/South American. He's a native Spanish speaker. I'm not clear on the hours. I assume they're open for lunch. It's not on the to-go menu.
      They have some menu items, like tamales, they said are served only for breakfast on weekends. Maybe you can figure out the hours.

    2. There is a long tradition of Chinese influence in Peru, long enough that your server was correct in saying the saltado was an authentic Peruvian dish (not fusion)...more info in this thread:

      2 Replies
      1. re: susancinsf

        Thanks, Susan. That is interesting. The dish I got tasted like chow mein.
        Janet, I realize now you were suggesting that I didn't know what was in the dishes. The descriptions are printed on the menu. But I'm wondering if bisteck or milanesa in this restaurant is going to be significantly better than any other restaurant.
        Machu-Picchu has the grilled cow heart marinated in garlic, vingar and aji panca.

        1. re: SteveTimko

          Oh no, I was referring specifically to the specials. (the soup that was "vegetables and meat") I was hoping maybe I could help with that....

      2. Went to Machu-Picchu today with my sister for dinner. I have mostly good news to report.
        We each had entrees we liked. I got the traditional Peruvian steak. The bisteck a lo pobre was served with rice, fried bananas and French fries and had a fried egg on top.
        The steak was very thin and cooked well done but still tender enough (maybe thin enough) to cut with a fork. It tasted good. The egg on top was a nice touch. The French fries were pretty ordinary. The rice was excellent. It was just steamed or boiled rice, but it had a nice taste. The language problem again reared its head. I asked the waiter how it was cooked or seasoned to make it taste different. He went back to the kitchen and returned with the word Mahatma written down -- giving me the name of the rice. We talked to him some more and were able to discern that they use salt and a slight amount of garlic making the rice. It adds a nice flavor to it.
        The banana was no big deal. Three half slices on the side.
        My sister got pollo a la plancha. It was a grilled chicken served with French fries and a salad with what tasted like a sour cream dressing. The chicken was again tasty and like the bisteck a lo pobre something I'd recommend on Chowhound. Her entree was $8. Mine was $12.
        The chicha morada, the black corn tea, was again excellent. We both liked it. I liked it so much I ordered a second.
        I also found my new favorite beer. It tastes as much like a Bavarian dunkel as any beer I've found in the United States. It's actually imported from Peru. It's called Cusquena negra. It's a dark, sweet beer with a malty flavor. Perfect for really spicy food -- which this wasn't.
        I Googled the beer and found that the company that brews it has ties to Grupo Empresarial Bavaria, which sounds pretty Bavarian to me.
        So based on these, there's much to recommend to Chowhounds at Machu-Picchu.
        Now for the bad. When I walked in, there was a foul, offensive odor. I couldn't place it, but it seemed like maybe something needed to be cleaned up.
        Also, several menu items I listed above are no longer being served. Like the Tallarin Verde.
        A third problem was that the staff was noisy. My sister and I were the only ones in the restaurant -- not a good thing at 5:30 p.m. on a Saturday. And the staff, who I assume to all be one family, were talking so loud and were so boisterous that my sister and I could hardly carry on a conversation. I think they did it out of boredom.
        On the one hand they seemed eager to please. The service was good. But with a stinky restaurant and a staff that talks so loud you can't carry on a conversation, I think they're undermining themselves.
        I hope Machu-PIcchu succeeds, but they may not have the business to stay around much longer.

        1. I stopped by for lunch today. For an appetizer, I got sliced potatoes covered with a slightly spicy cheese. It was good but maybe a little overpriced at $6.50. I ordered guiso de trigo con bistek. It was steak with what they described as wheat stew. It came with a bowl of beef soup. Nothing special but good. Decent broth with macaroni noodles and a chunk of beef in the center. The steak was nice. Well cooked and reasonably tender. The wheat stew seemed more like some sort of bean and not a lot of wheat. It was good.
          Here's the only thing I didn't like. The previous two times I've gotten a drink called Chicha Morada, which is black corn tea with pineapple, cinnamon and clove. The first two times it was served in a larger glass, close to 32 ounces. Today, it was in a 16-ounce glass at the same price. And no free refills. That kinda sucks because Chicha Morada is as addictive as crack. A very tasty drink.

          2 Replies
          1. re: SteveTimko

            Hi, my daughter is in Peru now and I'm going to email her to try Chica Morada if she sees it there. Thank you for the interesting review.

            1. re: anniediaz

              I just heard back from her. She hasn't had the tea, but has had the ice cream and says it is very yummy.

          2. Went back to Machu-Picchu for dinner last night. I got Loma Saltado. It's a Chinese stir-fried beef dish with French fries on top. Tasty. The beef was especially tender. I was there at 6 p.m. and I was the only customer.