Puro Sabor vs. Mario's, Peruvian
Thanks to the beautiful, worthy hounds who suggested Puro Sabor - Peruvian in the Valley. It was shockingly, gorgeously, beautifully good.
Others have claimed it is far better than Mario's. I disagree - I think they're on an even plane, with different excellences.
First of all: bread and aji. Best bread and aji ever. The bread is hot, and has that weird crumbly-dusty crispiness that's sort of fetishized in Chinese pastry baking. It's the best aji-support ever.
Purple corn drink: shocking. Kind of electric, energetic, and about 15 bizarre flavors. Of the purple corn drinks I've had in town (Pollo a la Brasa's, and Natalee's all come to mind as excellent exemplars), this is my favorite - mysterious, dense, and almost chewy with low spice throbbing.
Fried seafood platter: exceedingly good. Puro's batter is denser and more intensely spiced, Mario's is lighter and crisper and more shattering. I think the Puro's batter is a better feat of cooking wizardry, but Mario's got a better touch with the seafood - their calamari comes out with that perfect, edge of melting, tender, just-barely-cooked thing every time. Mario's shrimp and calamari taste a little fresher to me, too.
Plantains: Puro's has the best fried plantains in town. Period. I think I may have had fried plantains at over a hundred places. Puro's win. Somebody buy them a championship belt or something.
Fried yucca: a few pieces came with the fried seafood platter. Very, very well-fried - with that full-oil-permeation-crispiness that some of you double-fried french fry people get all into. For fried cassava, Atlacatl is my favorite for pure cassava flavor, but Puro's gets the Best Frying Technique Honorable Mention.
Saltado - beautiful fries. Excellent saltado. I think I like Mario's saltado a little more - Mario's has this spicing-sauce wizardry, and the saltado gets magically tied together with some soy-and-spice force-lines. Puro Sabor's is more direct - meat, fries, a little sauce, pure. Mario's has more mysterious energetic depth.
I love Puro.
Thank you, Chowhounds.
purple corn drink = chicha morada
fried seafood platter = jalea
potatoes with cheese sauce = papa a la huacaina (from your other post).
You should keep some of the huacaina sauce for the fried yucca. I've seen yucca a la huacaina in some places, and it's a perfect match.
Did you try any of the ceviches at either place?
I had lunch yesterday at Los Balcones del Peru, and they were really on their game.
The ceviche mixto was perfectly marinated. It had a nice mix of squid, shrimp, scallops and halibut. The potato and corn were a little dry, but the yam was very flavorful.
The saltado mixto was outstanding. We had a shrimp and beef saltado. The beef was grilled perfectly, and the shrimp was also cooked just right. The sauce on it was rich, and delicious when soaked up by the french fries.
And, oddly enough, the service was unusually non-epic.
I still prefer Puro, but Balcones is not out of the running.
re: Thi N.
Hi Thi - It's great to have you back from SF!!
I love plantains, but I'm not a connoisseur. I can't think of a plantain I didn't like. I'm sure some are better than others, but since I don't eat them that often, it's hard to choose.
I like the sweet ones at Cuban and Central and South American places.
My favorite plantain, although not in this town, was in Kissimee, Florida and it was in a dish called mofongo. I haven't been able to find it here in LA, but I read that Madre's (RIP) served it.
The plantains are not sweet, and they are mashed and fried in a unique way that gives you a great texture kind of like scalloped potatoes and a distinct but mild flavor.
Now that you mention it, I'll be more aware of my plantains and report back.