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Sep 11, 2009 06:41 PM

El Tumi: New Peruvian restaurant in Reno

I checked in on El Tumi regularly about every two weeks beginning in February but gave up a month or so ago. I didn't know why it was taking so long to open. But I saw a review on another Internet site and I knew it was time to go. So I took my new point-and-shoot camera along and tried El Tumi.
The server asked me what I wanted to drink and I struggled to remember the name of the purple corn, cinnamon and clove drink and he said, "Chicha morada?" This is operated by the same family who operated the Peruvian restaurant on Oddie Boulevard and he remembered how much I loved it there.
This is nectar of the Gods, folks. There's just all kinds of flavors going on here. The clove and the cinnamon offer sweetness and spiciness. Plus there's light and dark fruit flavors. Love this stuff.
And although I didn't order one, they also have Cusquena, a beer from Peru brewed by a German brewer. It's the closest thing I've tasted in the United States to Bavarian beer since I visited Munich in 2001. I recommend both of those.
The old Sparks restaurant used to be a Long John Silvers or something like that and was larger. This restaurant is smaller but has a larger menu. They have fish dishes, which I don't remember on the menu of the old restaurant. They also have some new drinks I'll have to try.
You can get three smaller portions of entrees for $12.95 so that's what I did. I got Aji de Gallina, a shredded chicken mix with a creamy sauce made of Peruvian yellow chili, milke, bread and spices (as the menu said); Carapulcra, marinated chicken and pork; and Seco de Carne, beef cocked with cilantro and peas and wine.
The simple way to describe Aji de Gallina is that it's shredded chicken served in something like the cream sauce in a chicken pot pie. The menu describes it as being made with yellow chili but it's a mild chili. No spice at all. It had some nice flavors and kind of a nice texture. It was not served over anything and I get the sense this dish would be better served over something else. I still liked it.
The carapulcra was quite interesting too. This sauce had a little bit of zip to it. They partitioned the food on my plate with slices of yucca frita and I loved running the yucca frita through this sauce before eating it.
This reminded me more of Filipino chicken adobo (without the soy sauce) than anything else i've had in Latin America. A little bit of heat and some tang. Good stuff.
Finally there was the Seco de Carne. The only disappointment of the dinner came here and it was mild. It was listed on the menu as having peas. I was expecting fresh peas. It was peas and carrots and at best previously frozen, maybe canned. It was a mild set back.
The rest of dish itself is great. I could definitely taste the cilantro and there's a llttle bit of zing from other spices, plus probably garllic and onion. I think I liked this sauce best of all but there wasn't enough of it to really dip the yucca frita in it.
I don't want to scare anyone away with the talk of these spices, though. All are mildly spiced and not up to the scale of say Mexican dishes.
Look at my photos to see pictures of the food.
The restaurant is in a strip mall near Kietzke and Moana, the same strip mall with Pinnochio's.
I see myself returning to El Tumi to explore the expanded menu. It's nice to have a restaurant like this in Reno that's not just different but also good.
This is the kind of place for which Chowhound was invented. I hope the 'Hounds support it.
El Tumi
585 E. Moana Lane
Reno, NV 89502
(775) 827-5454

From left to right is the plate of food, the Aji De Gallina, the Carapulcra and Seco de Carne.

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  1. The two at left at Chicha Morada, the nectar of the gods. Plus the restaurant.

    1. Steve, thanks SO much for writing this up. We went for lunch today and loved it. We really indulged by having Pisco Sours which were very generous and tasted how we remembered them tasting in Peru about a dozen years ago. We had our hearts set on anticuchos but they were out today. He brought us a "salsa" of sorts. It was the color of guacamole but thin. It had a definite zip but not overwhelmingly hot. He told us it's made from a Peruvian plant that they buy from LA. We started with fried plantains with some sour cream. They were wonderful and plenty of them for two to share. Then we had carapulcra which you described above. Loved it too and again plenty for two to share. There was a couple across from us and the woman was returning for the fourth time and has ordered something different each time. Except she always order the ceviche which she insisted we taste (aren't people wonderful?) It's catfish marinated in lemon juice, rocoto (Peruvian red chili), garalic, ginger and Peruvian spices (copied from the menu I brought home). Also served with reconstitued corn and some other things I didn't particularly notice. I mean really, we're standing there beside their table sampling their food :) Oh yeah, she had also insisted that I taste the daily special that she'd ordered (I'm ready to adopt this woman!). It was a thin piece of beefsteak, grilled and put over lentils. Came with soup.

      Like us she''s REALLY hoping that this place will make it. It was encouraging that there were five additional people at two tables and it seemed they might have been there before. We went from there to visit my MIL at a rehab center and I told one of the nurses, who's from El Salvador, about it. And she's going to check it out. Even my 89 y.o. MIL seemed interested. We're only here for a couple more days but can see going back tomorrow. It was that good. Again, thanks for a really good recommendation.

      1. The wife and I were in Reno yesterday and decided to check out El Tumi and see what the buzz is about. We were fortunate enough to have Steve Timko join us as a last minute guest. There was a good Peruvian restaurant in our former home in Chicago, and we've been fortunate to have been to Peru so were interested to see how El Tumi measures up. I believe they have taken liberties to adapt to American tastes, but we enjoyed our meal.

        We started with an excellent version of a pisco sour. I liked the chips and "salsa" they brought to the table. Potatoes are native to Peru and I was looking forward to the Papa a la Huancaina-boiled potatoe slices served with a creamy sauce made of aji amarillo, cheese topped with egg, and olives. This dish was ubiquitious in Peru and was generally excellent, however I found this version fairly bland. The potatoes were a bit undercooked and the sauce just tasted like cream, lacking all the subtle flavors in other versions I've had. However, it was the only miss of the evening for us. The fried plantains were delicious, not needing the sour cream served on the side. I don't like catfish but the ceviche was outstanding, somehow masking the odd subtle flavor I have found in this particular fish.

        Pollo a la bras, roatisserie chicken marinated in rich peruvian spices, was quite tasty. I'm not sure how authentic it was but the flavor was delightful and the chicken quite juicy. The Carapulcra was a terrific recommendation from Steve and C. Oliver. Aguadito de Pollo-chicken soup with peas, carrots, corn, rice and a base of cilantro was delightful, with a rich, herbal broth.

        We bypassed dessert for Chicha Marada. Steve, you are correct-it's nectar of the gods.


        2 Replies
        1. re: RevrendAndy

          Thanks, Rev, for the report. I'll add some photos.
          From left to right below are the carapulcra, Andy's roast chicken, the soup and the catfish ceviche.
          Of those, I only tried the soup and the ceviche. I liked the soup, but it wasn't really a stand out dish. I wouldn't send someone there just to try it, like I would some of the other dishes.
          I trust Andy's judgment that they executive the catfish ceviche well. I didn't like it for two ones. One was that there was too strong of a fish taste for me and the other was the texture which I found off putting.
          The ceviche came with those awesome corn kernals which I guess we decided were not posada. They had a nice taste to them. There's also sweet potato with the ceviche.

          1. re: RevrendAndy

            At left below are the plantains. Nothing special or fancy but they were nice. And finally is a picture of my passionfruit drink, which again was nice but nothing like chicha morada.

          2. Steve, glad you had pictures because for some reason mine didn't upload to the post.

            1. Well, I had a very nice meal at El Tumi with RevAndy and Mrs. RevAndy, but El Tumi seemingly knew I was bringing Chowhound royalty and pulled out all the stops recently when I went with Yimster and one of his sons for the best meal I've had there.
              They've expanded the menu since I was there last. We ordered a mixed fish entree for an appetizer and it was excellent. It included catfish ceviche over a sweet potato (something Yimster's son promised to copy), some excellent scallops and my favorite, shrimp and fish breaded with a spicy cornmeal. Excellent. It's the first two photos below.
              For entrees we got chicken, beef and a chicken and pork dish and all were nice. We all also got chicha morada, something else Yimster's son promised to learn to make. We were all fans of the purple/black corn tea drink.
              Finally, for dessert, they now have an ice cream made from lucuma. Excellent. Has a caramel taste to it. I recommend it.
              El Tumi is on a trajectory of improvement. Yimster gets to eat some of the best San Francisco food regularly and he liked it, too.

              2 Replies
              1. re: SteveTimko

                I'm SO glad to read this. I almost cringed when I saw an update on this thread. I thought, oh no, don't tell it's either closed or not as good. We'll definitely go back. So many of our Reno meals these days are with elderly MIL who never wants anything new. We'll hit it one day for lunch. Thanks for this update.

                1. re: c oliver

                  Not all of the dishes are ready by lunch. A co-worker wanted to get the chicken dish I had recommended but it wasn't ready. She got the scallops instead and enjoyed it.