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Los Balcones de Peru: Is Peruvian Food Just Not that Great?

  • d

Went to Los Balcones last night, the relatively new Peruvian place on Vine near Hollywood. It's the kind of place I want to like, but in the end I'm disappointed. I wonder - maybe Peruvian food just isn't that great (admittedly I've never been a great fan of Mario's either).

To start, I had the Aguadita soup - the soup itself looked quite promsing, a green, redolent cilantro base filled with great stuff - corn, rice, potatoes, chicken, veggies. But, I found it impossibly salty and the underlying chicken broth didn't taste home made to me (but maybe the salt was simply covering it up).

Then I had the chicken saltado - the traditional stir fry of meat, onions, tomatoes, and french fries. I liked this dish better than the soup. For one, I had told them to cut back on the salt, which may have helped. But I also appreciated the rather nice tasting home made french fries. Still, I found the dish quite bland and I had to add both lime juice and that Peruvian green hot salsa (which fortunately I saved, because the waitress wanted to take it away before I got my entree).

Maybe this is as good as a saltado gets - pleasing to eat, but basically fundamentally boring food. I do wonder if I had it in Peru whether it would be a more interesting dish.

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  1. I agree with you! If you like Peruvian food, more power to ya. However, I'm personally not a big fan of it.

    1. t
      Tha Groovin' Gourmet

      Sounds like you've not had good Peruvian. When it's good it's very, very good, but I would not want anything to do with it when it is bad.

      I've had marvelous meals at Fina Estampa in SF and Inka Si SeƱor in Vegas. Lomo Saltado done right, with well done fries to soak up the
      juices from the meat and veggies can be a relevatory dish. Same can be said for the variety of ceviches found on Peruvian menus.

      1. I've had really tasty Peruvian dishes but many of the cheese sauces don't really impress me, though they're interesting. Most of the items are nothing like other Latin American cuisines, however.

        1. i'v had lunch many time over the years at Mario's and it is good. But I do think over all the food is better at Los balcones. (The fries in the saltado could be crunchier).

          Their soups are not that special you are right...I Think they might admit the same.

          Their cevishes are spectacular !!!!
          and their Aji Verde (Green sauce is Stellar...much better than marios and many other places. ALthough your right they are stingy with it !!!! Marios put a whole bottle on the table!

          They also have great mussels , Steak is very tender grilled with onion and tomates, and there is an awesome version with an egg on top!

          It is the kind of place you really want to like, but they do seem to make alot of mistkes , which can be forgiven ecause they are new ish.....but I wouldn't allow that forgivness for much longer!!!!!

          2 Replies
          1. re: rantoit

            I, too, like Balcones.

            The ceviche Balcones is very good. You can pick what kind of seafood(s) you want in the ceviche, and it comes with a generous portion of fried calamari.

            The other day, I had a delicious dish of fried fish with tomatoes and onions on top. The fish had a delicate crust, so it was a little crunchy on the outside and flaky and tender on the inside. It wasn't too salty. In fact, it was very lightly seasoned. The simplicity of it was the beauty of it.

            My wife wasn't too thrilled with the saltado, though.

            1. re: lil mikey

              I had a really lovely meal at Balcones a couple of weeks ago. Fantastic ceviche, and that great steak-with-an-egg thing mentioned above.

              It's interesting that the consensus is that their saltados aren't too great. I was chatting with the owner while I was eating, and mentioned I wanted to come back and try a saltado. He kind of shrugged, and said that he viewed the saltado as the least interesting item on their menu.

          2. Peruvian cooking is probably THE great cuisine in the Americas - subtle, complex, encompassing the riches of the coast, the mountains, and the altiplano, which is an agricultural zone unique in the world. No other country in the world has the wealth of seafood. No other creole cuisine embraces its indigenous roots quite so fully. No other cuisine, it is sad to say, suffers quite as much from the utter unavailability of many of its most important ingredients, including rocoto peppers, fresh huacatay, most of the seafood and the hundreds of tubers. Los Balcones does an admirable job.

            The Chinese-influenced stir-fry dishes, including saltados, tallarin, chaufa, are incredibly popular in Peru - Chinese people run a vast majority of the country's restaurants - but they are no more indicative of the range of Peruvian cooking than the egg foo yung at a chop suey joint would be indicative of the vast range of U.S. cooking.

            2 Replies
            1. re: condiment

              Bravo! Well said. I love Peruvian.

              Two places I like in O.C.

              - Nory's #3 in Lake Forest
              - Inka Anaheim in Anaheim

              Places I do not like in the O.C.

              - Inka Grill in Costa Mesa
              - Aji Grill in Irvine

              Link: http://elmomonster.blogspot.com

              1. re: condiment

                Hi all. Since this has now morphed into a general discussion of Peruvian food and the impact that the unavailability of ethnic ingredients from that area has on US Peruvian restaurant cooking, further discussion of this needs to be taken to our General Topics message board, (see link below to take you there).

                Thanks for everyone's cooperation.

                Link: http://www.chowhound.com/boards/gener...

              2. I'm a huge fan of Peruvian food, but was disappointed by Balcones a few times too many. I tried, but to no avail!! It just isn't that great in my opinion. It's OK.

                1. To me, it all comes down to the cebiche -- anything else, saltados included, is secondary -- and the best I've had is at Las Quenas, on Sherman Way and Bellaire Avenue in North Hollywood, in the little Thai Gulch they have going up there.

                  I've only once eaten at Los Balcones and I fled back to Las Quenas.

                  Also, Peruvian roast chicken is a thing of beauty -- in this case, you want to go to Super Pollo, on Van Nuys Blvd. near Victory Blvd.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Das Ubergeek
                    Dogbite Williams

                    Super Pollo is a GREAT value. You can get two pieces of chicken, fries and salad for around $4.50, and it is terrific. Aji and chimichurri are available on the counter.

                  2. I've been to Balcones twice and I've been unimpressed both times (though the shrimp chowder I had the first time was good). The biggest tip-off that the place is not serious is that their aji, the cilantro-intensive Peruvian national condiment should be extremely spicy and here it is bland. I am not a fan of Mario's either. I haven't tried Mamita's in Glenbale which some people on this board like. Peruvian food at it's best can be fantastic (I have had countless great Peruvian meals in Miami where Peruvian restaurants are prolific) but I haven't encountered those heights in LA yet.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Oro3030

                      Are you trying to make me go to Miami? If this isn't good to you...wow.

                      It's like hearing a guy from Philly explaining why a cheesesteak sucks everywhere else. I've been to Philly and had cheesesteaks and I'll never eat one anywhere else again...ever.

                      I respect your opinion, but this is a great restaurant for me until I go to Peruvian restaurant school

                      Will there ever be a restaurant that serves Cuy???

                    2. their green sauce is so good, I had a friend in NY ask me to fed ex him some, and I did.

                      their veggie soup is magnificient ... their saltado de maricos, and the other things, the walnut gravy, the green beans, all wonderous.

                      1. I don't see why people don't like the food from los balcones I attended the resturant a few weeks back and I really did enjoy the food and the music they offered. I believe to this point that it is the best peruvian resturant I have gone to yet and trust me I've been to tons! And another thing instead of talkin about the green chilli why not try some of their dishes... like for example.. their ceviche.. or thier tacu tacu...

                        1. This is one of my favorite restaurants in Los Angeles. As a restaurant worker, I always appreciate seeing an owner who is constantly on premises. He's a good dude and his ceviche is one of the best things I've ever had. Order it spicy so you can down the Argentinian Chardonnay quickly and get another bottle.

                          Ask him to put his chicken wing ceviche on the menu. He told me and my girl about it the other day, it's something he makes at home...but chicken wings in that sour/spicy mixture, grilled to perfection, covered in thinly slice onions??? YES!

                          This is definitely a favorite. Get the steak with the fried egg atop it, don't remember the name, but it's good.

                          Even if it isn't served rare.

                          1. No other country in the world has the wealth of seafood.""

                            Really? Not even Japan or one of the Mediterranean countries?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: myca

                              Not even Japan or the Mediterranean countries, the latter of
                              which are pretty damned close to being fished out. The cold,
                              nutrient-rich Humboldt Current is home to an incredibly diverse
                              array of sea creatures, not one in a hundred of which makes it to
                              the U.S. In Peru, a ceviche or a parihuela is always an adventure.

                            2. Jonathan Gold's review of Los Balcones mentioned that stir frys, like Saltados, were not its strong suit but that Ceviches were highly recommended.