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Jan 29, 2006 11:29 AM

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


              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.