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Contigo Peru [Mesa]

Dmnkly Sep 8, 2011 01:59 AM

Doing some searching, I'm a little shocked to discover that Contigo Peru doesn't have its own thread, so let's remedy that.

At this point I think I've hit all of the Peruvian joints in town with the exception of Villa Peru under the new chef, and while I generally abhor declaring winners (there's room for everybody!), this is one of those situations where it seems to me that one kitchen is really operating head and shoulders above the crowd.

It's a typical spartan strip mall joint, but they're turning out some really lovely versions of the classics, and throwing in a few originals as well. The causa's a refreshing start, chilled mashed potatoes dressed with aji amarillo and lime, layered with a finely minced chicken salad and dusted with paprika and parmesan. It's a little odd to wrap your head around when you're accustomed to chicken salad as a sandwich filling, but there's a reason this is a dish with historical staying power.

The ceviche de pescado has fabulous flavor, fiery and acidic without going overboard with the citrus. It's buried in slivered onion, boiled sweet potato and cancha, and I just wish they'd use something other than tilapia.

Anticuchos, when they have them, are intensely meaty, well-seasoned and paired off with a sort of spicy sauce the exact provenance of which eludes me.

I always feel a little funny eating something so oddly downscale as lomo saltado, but it's a dish that's so satisfying in a way that feels so wrong. This is one of the nicest versions I've had, nicely balanced instead of just being blown out with a ton of soy sauce. And I love that they maintain a little bit of the crispy texture on the fries, so you've got some contrast between that and the portions that have soaked up the sauce.

The natural Asian-Latin fusion of Peruvian cuisine is laid bare in the Pescado a lo Macho, a crisply breaded and fried fish filet topped with a spicy mixed seafood stir-fry. Red chile is abundant, as well as an appropriately generous amount of oil, but it's spicy with depth and flavor, not just fire. And I love that they manage to keep things like squid and octopus tender in such a preparation.

Love, love, love the aji de gallina, and curse the fact that it's only available on the weekends. It's a thick and rich concoction, shredded chicken married with potatoes, ground walnuts, parmesan, aji amarillo, hard-boiled eggs and some turmeric, among other stuff I'm missing, I'm sure. It's thick, to be sure, but it's beautifully layered as well, rich and creamy with just enough spice to give it a little life.

There's more I'm forgetting, but this place is a real gem, and I find I have a hard time summoning the will to return to any of the other local Peruvian joints when I can just go back here. Anybody else have much experience with the menu? Favorites I haven't gotten to yet? There's much on that menu to try and I need to get back.

  1. n
    Namius Sep 8, 2011 06:02 PM

    I haven't been to Contigu Peru, but out of curiosity, have you tried its nearby neighbor Inka Fest amongst your list of forgetable local contenders? I've only had Peruvian twice, and Inka Fest the only enjoyable experience, especially liking their rendition of Lomo Saltado as well, Tallarines Verdes con Bisteck (pesto pasta with beef loin), and Cau Cau de Mariscos, seafood in that aji amarillo/turmeric sauce. I did think that their ceviche was overly dressed acidic-wise so would steer away from that.

    If you have tried both what are your thoughts?

    Inka Fest
    29089 N Dobson Rd #21, Mesa, AZ 85202

    6 Replies
    1. re: Namius
      Dmnkly Sep 8, 2011 07:56 PM

      Eek... you're right, Namius, I overlooked Inka Fest. They're newish, aren't they? Will definitely check them out.

      Inka Fest
      29089 N Dobson Rd #21, Mesa, AZ 85202

      1. re: Dmnkly
        Melanie Wong Dec 2, 2011 11:56 PM

        Would love to hear a comparison of Inka Fest vs. Contigo Peru.

        1. re: Melanie Wong
          Dmnkly Dec 8, 2011 01:03 PM

          Finally got to Inka Fest, and see no reason to return. No contest. Not even close. Detailed in the Inka Fest thread:


          1. re: Dmnkly
            Melanie Wong Dec 8, 2011 04:08 PM

            Many thanks for making the rounds and reporting back.

            Then I choose Contigo Peru for dinner tomorrow (friday). Anyone who'd like to join us, please shoot me an email (address in my profile).

            1. re: Dmnkly
              modthyrth Jan 10, 2012 10:11 AM

              Thanks for the detailed comments! I liked Inka Fest (especially the first time I tried it--less impressed the second) and would really love to try more Peruvian food. Contigo it is the next time I have a hankering!

            2. re: Melanie Wong
              jinshi1128 Dec 21, 2011 09:51 PM

              We've been to both and definitely like Contigo Peru better. The service was better, the atmosphere was better and the food was better.

        2. Dapuma Oct 5, 2011 02:30 PM

          going to give it a try tonight, will report back

          3 Replies
          1. re: Dapuma
            Dapuma Oct 7, 2011 06:58 AM

            Had a very good experience there

            The waiter was very friendly and explained everything in good detail, he sold us on trying some Pisco Sours to start off the meal. Which was pisco (liquor made from grapes), lime, sugar, flash blended with a small amount of ice so it was still liquidy not frozen, topped with egg white on top and a few dashes of bitters on top. Very delicious and refreshing, made me want to go out and get some Pisco

            We had the app of Ceviche we got the mixto version with fish scallops and shrimp and squid - it was very good the sweet potatos with it were nice to cut the acid, which was suprising to me because i normally dont like sweet potatos, the shrip was a bit over done but overall it was good

            for mains we had the pescado a la macho or the pecsado contiga - it was the very bottom choice of the fish section i cannot remember, the waiter recommended it and it was very good, nice lightly fried fish with chile sauce on it with shrimp scallops and some squid / octopus - it came with some crispy friend yucca strips, which were very good and there were two side chile sauces one that was more garlicy and one that was cilantroish and tossing a bit of that on the crispy yucca was very good - the dish came with rice also

            Overall it was tasty and will def go back again - if you are on the fence to try it or not restaurant.com has a coupon on there as well so there is no reason not to give it a try

            1. re: Dapuma
              Da Beebz Oct 7, 2011 10:18 AM

              I was looking forward to this review. We tried Inka Fest not too long ago cause the wait for Cornish was over an hour. We really enjoyed our dinner. My mom is flying in from Boston tues and instead of San Diego Bay we will try Contigo Peru. Will do a follow up report!

              San Diego Bay Restaurant
              9201 S Avenida Del Yaqui, Guadalupe, AZ 85283

              Inka Fest
              29089 N Dobson Rd #21, Mesa, AZ 85202

              1. re: Da Beebz
                BeeZee Oct 24, 2011 07:58 AM

                we were visiting from NJ last week and went to Inka Fest for dinner, had a tasty dinner. Ceviche was really good, and the woman who waited on us was so nice, she was really happy to hear that we found them on the web all the way from NJ!

                Inka Fest
                29089 N Dobson Rd #21, Mesa, AZ 85202

          2. Dapuma Dec 1, 2011 08:31 PM

            went back to Contigo again tonight, and had another fantastic meal and pisco sours

            i would report what i got but the menu online doesnt line up to the menu in the restaurant but ill just say it was really good and the ceviche was also excellent again

            took home an order of the Alfajores which are very good, they are a shortbread cookie filled with le leche filling topped with powdered sugar, which are very tasty

            hope some more people check it out and report back

            1 Reply
            1. re: Dapuma
              cactuschowdah Dec 2, 2011 07:53 AM

              They have alfajores there?!?!?! That was one of my culinary highlights on my Argentina trip. Must go here now...

            2. johnseberg Dec 2, 2011 10:55 PM

              Added place link.

              Contigo Peru
              1245 W Guadalupe Rd, Mesa, AZ 85202

              1. Melanie Wong Dec 17, 2011 11:07 PM

                Last week I did make it to Contigo Peru for dinner. Here’s the dinner specials board that Friday.

                The two aji sauces made with rocoto chile peppers, one red and the other green from cilantro, served up with soft rolls were quite intereting. The red was spicier with more direct flavor punch, whereas the green mingled fresh herbaceousness with more restrained chile spice and garlicky accents. We ordered an appetizer, anticuchos, to share. Well, actually, I started with a pisco sour, mild here with a frothy egg white head.

                The anticuchos, two hefty skewers to a plate, was the largest serving size I’ve seen. The grilled beef heart was accompanied by a special aji sauce made with rocoto chiles and cebollas chinas (scallions). Tender with just a little residual bite to know you’re eating organ meat, I liked the flavor of the marinade, assertive but not overpowering the inherent taste of the heart. Good job, as I can only ding this dish for not having quite enough grill influence.

                John picked Cau cau de mariscos for his main dish. Our waiter said it was one of the best items on the menu. Nice texture on the bite of squid and shrimp I sampled, showing a light touch in hitting doneness. Yet, the frozen seafood did not have enough flavor interest to shine with such restrained seasoning. Pleasant but needed doctoring with the table sauces.

                For me from the specials board, Olluquito con carne. This came highly recommended as a homecooking style of dish from the Andes. We’d quizzed our very friendly waiter for an explanation of the dish and he described olluquito as similar to potatoes. Turns out that the olluco used to make olluquito is a tuber imported from Peru. When I asked what type of “carne” went into the dish, we were told that at home its made with carne seca but here with fresh steak strips. Looking for more info later, apparently the traditional type of carne seca would be dried llama. compendium.travelvice.com/olluquito/

                The olluco turned out to be like a juicy potato, sort of a cross between potato and canned water chestnut in texture. Olluco was starchier in taste than oca, another Andean tuber I’ve tasted. Seasoning again was quite simple, and in need of both salt and acidity. A dab of the red aji added both plus another bit of flavor to wake up the otherwise drab dish.

                For dessert, we tried the Lúcuma ice cream imported from Peru. I’ve had many domestically produced ice creams flavored with lucuma/lacuma puree from Peru, and this was a little more concentrated. However, I’m still not sure that I can describe the taste of lucuma. Maybe maple-y and because of the color I tend to think it tastes somewhat like yams but that might be my senses playing tricks on me. The ice cream itself was on the grainy side and seemed too old.

                Contigo Peru
                1245 W Guadalupe Rd, Mesa, AZ 85202

                1 Reply
                1. re: Melanie Wong
                  johnseberg Dec 18, 2011 08:02 AM

                  Thanks for the write-up, Melanie. I don't have much to add. The anticuchos were the highlight, for me. I'll give Contigo Peru another try, someday.

                  I hope you have something to write about El Tlacoyo. I need to get over there.

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