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Tumi - Peruvian Restaurant in Berkeley - Report

mariacarmen May 13, 2012 12:19 AM

We went tonight for my sister's birthday. Owner Pablo Navarro greeted us warmly and was our server for the evening. Upfront, he told us they were out of the pollo brasa and one of the ceviches, as well as his own homemade chicha morada. He brought us a bowl of the addictive cancha, toasted salty corn kernels, which i tried not to finish in order not to spoil my appetite for the feast to come.

We ordered:

Fried yucca

Platanos fritos

Anticuchos

Causa Limeña

Papas a la Huancaina

Papas rellenas

Chupe de camarones

Tallarin saltado

This was, admittedly, a LOT of food for 3 people - (although all but the tallarin and chupe were side dishes) especially when one of them is your 83-year-old dad who eats like a bird. And very potato-heavy, but we wanted to get a measure of this place, and these are typical dishes I'd order in any Peruvian restaurant. And, of course, my sister and I like to eat. We didn't order any ceviche because my dad wouldn't have eaten any of it and we were trying to share.

The yucca for me was typically prepared, which to me means it was a bit hard. My sister liked it, though. The yucca came with a little bowl of the Huancaina sauce - which had quite a bite to it. Normally Huancaina isn't all that spicy, but Mr. Navarro and his wife like their chilis - a lot! The Papas a la Huancaina, a cold potato dish served with hardboiled egg and an olive, had the same spicy sauce (obviously). I thought it needed a touch of salt, but no matter. The creamy sauce, typically made with aji panko, crackers, cottage cheese and other things, was wonderful. I loved the bite.

The anticuchos were THE BEST i've had outside of South America - and i've had a LOT of anticuchos, here and in So. Cal. Deeply flavorful, spicy (but not unbearable), tender, still pink inside, and smokey - they were fantastic. I'd go back just to order a couple rounds of this dish. Owner Navarro explained that they're marinated for 13 hours which gives them all that depth of flavor. I cannot urge you enough to get these - don't be squeamish, you won't even be able to tell they're heart.

The papas rellenas - mashed potato orbs stuffed with what is essentially picadillo and then breaded and fried, came split and laced with red onions and parsley. these were very crispy as they'd breaded them with panko - a little thicker crust than i'm used to, but they were very good - tender on the inside and very flavorful. these were not spicy at all.

he platanos were sweet and tender with a nice crisp outside, served with more of the onion/parsley mixture in a light vinaigrette.

The causa Limeña was made with crab. another cold potato starter, I know this dish to be typically made with tuna or chicken, but maybe the crab is what makes it Limeña (from Lima - where Pablo is from). My sister didn't like this dish - she thought the crab wasn't as fresh as it could have been. I liked it fine.

Pablo brought me, upon request, a bowl of their hottest aji (ah-hee) - made with rocoto pepper - which he explained they make with the pure pepper, blended, seeds and all. The other two ajis, both made with jalapeños, huacatay (a sort of black mint) were spicy too - one is made with feta cheese and a little milk, the other with just the chili and herb and a little water. The rocoto aji is really delicious - and hot. My mouth definitely felt the burn, and my nose was running, but you could also taste the wonderful pepper taste of the chili itself, apart from its own heat. Loved it.

My sister's chupe came steaming hot - a huge bowl full of a tomato-y, creamy broth with potatoes (papa amarillo, a Peruvian variety, that they buy frozen, because it's so different from other potatoes here), egg, and giant peel-on shrimp. Once the soup cooled down a bit you could taste the depth of flavors in this dish too - absolutely wonderful. This is another dish I'd come back for solely - and it's big and hearty enough to be a meal by itself.

My dad's tallarin was great, too - very much in the tradition of chifas - soy was predominant but not excessive. the pasta was perfectly cooked, the beef tender and flavorful. It's certainly the best rendition of this simple, homey dish I've ever tasted anywhere.

It is clear that Mrs. Navarro can cook (the website says Pablo is the chef, but he made it clear she does most of the cooking). I've not had better straightforward Peruvian (i.e., not fusion-y or Cal-Peruvian) food in years and years. Pablo told us that his wife is from Cusco, and, astoundingly, a self-taught cook. He himself grew up in restaurants (his mother cooked, his uncles own the Frescas in the City). They had another restaurant in Santa Rosa, and opened Tumi 4 months ago. Amazingly, they just had a baby 5 weeks ago - Mrs. Navarro only took one week off! Pablo stressed to us that she is fanatical about serving fresh, just made food - they don't reheat anything, and the ceviche is to order. Pablo is very chatty and eager to talk about their food!

There is no beer/wine yet, but there will be. He also told us they were starting to make tamales next week, and chicharrones.

A word of warning: Tumi is upstairs in the complex and there is no elevator. This was an issue for us as my father is infirm and using a cane. We took our time getting him up there, but i don't know how the owner of the complex gets away with this - especially in Berkeley. Maybe the structure is old enough, before the ADA was established? Not sure, but if you've got someone in a wheelchair, the only way they're getting up there is if you carry them.

Run over there, now!!

http://www.tumibk.com/

a few pics (sorry, some blurry)

 
 
 
 
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  1. mariacarmen RE: mariacarmen May 13, 2012 12:30 AM

    oops, couple more pics:

     
     
    1. h
      hyperbowler RE: mariacarmen May 13, 2012 07:56 AM

      Nice report! I can't wait to go back and get the anticuchos--- I wasn't impressed by the one at Brasa though I've had far worse.

      You were wise not to get the ceviche w/out your dad's participation-- it's very good, but the serving size is monstrous.

      2 Replies
      1. re: hyperbowler
        mariacarmen RE: hyperbowler May 13, 2012 08:24 AM

        oh, good to know!

        funny, we mentioned the anticuchos at Brasa to the owner here, and he said they don't marinate them long enough at Brasa, so you still get an organ-y taste to them without all the flavor of the seasonings.

        1. re: mariacarmen
          h
          hyperbowler RE: mariacarmen May 13, 2012 10:35 AM

          Oh, that's interesting.I've had some bad antichucos (de corazon) in my time, including some overcooked ones that I made, and Brasa's were indeed the first ones to have such an organ-y taste to them.

      2. arktos RE: mariacarmen May 13, 2012 09:17 AM

        Wasn't there a previous Peruvian restaurant in that location? And am wondering if it is related, in some way, to this new one.

        3 Replies
        1. re: arktos
          drewskiSF RE: arktos May 13, 2012 09:33 AM

          there were two previous. Fonzi's Peruvian Chicken and most recently Arriba Peru.

          i talked to Pablo when i went for lunch and he said they bought the restaurant from the Arriba owner and changed the name. other than that, not related.

          iirc, he said the Arriba owner has another restaurant on the Peninsula and was finding it difficult to manage both so decided to sell.

          Pablo and his wife are from the same family that runs Sazon in Santa Rosa, but decided to make a go of it on their own.

          if the Peruvian Tamale is on the specials, i recommend it. moist and flavorful masa. it's a pretty large ~5" x 5" square and has a whole chili hidden inside along with hard-boiled egg and your protein choice (was pork or chicken that day)

          1. re: drewskiSF
            drewskiSF RE: drewskiSF May 13, 2012 03:37 PM

            tamale picture. it also comes topped with the salsa criolla

             
            1. re: drewskiSF
              mariacarmen RE: drewskiSF May 13, 2012 04:13 PM

              that looks really good, and i'm not usually a fan of most tamales, but confess i've never had a peruvian one.

        2. Robert Lauriston RE: mariacarmen May 13, 2012 10:11 AM

          The Village long predates the ADA. Fondue Fred has been there since 1958.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Robert Lauriston
            mariacarmen RE: Robert Lauriston May 13, 2012 03:29 PM

            I kind of figured. couldn't believe Fondue Fred was still there! i went there with my mother and sister over 20 years ago, before i even lived up here.

          2. a
            abstractpoet RE: mariacarmen Jun 10, 2012 08:39 PM

            Did this place close suddenly? We wanted to try it for dinner tonight and found the restaurant looking like it had been abandoned — asked a server at the Ethiopian place downstairs if there was a Peruvian restaurant in that space, and he said he didn't think they were there anymore.

            I called the number listed on the Tumi website and it seemed to have been disconnected. Anyone know what happened? This thread is only a month old, and there was a fresh Yelp report only a week ago!

            7 Replies
            1. re: abstractpoet
              mariacarmen RE: abstractpoet Jun 11, 2012 11:19 AM

              oh no!! i have no idea! we were planning a return visit next week! this makes me very sad....

              ETA: i just sent them an email, i'll report back if i get a response.

              1. re: abstractpoet
                Robert Lauriston RE: abstractpoet Jun 11, 2012 11:30 AM

                That location is really tough. Maybe they called it quits rather than pay the June rent.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                  mariacarmen RE: Robert Lauriston Jun 12, 2012 08:04 AM

                  that's such a shame. i hope they find themselves another spot nearby.

                2. re: abstractpoet
                  Melanie Wong RE: abstractpoet Jun 12, 2012 01:53 AM

                  The restaurant in Santa Rosa that mariacarmen refers to in the OP is probably Sazon on Sebastopol Road (very good in its own right), if you want to follow up further.
                  http://www.sazonsr.com/i

                  1. re: Melanie Wong
                    mariacarmen RE: Melanie Wong Jun 12, 2012 08:10 AM

                    weird, your link wouldn't work for me....

                    http://www.sazonsr.com/

                    I thought they had given that place up when they opened the Berkeley resto. I've sent the Santa Rosa location an email too, although it seems pretty obvious the Berkeley place is closed. Fortunately (for me) I'll be in Santa Rosa in a couple of weeks for a show so we'll check Sazon out. Thanks for reminding me, MW.

                    1. re: mariacarmen
                      drewskiSF RE: mariacarmen Jun 12, 2012 09:12 AM

                      When I ate @ Tumi, Pablo told me Sazon was his run by his family (dad, brother and him).

                      He and his wife decided to go it on their own to open Tumi and the rest of the family was still running Sazon.

                      Maybe it was too much with the new baby and they've returned to the fold?

                      1. re: drewskiSF
                        mariacarmen RE: drewskiSF Jun 12, 2012 09:51 AM

                        that's exactly what I was thinking. i made a res at Sazon for 6/24. we shall see what we shall see!

                3. mariacarmen RE: mariacarmen Jun 25, 2012 11:45 AM

                  well the mystery continues. we went last night to Sazon in Sebastopol and the waiter knew that Tumi had closed, confirmed the family connection, but had no idea why they'd closed. Other than that, he was a great waiter - very friendly, lively, managing to keep up with multiple people walking in at once. Food was very good. The menu is almost identical, from what i remember, to Tumi's. This time we didn't order any potato dishes, but instead a couple of the ceviches - Aji tuna and ceviche mixto with leche de tigre - our favorite was the ahi tuna prep - really wonderful - an order each of anticuchos, and then split a picante de mariscos in an aji amarillo cream sauce.

                  The anticuchos were very good, but not as good as the ones at Tumi. As Pablo had informed us, if you don't marinate the beef heart long enough, you get a little of that organ-y taste coming through the marinade. that's not necessarily a bad thing, but when they get it right (as they did at Tumi) the results are sublime. The mariscos dish was lovely - a little saffron-y, the aji had just a tiny bit of kick, and the shellfish in the creamy broth were perfectly cooked. We would have liked some bread to sop up the juices - they serve a bowl of their own toasted big corn (cancha) when you sit down - but didn't ask as i also didn't want to fill up on bread.

                  the waiter recommended a refreshing $7 glass of sauvignon blanc/riesling - perfect with the slightly spicy food (we ordered it mild as my sister can't take heat - i doctored mine up with some of the aji on the side.) my sister ordered a Cusqueña beer. I also had a delicious pisco sour - it had been ages since i'd had a good one. nice sprinkle of nutmeg across the top.

                  if i was in the area I'd go back, but I wouldn't make a special trip there. it looks like a lot of the locals make it a regular stop, tho, so i'm glad it's working out for this side of the family, at least, and hoping the people at Tumi open up shop again somewhere soon!

                   
                   
                   
                   
                  2 Replies
                  1. re: mariacarmen
                    drewskiSF RE: mariacarmen Jun 30, 2012 10:03 AM

                    Sign on Telegraph says Arriba Peru is back (restaurant in the space just prior to Tumi).

                    Was late so didn't investigate further.

                     
                    1. re: drewskiSF
                      mariacarmen RE: drewskiSF Jul 3, 2012 09:16 PM

                      so bizarre.... never tried Arriba, have you?

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