Monday, November 5, 2007

The Original

When most people think about Peruvian food in DC, their mind goes to the wonderful pollerias that populate the area. While Super Pollo and El Pollo Rico are great places to sample authentic roasted chicken and yuca, their offerings are but a sliver of Peruvian cuisine. Recent openings in Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle have menus that offer the staples of fine Peruvian cooking: Causa, Lomo Saltado, Aji de Gallina, and Ceviche.

If you want to make the leap from roasted chicken, El Chalan on Eye Street is the standard-bearer. This is an unpretentious restaurant located below street level - their new sign should help those of us who kept walking past it. Though usually packed for lunch (OAS and World Bank Staff patronize it), securing a table for dinner is never a problem.

Start your meal with pisco sours. Pisco is a liquor distilled from grapes and the cocktail (a mixture of lime, sugar and sour mix or an egg white, dusted with cinnamon) packs a punch, but the flavors and scents in the glass will put you in good stead. The ceviche is not cheap, but the portion is quite generous. Another appetizer that must not be missed is the causa limenia, a seasoned mashed potato terrine stuffed with tuna, egg, or avocado. A lot of dishes mix seafood and potatoes quite successfully and though aji has some heat, the food is, for the most part, not spicy.

Lomo Saltado (much better than anything you've had at Lauriol Plaza under the same name) is a dish comprised of strips of beef, sauteed potatoes, tomatoes and onions. The potatoes manage to remain light on the palate. Aji de Gallina is a chicken stew in a spicy, nutty cheese sauce that showcases the flavors and textures of Peruvian cuisine like nothing else on the menu.

The dessert menu at El Chalan is quite limited - flan and alfajores on most nights. Treat yourself to a second pisco sour instead.

El Chalan
1924 Eye Street, NW Washington, DC
El Chalan on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Christopher said...

I used to work near El Chalan. Very good place to go for a quality, affordable dinner.