Sunday, 21 April 2013

CULANTRO PERUVIAN COOKERY

47 King William Street, Hamilton
www.culantro.ca
visited Saturday April 21, 2013

Ever since my trip in 2012 to Peru and Machu Picchu I've been in search of a Peruvian restaurant a little closer to home besides Mississauga or Toronto.  Finally one is here and its simple, but authentic and yummy.

This little bistro style restaurant is easy to pass by on King William as its tucked between a few other restaurants on this row.  The decor is clean, modern, simple and intended to be casual.  It could have easily been a grimey hole-in-the-wall but they put a touch more effort into it which was nice.  We arrived at an unusual hour between lunch and dinner at 3pm, so the place that seats maybe 20 people max was relatively empty except for one other table.  We were quickly seated and given menus and brought water immediately.  Luckily I knew what the menu items were and zeroed in exactly what I wanted, but for those that are new to Peruvian food, a little explanation from the server would have been nice.  The menu selection is small and even more so on Saturday when a few dishes are not offered.  Best advice is to come on a Friday when the full menu, including, ceviche, chicharron and seafood soup are offered.  They pride themselves on the Peruvian version of roasted chicken, which I'm coming to realize every country does their special version of. 

We ordered some classic Peruvian drinks that brought us back to our amazing trip last year.  Chicha Morado for me; they make their own house made which is lovely because they could easily use the crystal packets and just add water instead.  Chicha Morado is purple corn boiled down to extract the antioxidants and of course that deep purple hue and its flavoured with cloves, pineapple, cinnamon and lime.  This version was smooth and not too sweet and very similar to the drink I had in Peru.  My husband had Inka Cola, which is an unhealthy neon yellow pop.  Its a combination of a cream soda and bubble gum flavour with chamomile undertones.  It is sweet, bubbly and imported straight from Peru.

Our meal took about 15 minutes to be served, so I'm not sure how it would be when the place was packed as I overheard from one of the servers it was the night prior.  But nevertheless the wait was worth it.  I had two empanadas with a side of quinoa salad for $7.50.  One empanada was filled with huge chunks of juicy chicken, mushrooms, peppers and sweet corn kernels.  The other was prime ontario steak, olives, raisins and boiled egg.  Their outter pastry shells were deep fried to golden crispy deliciouness and the interior fillings were fresh, meaty and super tasty.  They came with house made sauces for dipping;  aji amarillo mayo made with a Peruvian yellow chili, huacatay a Peruvian black mint w/yellow chili & a rocoto cream made with Peruvian hot red peppers.  They were all delicious on their own.  The quinoa side salad was a rather small serving but was prepared well.  I particularly loved the crunchy corn nuts in the salad.  I brought home several bags of these corn nuts after my trip and missed them dearly.


My husband had the half chicken with sweet potato fries and the quinoa salad as well.  The chicken was massive, very well roasted and juicy.  The white meat wasnt dry and the sweet potato fries were delightful.  For $12 he got quite a large meal that filled him right up.

The restaurant could've used some great Peruvian music to set the tone.  It was very quiet and we could hear the cook and server in the back talking and I'm sure they could've heard all of our conversation having been the only patrons there at the end.  Perhaps I should burn them a copy of an awesome cd I picked up in Peru?

I'm excited to go back and try the other menu items that can transport me back to Peru. Okay they didn't have roasted guinea pig on the menu, which is pretty typical fare in Peru and which i quite enjoyed whilst i was there.  It's probably illegal here?  But the other menu items are definitely authenitc Peruvian and this place is worth a visit.

Rating:
Food 4.5*, Value 4.5*, Service 4.0*, Decor/Ambiance 3.5*
Overall 4.1*  This restaurant is tiny, the menu is tiny but the flavours are big and truly Peruvian.  If you're looking to explore a new cuisine you won't be disappointed here.  Make sure to check the website for their odd hours and come preferrably on Tuesday, Thursday or Friday when all their menu items are available for ordering.  I loved my trip to Peru, I love Peruvian food and I'm excited to finally have somewhere I can go to get my Peruvian fix. 




Culantro Peruvian Cookery on Urbanspoon

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