Now I just need a balcony and a nap
1360 Vine Street (@ DeLongpre)
Phone: 323-871-9600 | map
I kept passing by this place: "Oh, that's right! This place over by the Arclight--I gotta remember to come by here!"
We have since remedied this woeful oversight. For my birthday dinner this year* we wandered over to the neon-mad corner of Vine and DeLongpre and into the elegant interior of Los Balcones del Perú. The walls are the color of washed peach, rust and marble plaster, with enough wear to give the impression of lounging in Cerro Azul or Arequipa**; intricate miniature wooden balconies hang at eye-height. There is very little air conditioning; a sultry L.A. evening causes true appreciation of a cerveza fría. Salsa plays overhead (I suppose Peruvian music with charangos and zampo?as is a little hard to come by, even with Amoeba Music a street over).
Some complain of the long wait, but that's part of the charm. We sat, fanned ourselves, ordered, ate, got dizzy and silly, and left within an hour and a half; much of the wait is before they actually come over and ask what you'd like to drink, so perhaps delays are agonizing because of your hunger stalking you like a jaguar with a revenge complex.
Oh, so worth it. Peruvian food is perilous to your work ethic on the best of days, and Los Balcones is no exception. The Saltado de Lomo y Camarones is steak and shrimp sautéed with red onions, tomatoes and french fries, served with steamed rice. The Pollo version is just as savory. There is green aji, served in a dish rather than a squirt bottle, and it is zesty rather than tongue-burning; put this on everything. Los Balcones also has all manner of ceviche and mariscos dishes, expertly marshaled with the likes of aji panca or aji amarillo sauces, spicy or minty wine, or their own juices.
The fries are thinner here than at Mario's, so they soak up a little less of the juice and grease, but then I have the idea that Mario's has those old iron skillets that have been sizzling up meat and veggies for decades, so has that extra bodily-shut-down factor. You can also get Tallarín (spaghetti) instead of fries in case, uh, you're watching your carbs. Or not. No, you're not.
Bianca has a new fondness for Peruvian beer, Cusque?a in particular, and I always get a glass of iced chicha morada, a hibiscus-like beverage made from purple corn.
Who's best among the L.A.-based Peruvian eateries? Dang, I don't know. Each of our (quite limited! Introduce us to more!) Peruvian experiences has qualities. So:
Mario's: Best Chance for Being Carted Home in a Basket
Los Balcones del Perú: Classiest Place for Making Yourself Useless
Lola's: Best Chicha Morada
Mamita: Most tongue-spanking Aji sauce
Peru's Taste: Most savory sauces
Puro Sabor: Best Lomo Saltado
Choza Mama: Most comfortably home-style
* Forty-one, if you must know.
** Although, as far as I know, balconies are notably a Lima thing.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Hollywood, Peruvian, Seafood )
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