It has been a quarter of a century (gulp) since I last ate Peruvian food, in the Lima suburb of Miraflores. We decided to check out the month-old Cholo’s in Dickson.
The dining room is spare but prettily furnished with Andean textiles. Peruvian synth-pop music is playing, thankfully not too loud.
We started with beers and a plate of chips, and pretty stock-standard ones they were too, except they were accompanied by a most curious yellow spicy sauce. I couldn’t tell if it was mustard, chili, horseradish, or some combination. The waitress was unable to enlighten me as to what it consisted of.
The beers were the esoteric Cusqueña and Pilsen labels, perfectly serviceable lagers, although the Cusqueña had a somewhat alarming vegetal aroma.
The main meal was a shared parrillada, or mixed grill in the South American style. The platter consisted of beef steak, lamb steak, chorizo (hot sausage), morcilla (blood sausage) and anticuchos (chunks of beef heart on a skewer).
I approached the anticuchos with trepidation, since offal is not really my thing. To my shock, they were phenomenal: tender yet chewy with charred edges and enormously beefy flavor. The beef steak and lamb were cooked medium, were nicely marinated and juicy, and not too fatty. The chorizo was sensational. Garishly red-orange and lumpy, it did not present the most appetizing picture but one bite presented a spicy, salty, porky flavor explosion. The blood sausage was…bloody. Crumbly and nearly black, it did not appeal to me, but connoisseurs of such delicacies may disagree. The yuca fries surrounding the meat were crispy and relatively greaseless.
Accompanying the meats were a trio of condiments: the aforementioned mustard/chili concoction, a greener and herbier/spicier version of the same thing, and a traditional chimichurri. All went well with the meats.
We couldn’t resist dessert: The Mr. got torta de tres leches, a Latin staple of sponge cake soaked with three milks (condensed, evaporated, and cream). Moist to the point of wetness, as is usual with this cake, it was creamy-sweet and iced with soft meringue. Mr reckoned it was closer in flavor to a pavlova than a tres leches, but that didn’t stop him from polishing the whole thing off.
My dessert was an off-menu special of picarones, described as “Peruvian donuts”. Just so.
They were accompanied by a cup of cinnamon-flavored honey syrup, and you better believe I snarfed these crunchy beauties down in about ten seconds. I can easily see picarones replacing churros as the trendy Latin fried pastry of the moment.
The prices at Cholo’s are not inconsiderable: most main dishes approach $30, and the parrillada for two is $65. But this might be your only chance to try some authentic Andean specialties in Canberra, and overall the experience is a pleasant one.