In my waaaay too wordy first part, I think I spent too much time on "stuff", and not enough on the food, so I'm hoping to rectify that with part 2. After my very enjoyable first visit, I knew I had to convince the Missus that Latin Chef was worth a visit...it really wasn't very hard!
So a few evenings later we found ourselves having dinner at Latin Chef.
We started with the usual Canchita, and the Missus had a glass of the Chica Morada($1.50), the very sweet drink made from Purple Maize.(Sorry no photo) We started with a bowl of Sopa a la Criolla("Creole soup" - $8.50):
This very mildly spicy, tomato and cream based broth was rich, but not heavy. The soup contained angel hair pasta, and a few pieces of shredded beef. The Missus, as is Her M.O., took ownership of the fried egg...and declared it "delici-yoso!!!"
I ordered the Aji De Gallina("Chili chicken" - $8.50):
This is one of the "standard" Peruvian dishes. The sauce is made with Aji Amarillo(yellow chile). Aji Amarillo is the most common chile in Peru, when young the chile is green, and is used in sauces. At the "ripe" stage the pepper is yellow in color, and is used in Aji de Gallina. When fully mature the chile is a deep orange-red color, and is at it's most pungent state. Cream, bread, cheese, and usually walnuts make up the rest of the sauce, which is served with strips of chicken. The sauce was thick, and on the mild side, which I livened up a bit with some "Aji", and not as "nutty", nor a spicy as another version I had several years back. The chicken was fine, if a tad on the "dry" side.
The Missus ordered the real "winner" of the evening, the Arroz con Mariscos (The daily special, Seafood Rice - $10.00):
Beyond the nicely flavored rice, and wonderful roasted vegetables, what really impressed us was the preparation of the seafood. The calamari was soft, and very tender, as was the octopus. This was quite good, there was one request that the Missus mentioned to Freddie for the next time she orders this...she asked if next time she could get some chopped Papas Fritas(french fries). To which the always obliging Freddie said; "no problem...we'll make one up special for you!" You gotta love these mom and pop places!
One thing did bother us on this visit, the place was totally empty the entire time we ate. We started worrying about Latin Chef surviving. But all such thoughts evaporated when we visited on a recent Sunday. On this day, the place was packed to the rafters, with no seats available in the tiny restaurant, but we decided to sit outside and enjoy the sun.
I had designs of starting our meal with some Papa a la Huacaina(Potatoes with Huacaina Sauce), after all the potato was first cultivated in the Peruvian Incas. I was over-ruled by the Missus who loves Yuca, so we ended up with Yuca a la Huacaina($6.00):
The pieces of Yuca were fried to perfection, slightly crisp on the outside, and nice and starchy, without being too dense in the interior. The Huacaina sauce, basically a cheese sauce, with Aji Amarillo and cream, was a bit too cheesy for the Missus. This version was made with Parmesan cheese, which made slightly more salty than what I'm used too.
For my entree, I went with a classic "Chifa" (Chinese-style) dish, Arroz Chaufa a la Carne ($8.50):
If you think this looks a lot like fried rice, you'd be right, that is exactly what it is. This version was a bit more simple than the Arroz Chaufa Especial that I enjoyed from El Rocoto in Gardena. While the beef was on the dry and tough side, the scrambled egg had been mixed with soy sauce, and I believe there was a hint of chile as well, making it very tasty.
On this occasion the Missus again did a fine job ordering the Pescado a lo Macho (again the daily special, Fried Fish with Mixed Seafood - $10.00):
A breaded and fried white fish fillet was smothered with a very mildly spicy tomato based sauce and mixed seafood. Like our previous meal, the seafood was cooked well, the Octopus was especially good, with an almost melt in your mouth texture, without being mushy. Whatever means of marinading and tenderizing is done, it is done well.
After this experience, I'd recommend reservations if you're planning to have lunch on a weekend. At this time Latin Chef does not have a liquor license, so sorry, no Pisco Sours, if you want a Cerveza, you'll be directed to the liquor store down the street. The service is very friendly and accommodating, keep in mind that this is a one chef in the kitchen restaurant, so you may have a bit of a wait for your food, but chances are it would be worth it. There are at least 2 "specials" daily that add a nice variety to the menu.
1142 Garnet Ave
San Diego, CA 92109
Kudos to Ed from Yuma, another great find!
You can find part1, here.