*** Aji Seco has closed and is now Nazca Grill
When I first heard about Aji Seco, I was over-joyed! More Peruvian in San Diego...wonderful! Problem was, I couldn't find the darn place. When FOY(Friend of Yoso) Candice finally gave me some instructions on the location, I was dumbfounded......the restaurant was located practically under my nose:
So of course I headed up to check out Aji Seco.....than headed back up, again, and again, and again, with no luck. It seemed like the place was never open! After having such a great time in Peru, we decided that there would be no better way to spend V-Day, than at a Peruvian Restaurant. So we thought we'd try and see if the place was open...and hit paydirt!
The tiny restaurant was pretty full, and all the clientele looked Peruvian. The first thing I noticed was that Aji Seco, and the neighboring Taco Shop, Nieto's was connected by this large gaping entranceway:
For some reason, the phrase, "like brothers from different Mothers" was silently uttered.... Nieto's and Aji Seco, though not affiliated(at least that is what I was told), and with separate kitchens, was connected by this umbilical doorway, and 2 other things; the Taco Shop's salsa bar is located on the Aji Seco side, while the restrooms are on the Taco Shop side. It was quite interesting to see, Guys in flip-flops and shorts strolling past the tables of the more well attired customers on his way to the salsa bar.
The menu "Del Dia", I was guessing that the menu will differ from day to day, featured a good array of standard Peruvian specialties, ranging from Aji de Gallina to Cebiche de Pescado. The Missus was in heaven.....She saw one of Her favorite dishes, Pescado a lo Macho($11):
When the plate arrived the sauce was cold, so we flagged down the Server, who was very apologetic, the plate was returned a short time later, the problem corrected. The Missus enjoyed the moist, and well seasoned fish. There wasn't much seafood in the cream based sauce, which had less tomato and was less spicy than what I was used to, but the Missus enjoyed it, and thought it well flavored.
Of course, I ordered the Lomo Saltado($10):
This was a solid rendition of what many consider to be Peru's National Dish. The beef was fairly tender, and the ratio of ingredients was excellent. The flavoring was less tangy than some versions I've had, but the flavor was still good. What I didn't care for was the rice, which was very hard.
Overall, not a bad meal...the Missus had considered getting the Cebiche, but thought the weather was just too cold to order it...which of course meant another visit. Before we left, we asked about the hours of operation, and was told, "maybe 5 or 6pm, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and today we're open."
So a few weeks later, we arrived to get the Missus her Cebiche de Pescado($8.50) fix:
The Leche de Tigre(Tiger's Milk - the cebiche marinade) was nice and "picante", lower in citrus, so not as sour. The fish was very fresh, and had a nice "chew". The Missus really enjoyed this, it may just be Her new favorite. The only thing that we weren't pleased with were the Cancha(toasted corn kernels) which were dry, crumbled like sawdust, and tasted like the cheap, mass produced packaged stuff we had in Lima. The camote (sweet potato) had been overcooked, thus making it mushy, and all the flavor had been leached out of it. Still, the Missus really enjoyed the Cebiche!
The Missus also ordered a "small" portion of Aji de Gallina($5.00):
The Missus didn't enjoy this very much. The chicken was stringy, the sauce pasty, the potatoes lacked flavor, and it was just very bland overall.
I ordered Seco de Carne(Beef Stew - $9):
This was excellent, and hit on all cylinders; the beef was stewed to a perfect texture, and the nice meaty flavor came through. The cilantro, and I'm guessing, vegetable based "gravy" was wonderful as well. The Missus kept attacking my plate... I also really enjoyed the Frijoles a la Nortena - the creamy and tasty Canary Beans. The only thing I didn't care for was the rice....again, really hard, and dry.
We finished off the meal with some Lucuma(Egg Fruit) Ice Cream:
We were given a huge bowl of Ice Cream! I thought the ice cream tasted kind of "old" and the Lucuma flavor was very faint. Still, it sure was a generous amount.
The service on both visits, while a bit disorganized, was very friendly and accommodating. It looks like they're still some "kinks" to work out, both food(the side dishes) and service wise, but both the Cebiche and Seco de Carne gave us reason to return. The prices are very reasonable for Peruvian food. I'm sure that things will improve as the restaurant opens with more regular hours. One of the Owners; Carlos Gonzalez, told us that Aji Seco's Grand Opening will be on March 15th! We may just check it out.
4310 Genesee Ave
San Diego, CA 92117