Washington is home to many diverse cuisines, representing countries from around the world. Peruvian food is among the most flavorful and comforting of all these choices. It’s also something that most people likely haven’t thoroughly explored.
The District has many Peruvian restaurants, from casual to formal – and some are just months old. Here are some dishes that curious diners should know about when ordering and exploring these foods.
Peruvian cooking is perhaps best known for fantastic rotisserie-roasted chicken. This method produces meat that is juicy and savory and skin that’s crispy and delightful. The dish is typically accompanied by traditional Peruvian side dishes such as fried potatoes or yucca, rice and beans or a simple salad. Put it all together and you’ve got a meal that’s tasty, filling and super affordable.
It’s easy enough to find these types of restaurants in the area, though the best spots are in the suburbs (these are generally far superior to anything in the city proper). Pencil in a trip to Super Chicken, which has multiple locations including in Falls Church and Tysons. In the city, you can find solid versions at Chicken Rico or Chix DC, which has a couple of addresses. There’s even a version at Del Campo, although it’s most known as being an Argentinian steakhouse.
Ceviche (also sometimes spelled cebiche) consists of fresh, raw seafood that has been cured in citrus juices like lime and lemon. These juices create a marinade known as “leche de tigre,” or tiger’s milk. There’s usually also some fresh herbs and spices and maybe even some corn or other vegetables like onion to give the dish a little crunch. Using the freshest fish and seafood means ceviche can be expensive, but it’s a light, delicate, flavorful and refreshing way to start a meal.
Ceviche is popular across Latin America and isn’t unique to Peru, but several Peruvian restaurants in the area serve excellent versions of the dish. The newest is Nazca Mochica in Dupont Circle, a two-level Peruvian spot with a ceviche lounge and bar downstairs and sit-down restaurant on the top level. There’s also great ceviche options at China Chilcano, an Asian-Peruvian fusion restaurant from the mind of the prolific Chef José Andrés. In the H St. neighborhood you can hit up Ocopa, which serves a vegetarian ceviche along more typical types.
All of this delicious food needs to be washed down with a good drink or two. The pisco sour is the traditional Peruvian drink. Pisco is a South American brandy, and the sour cocktail is made by mixing pisco with lemon juice, egg white and simply syrup. It’s foamy, tart and refreshing and on the menu at just about every Peruvian bar or restaurant out there.
Aji de Gallina
This traditional entree is the definition of comfort food. It’s a sort of stew made with shredded chicken, a sauce made with a creamy, nutty and slightly spicy sauce. It’s all tied together by white rice and topped with an egg. In addition to the restaurants already mentioned, you can get it at Las Canteras in Adams Morgan.
Lomo saltado basically means sauteed beef. It’s a simple dish of steak chunks usually accompanied, tomatoes, cooked onions, cilantro and a plate of french fries and white rice. You can find it at most places, including the neighborhood chicken joints like Super Pollo in Arlington.
Every meal needs dessert, and alfajores are a popular cookie in Latin American and you’ll likely spot them where Peruvian food is served. The sweet, crumbly cookie sandwiches are dusted with powdered sugar and filled with dulce de leche, a candy spread made from milk and sugar.