Finally got in to Andina. Seemed like every time I went by before they either weren't open. Friday night, had to be open.
Very pleased with my experience. It's a nice room with arches and soft Latin-American colors. The booths and chairs are a little uncomfortable, but could be worse.
They bring you out a cool selection of breads. There's a french baguette style bread cut into slices, then the cool ones, little quinoa rolls and little purple corn rolls (at least I think that's what he said they were). These latter two are light with a nice texture. I'm supposedly going slow on carbs but just downed about a dozen or more of the things. The thing is, they also provide you with two salsas to put on them, one a passionfruit/mango salsa and the other a peanut-based salsa of some sort. Both were excellent. The first was had some okay heat, too.
Our waiter then brought us a complimentary apertif. I'm not sure if just ours (I told him we wouldn't be drinking) or everyones was non-alcoholic. They carry some sort of Peruvian brandy they use in many of their delicious sounding cocktails. I wouldn't be surprised if they normally put that in the drink. Anyway, it was very tasty. It's called a chicha morada (see here: http://andylgraham.virtualave.net/are...) and is boiled corn with apples and spices. It tasted like hot apple cider with a little cranberry, though not as sweet as we might normally get it, maybe a tea version, that had then cooled. Very good stuff.
The have an extensive menu with appetizers, entrees, and ceviches, plus, although I don't drink, a cocktail list that made me wish I had (plus, $2 happy-hour appetizers for those who order cocktails). They have an adjoining more casual bar area that was very busy.
We ordered their naylamb ceviche ($7.50) and their chicharron novoandino de pollo ($5.50) for appetizers, their cordeito en marinado peruano ($20) and their pachamanca del inca ($25) for entrees. We split a passion fruit mousse for dessert (not sure on the price).
The naylamb ceviche was excellent, as I hoped since it is the national dish of Peru. If this place couldn't make a ceviche, I don't think I'd trust anything else. It came with squid, octopus, and shrimp along with yam, onions, greens, hominy, chiles, and a couple other bits in a passionfruit, I think, and tumbo (apparently the original fruit used to make ceviche prior to the conquest and the introduction of citrus; a relative of passionfruit; this is the only decent ref I could find on google: http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/mo...). It was very good, like I said. And I'm not inclined to like ceviche. Maybe it's the overly tomatoey Mexican versions I don't like. The octopus was great. It had a tooth to it, but was not chewy. There was no off flavor whatsoever. The squid wasn't quite as good, but not bad. The shrimp were excellent as well. When you got down into it, it had quite a kick, but an excellent flavor overall.
The chicharron de pollo was excellent as well. It was essentially chicken tenders in a quinoa crust rather than breadcrumbs or cornmeal or whatever. Very good. Big portion, too, especially for only $5.50. I don't think we would have gotten that much at Red Robin. It came with a tasty green sauce of some sort and some fried plantains. I forgot to ask what the sauce was made of. But if I had to guess, I would say avocado and other stuff. It was very good, though. There could have been more of the sauce for how much chicken there was. The quinoa on the outside was so light and crunchy, it was truly fabulous. It looked cool, too.
The lamb came as rack of lamb, probably about five ribs. It was cooked medium and came with an tasty sauce, a pisco infused resuction (apparently pisco is a special Peruvian wine, essentially, see here: http://www.delpilar.com.pe/pisco_eng.htm). The dish had an interesting side dish, fried yellow potato and cheese rolls. They came standing up on their long end, looking like two crispy McDonald's apple pies almost, or an empenada, at least in shape. They had a nice crispy exterior with a fluffy, rich interior. My wife, a mashed potato-aholic loved them. The dish also included fava beans and hominy.
I had the pachamanca del Inca, a stew with venison, quail, large white corn kernels, fava beans, potatoes, yucca and several herbs. It came served in a clay pot with their quinoa bread sealing the lid to the pot. They cut the bread open and remove the lid for you. Not many places in Portland have that kind of presentation, which comes across both organic and spectacular. The stew was good with a strong coriander element in both flavor and aroma. The venison was a rack piece and probably not the best choice. Afterall, it's a stew and so a less lean piece of meat cooked for hours so that it falls off the bone would be more appropriate. However, the quail quarter (leg/thigh) did fall of the bone and was tender and juicy. The broth was good and the aroma great.
For dessert we had the passionfruit mousse which came with raspberries and rapberry sauce. It was fine. Their dessert selection is a little lame, I think. Almost no real pastries. I assume they don't have a real pastry chef or for some reason they're doing something like 3 mousses, a cookie with some extras, and another dessert I can't remember. Bake something, damn it! You make good breads.
The service got a little spotty when they got busy (we got there about 5:30), but not bad. But overall the service was decent. They went out of their way to tell you about the dishes and their origins.
It's a very good value. Our entrees were easily the most expensive. The vegetarian entree was only $12.50 and was the low end. The other dishes ranged between $15 and $18. That puts it in a similar price range with Cafe Azul and The Heathman and makes it cheaper than many of the other nicer restaurants in town. And the appetizers were very large portions, really.
I'm very happy I tried this place. According to their website it sounds like they do a cool Sunday brunch with entertainment. Might have to try it. It's a nice, unique addition to Portland's food scene and I hope it stays around and only gets better.
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