I’ve found over the past decade, that diners have become much more accepting of below average ambiance, attention, authenticity and all at lower affordability (what I call the A4 of dining). Cholo’s Kitchen quickly proved that you don’t have to forfeit the A4 to receive excellent quality food, at a reasonable price, all while getting the appropriate amount of attention in a quaint and pleasant atmosphere.
What was notable at Cholo’s Kitchen was the participation of the owner, who didn’t hover, but was present throughout the evening, taking responsibility and focusing on the needs of the customers. All to often, many restaurants focus only on the foods (with all of the celebrity chefs that are serving indescribable palate confusing foods that are more suitable for the lab than the digestive system) and not on the service. My only quibble, a minor one, was with the bus-boy reaching over my partner to place the delicious roasted corn niblets as a tasty “welcome” treat. That is a training issue and the fellow was pleasant enough.
The simple tables quickly became insignificant as the ambiance was filled with tasteful Peruvian music. The owner was buzzing from table to kitchen, which allowed me to take in the local artisan crafts on the walls and the bar. Likewise, the noise level was limited thus permitting me to take in a conversation with my guest and discuss the quality of the bread that was quickly being served alongside the niblets.
The combination of indigenous vegetables and fruits such as plantain, yucca and sweet potato with a wide variety of top quality fish and meats was striking for this little street level restaurant. More so, because Peruvian cuisine is often maligned as the sick sister to South American common foods of corn tortillas, peppers, and rice and beans. Cholo’s made a believer out of my partner and I.
I did comment that the prices seemed a little high at $13 to $22 for seafood entrees and while chicken and beef entrees were more reasonable at $13 to $18, appetizers from $5 to $16 also seemed a little on the high side and soups from $5 to $15 appeared a little over the top. However, I was again pleasantly surprised when I ordered the Sudado Mixto. It was flush with large chunks of white fish cooked to perfection. The broth was subtle and delicious and filled with large slices of potato and tomato. The $14 price was fair considering that this comfort soup with high quality ingredients was large enough for two if not three diners. The spices were also just right, not too spicy and not so mild that the flavor was muted enabling the tenderness in the fish to be tasted as well as the flavor of the fish stock.
That was our only appetizer, as the sides with our entrees were similar to some appetizers. Grilled chicken, shrimp and goat cheeses complement a mix of artichokes, potatoes, peppers, lime, onions and olives along with corn products. Just reading this list makes my mouth water at the prospect of the cooked to perfection sides that accompanied the main courses.
I ordered the Pescado al Olivo, which were two generous portions of tilapia topped with a thick olive sauce and sweet potato fries. My partner enjoyed her Chicharron de Langostino with a delectable lime onion salad and delicious sweet plantain slices. What Cholo’s was able to do was evade the common problem with fried anything. The shrimp were moist and tasty, with a consistent, non-greasy flavor. Wonderful, and a testament to the obvious dedication to perfection of the chefs and owners. Both entrees were moist and filled with an even flavor that was not too spicy or under seasoned.
The remainder of the menu included ceviches (which we passed on because of the cool weather outside), side dishes that included the carbohydrates noted above and a number of authentic Inca based beverages and smoothies.
Certainly, the authenticity was sprinkled with an exceptional array of unique preparation methods, such as Arroz Chaufa de Carne (beef fried rice, with scallion, egg & ginger) and the various marinated steaks, sautéed seafoods, fried and breaded chicken. Overall, the menu was proportionate, offering just enough of a selection to tempt and satisfy both the novice and experienced Pervuvian palate.
Overall, Cholo’s delivers on the A4. The cuisine was well balanced, flavorful and plentiful. The service and attention from the owner was what I hope for in all independent restaurants. The music and ambiance was just right and the price was reasonable considering the portions.
With a little more training for the staff it would be hard to find fault with your dining experience at Cholo’s Kitchen, keeping in mind that it doesn’t promise to be anything other than it is, a delicious Peruvian based selection of food in a comfortable environment, with professional and attentive staff. If you haven’t had Peruvian cuisine, give Cholo’s a try. You won’t be disappointed with the A4’s.