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Restaurants & Bars 16

Contigo Peru [Mesa]

Dmnkly | Sep 8, 201101:59 AM

Doing some searching, I'm a little shocked to discover that Contigo Peru doesn't have its own thread, so let's remedy that.

At this point I think I've hit all of the Peruvian joints in town with the exception of Villa Peru under the new chef, and while I generally abhor declaring winners (there's room for everybody!), this is one of those situations where it seems to me that one kitchen is really operating head and shoulders above the crowd.

It's a typical spartan strip mall joint, but they're turning out some really lovely versions of the classics, and throwing in a few originals as well. The causa's a refreshing start, chilled mashed potatoes dressed with aji amarillo and lime, layered with a finely minced chicken salad and dusted with paprika and parmesan. It's a little odd to wrap your head around when you're accustomed to chicken salad as a sandwich filling, but there's a reason this is a dish with historical staying power.

The ceviche de pescado has fabulous flavor, fiery and acidic without going overboard with the citrus. It's buried in slivered onion, boiled sweet potato and cancha, and I just wish they'd use something other than tilapia.

Anticuchos, when they have them, are intensely meaty, well-seasoned and paired off with a sort of spicy sauce the exact provenance of which eludes me.

I always feel a little funny eating something so oddly downscale as lomo saltado, but it's a dish that's so satisfying in a way that feels so wrong. This is one of the nicest versions I've had, nicely balanced instead of just being blown out with a ton of soy sauce. And I love that they maintain a little bit of the crispy texture on the fries, so you've got some contrast between that and the portions that have soaked up the sauce.

The natural Asian-Latin fusion of Peruvian cuisine is laid bare in the Pescado a lo Macho, a crisply breaded and fried fish filet topped with a spicy mixed seafood stir-fry. Red chile is abundant, as well as an appropriately generous amount of oil, but it's spicy with depth and flavor, not just fire. And I love that they manage to keep things like squid and octopus tender in such a preparation.

Love, love, love the aji de gallina, and curse the fact that it's only available on the weekends. It's a thick and rich concoction, shredded chicken married with potatoes, ground walnuts, parmesan, aji amarillo, hard-boiled eggs and some turmeric, among other stuff I'm missing, I'm sure. It's thick, to be sure, but it's beautifully layered as well, rich and creamy with just enough spice to give it a little life.

There's more I'm forgetting, but this place is a real gem, and I find I have a hard time summoning the will to return to any of the other local Peruvian joints when I can just go back here. Anybody else have much experience with the menu? Favorites I haven't gotten to yet? There's much on that menu to try and I need to get back.

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