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Restaurants & Bars

Pennsylvania

El Sol del Peru (Upper Darby)

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Restaurants & Bars

El Sol del Peru (Upper Darby)

Jesse | Nov 19, 2003 12:53 AM

My girlfriend and I had an excellent dinner Sunday night at said establishment...There are some other posts to be found about this place well down the board but since those are pretty well dated I thought I'd chip in some good words. It's at 57 Garrett Rd about a block away from Market, close to 69th St Station and Sabor Latino. Your typical informal and authentic hispanic restaurant: cheap eats, homey atmosphere, lots of spanish being spoken, and peruvian customers and waitstaff. The menu is very authentic and well-executed from what we tasted, according to my lovely half-peruvian girlfriend, Isabel. The only downside was an apparent rock show happening upstairs. The bass occasionally buzzed our chairs and it was odd to have punk sometimes drowning out the peruvian music in the restaurant. It didn't seem to bother the customers or the waiter too much though, and we didn't mind.

I think the place is BYO but we opted for some sugary non-peruvian drinks instead: inka kola, peru's answer to mountain dew I suppose (but much better), now owned by the coke monolith, and chicha morada, which includes but is not limited to crushed purple corn, of all things, and cinnamon. Both are yummy, and I also enjoyed a papaya juice and milk combination, that was so thick it was like a milkshake.

Peruvians love their carbs, which is fine by me. There's rice and potatoes in just about everything. Even the ceviche comes with some yam on the side. Appropriately, we started out with papa a la huancaina, which are potato slices served cold in a spicy cheese sauce with hardboiled egg. We also had anticuchos (cow hearts on a stick, sort of like satay I guess) that come with a mustardy vinagrette-type sauce. May sound unappetizing, but they taste like any other cut of beef, really. (Side note: I'll never understand how a girl can be revolted by a perfectly fine cheesesteak, but whose face lights up at the sight of cows' vital organs on a menu!)

Ordering our entrees caused a little confusion. Isabel went first and quickly slid into spanish while I smiled dumbly as I do on the rare occasions I get to hear her break out her other native language. When it came to be my turn, I was surprised to find the waiter addressing me in spanish (I definitely do not look latino). While strangely flattered, this was pretty impractical. After I carefully enunciated my order in my best accent, the waiter responded with something from which I could only catch the word "frijoles." To which I could manage only, "yes, I like beans!" I don't think the waiter's English was a whole lot better than my Spanish. Isabel bailed us out though after giggling at our difficulties. The waiter, btw, was extremely nice to us and seemed very happy that we enjoyed our meal so much.

For entrees, Isabel had the ceviche de pescado (as opposed to mixto with shrimp) and I had a stew with the aforementioned canary beans, potatoes, and beer marinated beef roast. It should be noted that peruvian ceviche is prepared without cilantro, since the fact that mexicans include this herb in their version really seems to rile Isabel and her family. Why this is culinary heresy, I don't know. In any case, they stick with the basic lime juice, celery, garlic, onion, and habanero with the fish. El Sol's was even better than Isabel's mom's, and much better than my own. The flavors were expertly balanced and the heat and flavor from the habaneros was evenly spread throughout, something that I've never managed to do. The yam on the side was a big surprise but it worked better than you would think.

My stew was perfect comfort food. The beef practically fell apart when you touched it with a fork, and the sauce was rich with the flavor of the meat and beans, with some cilantro I think(!) It was probably just what I would crave on a cold day in the andes.

Dessert was a by numbers flan. Good, but nothing out of the ordinary.

We're both looking forward to return to this comfy place, maybe on another weekend, when they have polla a la braza on special.

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