(Note: Additional photos can be seen via the link below.)
After eating our way through most of Orange County, it was time for my anniversary weekend with J. to come to an end. But, we couldn't let pass the few hours I had before going to the airport without hitting one last restaurant. It was really too late for Dim Sum, so we did a little shopping and then J. told me of a Peruvian restaurant in Lake Forest.
The only time I had been to a Peruvian eatery was when I was in NYC and was taken to such a place. It was terrible. But I wasn't going to let that stop me from being adventurous, so we headed down I-5 to find Nory's Peruvian restaurant.
I am glad J. was here because I would have missed it. Tucked inside a strip mall in Lake Forest, Nory's takes up two suites. Because the strip mall is parallel to I-5 instead of the access road leading into the mall, I thought the building was part of a corporate center. J. directed me to the place and we parked near the front.
We entered and were immediately seated in a booth near the front. The place was cheerfully decorated with Peruvian flags and maps and the Peruvian Soccer game of the day was playing on a small television mounted to the ceiling. People were eating and watching the game and chatting in Spanish.
Our server gave us our menus and took our drink orders. J. had something called an Inca Cola ($1.50) and I had a Diet Coke ($1.25). Within a few minutes we were served our drinks.
While there was nothing overtly special about my Diet Coke, I was intrigued by J.'s Inca Kola. All the can says is that it is the "Golden Kola" and it is made by the Coca-Cola Company. J. tried and it and said it had a vague taste of apple and was slightly sweet, but other than that, we had no clue. J. did enjoy it, but it seemed to be more of a curiousity than anything else.
Next to our table was a basket of small loaves of bread. J. and I each grabbed one and just about burnt our fingers off. These mini loaves were piping hot and smelled heavenly. They had been sliced right down the middle lengthwise and we slathered ours with butter. My first bite was dreamy. The bread was very crusty on the outside and soft and yeasty on the inside. Of course, the butter was just grand.
Our server returned and then took our order. We decided to try an appetizer and went with the Peruvian Tamale ($4.95). J. was hankering for chicken and choice the Lomo Saltado de Pollo ($8.95) and I wanted something very traditional and went with the Bisteck A Loi Pobre ($12.50). Our dishes were essentially the same with the only difference being the meat. Our dishes were described as a serving of meal atop a serving of french fried potatoes served with rice. Sounded good to me and quite comforting before my flight back to Phoenix.
Only a few moments passed before our Tamale arrived. I was a bit caught off by the size. It was about the size of three regular tamales and was square in shape. It had been cooked to a golden brown and was covered on one side by a mixture of sauteed onions, peppers and tomatoes. The masa was excellent and the stewed chicken filling was delicious. What really made the tamale shine, however, was the addition of the vegetables. It just made the dish so much more dynamic that I could have easily made a meal of a couple of tamales and some rice and beans. J. concurred that the tamale was excellent.
J.'s Lomo Saltado de Pollo was just as described in the menu. Large chuncks of chicken had been stewed with onions and tomatoes and served over a serving of French fried potatoes. It was also served with plain white rice. J. said the chicken was very tender and moist and the flavor was very simply, but tasty. The potatoes were bound to be limp by the time J. got to them and that was certainly the case. However, it was apparent that they were meant to be part of the whole package and not a side dish. They had soaked up some of the stewing juices and were lovely. The side dish on this meal was the white rice and it served its purpose.
My Bisteck a lo Pobre was this amazing concoction of two fried eggs sitting atop a large piece of tenderized round steak atop a serving of French fries. It was served with white rice and also a substantial serving of plantains. This was pure home cooking. The meat was fork tender and the juices from the meat had seeped into the fries. The subtleness of the eggs with the meat and potatoes was very simple and yet delectable. I was very pleased with my dish. The plantains were perfect. The banana-like taste and sweetness was enhanced by the carmelization during the cooking and they provided a nice counterpoint to the savory makeup of the dish.
Our server would check on us from time to time and answer all of our questions. We just were enjoying this comfortable meal during and uncomfortable time since I was getting ready to leave. But we knew we had to have some dessert, so we choice the Helado de Lucuma ($3.50), a Peruvian ice cream.
Our ice cream arrived in just moments and we were really not sure what to think. It was a brilliant orange in color. Our server told us that it was made of lucuma, a fruit native to Peru. She described it as "exotic." We dove in and tasted it. It was hard to describe, but we enjoyed it. There were hints of cinnamon and vanilla, but it was hard to tell if that was the fruit or additions to the ice cream. Still, it was a light and satisfying end to our meal.
We received our meal and the total on our bill was $36.96 including tax. Service at Nory's was super friendly and very attentive. We couldn't have asked for a better meal together.
So, we paid, said goodbye to Nory's and to each other and I headed back to the airport for my flight to Phoenix, as least feeling comfortable inside because of our great meal at Nory's.
Nory's Peruvian Restaurant
23796 Mercury Road
Lake Forest, CA 92630