Restaurant Mi Tierra – Peruvian Cuisine

By on June 11, 2010

A charmer of a Peruvian restaurant brings authentic South American cuisine to Tulsa.

There’s a long and memorable chapter in Moby Dick in which Melville brings to life the terror of white. For him, white evokes blankness and the void. But I’ve been hooked since childhood on the romance of white. On old maps, white meant the undiscovered, the unexplored, the unknown and my fantasies always drew me there. Terra Incognita… perhaps the most seductive phrase my rusty schoolboy Latin has to offer. And on the culinary map of Tulsa, that’s just what South American food was. Unknown territory. Until now.

Acting on a tip from my Colombian gardener, seeking a restaurant that even Google search knows nothing about, our party of intrepid explorers drove along the rugged upper reaches of 81st Street and, somewhere east of Sheridan, turned into a nondescript mini-mall. The name of the restaurant is Mi Tierra but the sign on the door says “Gomez y Compania”. We walked in to find this.

A welcoming place, and full. (I waited until people left to take the photo.) Lots of happy diners, and just about everyone seemed to be from Peru. Many spoke English; we got to talking. You must try this goat stew, said one woman, and she looked like someone whose advice was worth following. A woman dressed in white came from the back. She was the chef. She gave me a postcard-sized card that seemed to be a menu. You could read out the names on the “Special Plates” section and it was a seductive siren song of sultry Peruvian culinary delights. Now this seems a bit overstated, but wait till you hear the names. Pabellon, Bandeja Paisa, Carapulcra, Cholito a la Chalaca, Conchita a la palmesana, Ceviche. And on a blackboard behind us I noticed more: Tacu Tacu, Lomo Saltado, Aji de Gallina. And there at the top. Jalea de Mariscos. I remembered the name Jalea and though I had no idea what it was (except that it involved seafood) I was sure I’d read somewhere it was a famous, glorious Peruvian dish. So we ordered that.

I’ll back up here and share some later research and tell you what the other dishes are. Peruvian cuisine (the most varied and exciting in South America) is a mix of mountain highland and coastal plains, of Inca and Spanish with, surprisingly, some Chinese and African influence too. Mi Tierra covers all the bases, with a few dishes from neighboring countries thrown in. Bandeja Paisa I already knew. That’s my favorite dish from Colombia. It’s usually called Hillbilly Platter (Plato Montanero). It’s a real man’s meal of steak, a piece of deep-fried pork belly as long as your forearm, rice, beans, two fried eggs. Pabellon involves shredded beef. Carapulcra is an ancient Peruvian dish that dates back to Inca days. It’s a sort of stew made from dried potatoes (Incas discovered the potato and learned to freeze-dry it), pork and rice. Ceviche is a glorious thing, served all over South America and in upscale restaurants in New York. It’s simply macerated seafood. Tastes better than it sounds. Raw sushi-grade seafood left overnight in a flavorful, mildly acidic marinade that “cooks” it. Tacu Tacu is rice and beans with onion and a bit of banana. It’s vaguely African, brought over by slaves. Lomo Saltado is sliced steak stir-fried with vegetables. Somewhat Chinese, and in fact Chinese cuisine has had a big impact on Peru. Aji de Gallina is a chicken stew made with milk, hot peppers, and onions.

If I’d known all that I might have ordered the Carapulcra or maybe the chicken stew. But I didn’t so we ordered the Jalea (which was $18) and waited… and waited. Meanwhile the cook in the kitchen was busy preparing whatever we’d ordered. I hadn’t a clue. And another woman had gone in to help her. I was happy to wait there. We talked with the other diners, I strolled around and looked at the foodstuffs (all for sale) on the tall shelves that lined the walls. I thought of buying an handknit wool rug for $70. And then came the chef proudly carrying this:

At first I felt very let down. It’s just fried fish! I just had that in Bixby! But then I tasted it and realized that it was very very VERY GOOD fried fish, and also totally unlike Oklahoma fried catfish or pub-style fish and chips. The cornflour breading was much much finer, and thinner, it accented the fish, brought out the flavor, instead of crunching along and dominating it. When I got home I found photos of Jalea served in restaurants in Peru and it looked exactly the same. And I’m betting that this Jalea rivaled Lima’s best. I also confirmed that yes, Jalea is wildly popular in Peru (at least in the coastal areas), which, given the taste, did not surprise me one bit. Aside from the tender white fish, there were calamari, 5 or 6 mussels in the shell, and a few scallops and shrimp. Also, just as in Peru, kernels of a huge white corn called maiz chulpe scattered about, slices of spicy red onion, a few batons of cassava.

And what I should have said at the start, our very first impression, it was huge! It was a mountain! It’s too big to get in one photo, I said, it’s too big to fit at our table. The $18 price, which seemed so high I couldn’t believe it, now seemed like a good deal. The food stuffed all three of us. And so we dined for $6 each and left happy, already planning our next visit. Will we get the carapulcra or the goat stew?

Restaurant Mi Tierra
6703 E 81 St Tulsa (just east of Sheridan)
477-7155
Open from 8 AM to 8 PM , Sundays 10 to 6

I’ve collected fifty songs from all over Peru to accompany this review. From sultry singers in smoky Lima nightclubs to Inca bands in the Andes to Amazon jungle tribes, the music of Peru never ceases to amaze. Those nightclub singers are often black, from the coast; those highland bands play instruments going back hundreds of years, and dance forms like the Huayno which fuse traditional and modern rhythms. Have a listen. The recordings were in the main made between 1960 and 1995, but the songs are much older.

http://www.myspace.com/rock_and_rule/music/playlists/peru-1217277

About Brian Schwartz:

Born in NYC, age 0, on my birthday. College in Oxford at age 16. Law School in New Haven, Conn. 6 years travel in Africa and Asia. Haven’t done much lately. Still, I’m the only Tulsa member of the little-known Omega Society.  www.theomegasociety.com

I speak enough Chinese to order food not on any English menu. Spanish French Italian too (not fluently but food-ently) My favorite restaurant is Jean-Georges in New York. But those NYC chefs would sell their soul to get the produce available from the farms around Inola.

“A writer writes alone. His words tumble forth from a magical inner void that is mysterious even to himself, and that no one else can enter.” And yet, the most important thing to me the writer is YOU. Without you to hear them, my words are worth less than silence.

Brian Schwartz

About Brian Schwartz

Born in NYC, age 0, on my birthday. College in Oxford at age 16. Law School in New Haven, Conn. 6 years travel in Africa and Asia. Haven’t done much lately. Still, I’m the only Tulsa member of the little-known Omega Society. www.theomegasociety.com I speak enough Chinese to order food not on any English menu. Spanish French Italian too (not fluently but food-ently) My favorite restaurant is Jean-Georges in New York. But those NYC chefs would sell their soul to get the produce available from the farms around Inola. “A writer writes alone. His words tumble forth from a magical inner void that is mysterious even to himself, and that no one else can enter.” And yet, the most important thing to me the writer is YOU. Without you to hear them, my words are worth less than silence.

0 Comments

  1. dannyb

    June 11, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    Looks interesting! I will be sure to check it out!

  2. Becky

    June 11, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    Thank goodness they don’t serve guinea pig, right?

    • Brian Schwartz

      June 11, 2010 at 6:10 pm

      I didn’t ask. That is one of Peru’s biggest delicacies. It’s illegal in New York but if you know where to go you can find it.

    • Shauna

      November 22, 2011 at 10:27 pm

      No Becky they don’t no Peruvian restaurant does

      • Brian Schwartz

        November 25, 2011 at 5:27 pm

        They do in Peru. It’s called cuy. Some New York Ecuadorian restaurants serve it on the sly but it’s illegan in N.Y. and probably here too. I’d like to try it.

      • Randy Pandy

        March 12, 2012 at 10:59 am

        Not in restaurants, unless you go to the part of the city you shouldn’t be in, then it might be ratto. Wongs, a Wal-Mart type, sells it in their meat department, like we sell steak. Too bad Peruvian restaurants dont have Peruvian avacodos. They are the size of our mush melons. A meal for 2 people,.

  3. Elena

    June 12, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    So far the best peruvian food in town ,I tried pretty much everything but one of my favorite is lomo saltado but of course you need to try ceviche, papa a la huancayna and other dishes ….i can’t wait for go back…

  4. Cesar

    June 13, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    definitely a place i have to go but so far the ceviche from peru is the best.

  5. Amer

    June 14, 2010 at 2:22 am

    the Food is great and the serves is even better, very nice and polite people which is the combination that i want when i go to a restaurant.
    I think that it is one of the best South American restaurants in Oklahoma if not the best.

  6. Pingback: Restaurant Mi Tierra - Peruvian Cuisine Tulsa, OK by Brian Schwartz | The Tulsa Food Blog

  7. Brian Schwartz

    July 6, 2010 at 10:36 am

    Last week I made a second visit to Mi Tierra and sampled three incredible Peruvian dishes! This place would be considered good even in Lima, Peru. Here’s my report:

    http://tulsafood.com/south-tulsa/return-to-mi-tierra

    • Randy Pandy

      March 12, 2012 at 10:53 am

      Do they bring you food you dont order then bill you expecting full price?

      • Randy Pandy

        June 16, 2012 at 4:20 pm

        After careful consideration & trying to appease the best words to use for this place, I can only say, Wal-Mart accross the street has a lot better baked chicken. We’ve given this place two tries & both times they’ve left us in awe.If you order a meal, say, for six people, & when the meals are “finally” served, & the waitress say’s something stupid like, Well, we can’t bring everyone what they actualy ordered, you have to settle with what I bring??? Me, not understanding the espaniol language, & after we returned home, my brain farts were running ramphant & inquireing as to why I wasn’t informed at the restaurant of why not everyone got what they ordered??? Since I was the bread winner here, I felt raped. Another instance of which I was not aware of, if your in any restaurant, I dont care which one, except this one of course, if you order an extra helping of french fries, the waitress said, Oh, I cant do that! You’d have to order another complete meal????? I’ve eaten plenty of Peruvian meals in Lima Peru & I can tell you, it’s not Peruvian. The Peruvians are respectful & do all thats required for you to be satisfyed after your meal just as Lone Star Steak house does, & by the way, my opinion, Lone Star is the best.

  8. Pingback: Expanded Menu & New Dining Room at Restaurant Mi Tierra | Tulsa Food

  9. Steph

    March 22, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    does anyone know if the ceviche has corn roasted on top?

  10. nick

    June 23, 2011 at 10:37 am

    sigh…..wanted to love it, instead found it very average indeed. leaving a brief comment since I like your site!

    with the exception of the white fish, everything else on that Jalea platter very overcooked, to the extent that two quite hungry people ate only half of it. dry, chewy, nasty shrimp. chewy scallops. stringy mussels.

    the appetizer we had (a cornmeal dish stuffed with raisins olives chickpeas etc) was dry and bland and seemed to feature only about 2/3 of the ingredients mentioned on the menu.

    service was friendly but we were left alone for about 20 minutes at one point, much of which I spent wishing we at least had some lemon for our dry fried fish, or a glass of water with which to wash it down.

    the cornmeal batter on the fish was good, the fried plantains were tasty, we had a nice homemade fruit drink. but all in all, a significant disappointment. off night, perhaps? or local foodie wishful thinking exposed? I’d try it again if I lived here, but on a relatively short visit–nope.

    • Brian Schwartz

      June 23, 2011 at 4:38 pm

      All I can say is that on the night I had the Jalea everything was perfectly cooked. My friends visited the restaurant last week and liked it.

    • Shauna

      November 22, 2011 at 10:25 pm

      I’d say give it another shot and try something else.

  11. Shauna

    November 22, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    YAY!!! My wish has come true I will so be going there. I have been dying for some Peruvian food :)

    • Brian Schwartz

      November 25, 2011 at 5:27 pm

      I hope you enjoy it!!! I think you will. They serve an incredible variety of well-made dishes. Very friendly people too.

  12. Joe McSwain

    November 26, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    This is an absolutely wonderful place. I have travelled in Peru, and fell in love with the food, the place, and the people. The food at Mi Tierra was not disappointing in any way. The flavors and quantity of food was the best I have found in the states, and I have tried several restaurants in other cities. I took a group of family members to Mi Tierra tonight, none of which had ever eaten Peruvian food. Most of them were quite apprehensive, as they mostly prefer very “predictable” American chain restaurant food. Much to my amazement (and relief) they all loved the food and plan to come back! I will be back for sure!

    • Brian Schwartz

      November 27, 2011 at 12:45 pm

      Hey if this place were in New York, it would be N.Y.C.’s best Peruvian and foodies would travel 20 miles to go there.

  13. Randy Pandy

    March 12, 2012 at 10:07 am

    I, my wife & 3 others ate here yesterday 3/11/2012 & I was the only english speaking dude in our group. We ordered chicken breast & when our meals arrived, there was 2 brest & 3 theigh’s. I later found out the waitress said she didn’t have any breast left & we would HAVE TO? eat what she brought. I will not eat here ever again. The chicken was not anything special & I thought over priced. I consider restaurant workers to be as honest & polite as I am. Not the case here. The waitress took advantage, I feel.

  14. Pingback: Global Table Adventure | About the food of Peru

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  16. jose

    February 21, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    This place is a authentic joke! I am peruvian and have had many dishes from many restaurants. Including miami Florida that serve peruvian. If you want chicken that is bougt from walmart as well as the veggies and want them to play some peruvian music than this is the place. Firt off I saw the chicken still in the walmart cintainer that thry sell the rottiserie chicken in. They simply take it out of the plastic package and put it on your plate. Pollo a la brasa is a delicious dish that should be made not american chicken. I was so dissapointed when I saw them prepare it. Never going their again. It gives up and coming latin cuisine a bad name I blame people like this for making our food un authentic. The food was not good keep your money and your better off buying it from a grocery store and making it at hime and save your money by as much as $7.50 might as well give walmart your money.

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