July 6th, 2010 by Brian Schwartz – Comments (13)
“Even in Lima this would be a good restaurant,” I exulted. (Exulted is not a word I use every day, but it just seems so right here.) “In New York, chowhounds would walk for miles to eat here.” We were in the bright, cheerful dining room (okay, it’s all one room at this tiny place) of Mi Tierra, exulting over the food as, around us, Peruvians cheered as Chile got a goal off Brazil in the World Cup. I’d eaten there the week before, and I hope you’ve read my review. But that review was based on one huge, fabulous dish, an awesome fish fry called Jalea, and I wanted to see if the kitchen was capable of more.
Of course it was. We started with the pride of South American maritime cuisine, the ceviche ($8). You can find it all along the Pacific coast, from Mexico all the way through to Chile — and in many top restaurants in New York and all over the world. Chunks of raw fish are marinated for a few hours in lemon, lime or orange juice. The citric acid denatured the proteins and in effect cooks the fish. Here’s what a great ceviche looks like:
So fresh, so light, it just exploded with lime juice flavor. “Too tangy for me,” my friend said. “It’s not tangy, it’s zingy!” I said, happily helping myself to as many chunks as I could grab. Alongside were slices of cassava and sweet potato, that huge white corn called maiz chulpe, and some popped corn called cancha. There were some chiles along with lime in the marinating mix, but the fish wasn’t spicy hot, and didn’t have a fishy flavor either.
The next dish was aji de gallina ($8). I just love the bright splashy yellow.
The presentation was delightful. Those olive eyes, that little cylinder of rice. The yellow is shredded chicken stew over cassava slices. When I tasted it I was sure it was made with turmeric, coconut milk and sugar. But after some fast computer research I’m pretty sure it had none of those things. It’s traditionally made of yellow chiles, cheese, bread, milk and walnuts. The taste, subtle and mild yet rich, was unforgettable. I’ve read that this recipe was invented by top French chefs who, around 1790, finding that all their clients had been beheaded, fled to Peru. Looking at the complex recipe and the way the creamy sauce is made, I don’t doubt it.
Our final dish was less aristocratic but just as satisfying. It’s Lomo Saltado, sliced beef stir-fried with onions, tomato and chili peppers, served with french fries and rice.
I think the beef had been marinated or at least rubbed in spice, and the result was a satisfying meal. It seemed a bit like Chinese takeout… and it might have been. Chinese immigrants to Peru had such a big impact on Peruvian food that there’s even a name for it… chifa, which means Peruvian-Chinese food. Lomo Saltado arrived in Peru before the Chinese did, but the way it’s cooked today is influenced by Chinese techniques. (And the Chinese adopted it; you can find it on the menus of Cuban-Chinese restaurants in New York.)
We were so full and were just looking at the dessert menu on the blackboard to pass the time. The dish on top is “tres leches”. That means three milks, I said. So we ordered it ($3.50) just to see what came out. And what came out was this.
Moist rich cake, topped with creamy icing, doused with rum (or something that tasted like liquor) It was delicious. See you soon, I said as I left… and meant it.
Restaurant Mi Tierra
6703 E 81 St Tulsa (just east of Sheridan)
Open from 8 AM to 8 PM , Sundays 10 to 6
Check out my last review of Restaurant Mi Tierra Here.
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.
Listen to these songs HERE.
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.