About a month ago, I wrote Foodbuzz awhile ago, suggesting a "Dine On Us Dinner" at Machu Picchu, a local Peruvian restaurant in Somerville, MA.
I have been there twice; about 6 months ago and several years ago. On my first visit to the restaurant, I made other diners uncomfortable by staring at their plates, trying to match the visual to the menu descriptions to figure out what they were eating.
I went about 6 months ago with my boyfriend. He is a smart guy-he let's me order for the both of us, turning the dilemma of "what do I want to order?" into ordering my top 2 choices for apps and main dishes. He is always happy with what I pick (or fakes it very well), and I am always happy to be given power, so it works very well for the both of us.
Last night I met up with 4 other food bloggers: Tia Nguyen, Finance Foodie, Tri2Cook and Artepicure.
When I eat out I tend to arrive perpetually early, and thus got to Machu Picchu at 6:45. I ordered a Pisco Sour to wait for the others (felt a bit like a blind date). I observed Pisco, egg white, and what I suspect was sour mix but may have been real lime juice being poured into a blender. The result was a wine glass filled will a magical, alcoholic foam. (Note to self: when making meringue, just use a blender!).
One by one the other foodies arrived, and we made getting-to-know-you conversation. For a few, it seemed to be the first time they had eaten Peruvian, so I was hoping they would like their meals. We ordered Ceviche, Yuca a la Huancaina and Choclo Peruano con Queso for appetizers. Truth be told, I do not like ceviche, or sushi for that matter, so I cannot judge that dish.
The yuca came similar to french fries with a orange cheese-y sauce that consisted of cheese, egg yolk and aji pepper.
Choclo is giant corn on the cob. I don't know how else to describe it. It is more starchy than corn you'd find in the States. It came with a fresh white farmer's cheese-slightly vinegary and salty. I cut off the kernels, added some aji verde and a piece of cheese and was quite content with the dish. I imagine this to be Peruvian comfort food.
Most Peruvian restaurants in the States tend to dumb down their dishes-that is, use far less spice than what is traditional. As a result, I always ask for a side of "aji verde," a creamy, spicy pepper sauce, and add it to my dishes. Last night I mixed it into the yuca's huancaina sauce and also added a bit to my main dish.
I ordered "seco de carne," beef stew braised in a cilantro-based sauce. It came with a side of canary beans and white rice. The meat was extremely tender from the long cooking time, and had a deep flavor that mixed well with the beans and rice.
The other foodies ordered a fried seafood platter, steak, aji de gallina (shredded chicken in a yellow aji sauce with rice) and pollo chan-chan, spinach mashed potatoes surrounded by chicken-wrapped shrimp. The fried seafood seemed to be, well, fried seafood-nothing spectacular, but you cannot expect it to pretend to be anything different. The steak would have done well with a chimichurri-type sauce (of course, the Peruvian version, whatever that would be). The pollo chan-chan was presented beautifully and seemed to be a hit, as did the aji de gallina. To sum up the entrees: stay away from the main dishes which feature fried food, and you should be happy.
For dessert I more or less forced everyone to order alfajores, as Machu Picchu does these perfectly. The cookie is light and crumbles upon biting into it. Inside is dulce de leche, a vanilla caramel. These would be even better with a cortado (espresso with steamed milk) or a cafe con leche the next morning for breakfast. Which is what I am currently eating ; ).