SEAFOOD SUPREME Los Andes' ceviche.
There is a certain seraphic smile that spreads onto the face of someone approaching a favorite restaurant that he hasn’t indulged in for a long while. In the case of stepping into Los Andes, a few celebratory Latin dance steps were also in order, but I lifted my chin and refrained for the sake of dignity.
I remembered the unusual ceviche, the anticucho de corazon (skewered beef heart) with its unique mint pesto, and Dios mio!, that unforgettable parrillada a Los Andes, a varied assemblage of carnivore delights that would have stuffed a predator or two.
Bolivian and Peruvian dishes, delicious, authentic, and mostly inexpensive — the restaurant trifecta.
Chef Cecin Curi is in charge of the kitchen, and brothers Omar and Diego take care of the front of the house. For nine years, the first two ran an increasingly popular place on Chalkstone Avenue simply and modestly named Bolivian Restaurant, before taking a two-year break working in other restaurants and then opening Los Andes in 2008.
The current incarnation is a classy, cloth-napkin eatery. Exotic tropical fish in a long aquarium entertain viewers on both the bar and the dining room sides. With 32 tables, the place currently seats 110, but that will increase when they open up the floor above.
The menu is extensive. The 11 aperitivos provide a quick tour of some traditional taste treats. Since this is Rhode Island, and many customers are loyal to the unofficial State Appetizer, there is a fried squid opportunity with a difference: calamare al k’allu ($7.95), lightly dusted and tossed with such ingredients as mint, tomatoes, and both garlic butter and balsamic reduction. There is also causa limena ($7.95), potato skins filled with puréed avocado, topped with shredded chicken, and drizzled with huancaina cream sauce.
There were four of us, hungry, so we began with three starters. The tasty champinones rellenos ($6.95) had the Andean touch of a bit of rocoto, which are Bolivian peppers, along with fire-roasted red bell peppers, queso blanco melted on top and finished with butter mixed with chimichurri, a green sauce usually served with meat but nicely enhancing the taste here. We couldn’t not have cunapes ($2.95), first because Mike, who introduced me to this place, is addicted to them, and also because they were just coming out of the oven — the Bolivian cheese-filled yucca flour pastries were especially soft. And neither could we not reprise Los Andes’ bountiful ceviche ($9.95), a variety of seafood spilling out of a martini glass, from in-shell mussels to pieces of scallops.
While you’re perusing the menu, I would recommend treating yourself to a $2 glass of chicha morada, or better yet a $7 pitcher. Delicious, especially with fresh pineapple in the bottom for a mild sweetener. For a stronger drink, the caipirinha with Brazilian rum came recommended as it was being sipped across the table.