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Rincon Limeño

The glories of Peruvian cuisine in a frugal, friendly package
April 16, 2008 5:02:53 PM
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I’ve often called East Boston our city’s most overlooked cheap-eats destination. Just beyond Logan Airport is a welter of fantastic Mexican, Central American, South American, Italian-American, and New England shore-food restaurants. Among my favorites is Rincon Limeño, which showcases the cuisine of Peru in all its glorious biodiversity (ingredients from the mountains, oceans, rainforests, and river basins) and ethnic richness (influences from indigenous South America, Western Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East).

Papa rellena con carne ($5) seems a good starting point from the homeland of potatoes: a punchy little sphere of deep-fried mashed potato filled with well-seasoned ground beef and chopped egg. We move from the humble to the sublime with ceviche de pescado ($13), slices of raw grouper simply marinated in citrus juices (which lightly “cook” the fish) and garnished with a few slices of onion and some mild chilies. The technique rivals sashimi as a way to spotlight the delicate flavor and texture of the fish. Jalea ($13/small; $17/large) heaps a platter with batter-fried shrimp, calamari, and grouper, boasting a deep-frying finesse that would shame the average New England clam-shack cook.

From Peru’s northern coast comes seco de cabrito ($11), bone-in slices of young lamb lamentably overcooked in a low-liquid stew but saved by terrific sides of rice and long-stewed pinto beans. Lomo saltado ($10) consists of deliciously salty steak tips, Bermuda onions, tomatoes, and French fries, all mixed together with a sprinkle of fresh cilantro. We puzzle over ají de gallina ($10), a spicy dish of shredded chicken breast: what’s in that marvelously rich, deep-flavored, bright-yellow gravy? Answer: ají amarillo (a mildly hot, fruity yellow pepper), Parmesan cheese, garlic, and ground walnuts.

Beverages include tropical fruit juices ($2.50), Cristal, an insipidly light Peruvian lager ($4), and chicha morada ($1.50), an inky, sweet-spiced soft drink made from purple corn. You might be savory-stuffed, but you should find room for dessert, like arroz con leche ($3), a fine, thin-ish rice pudding, or a box of alfajores ($6), addictive anise-scented sandwich cookies filled with caramel cream. The amiable, informal service and low prices belie the polish of the newly renovated dining room, making Rincon Limeño a most welcoming spot for adventurous but recession-wary diners.

Rincon Limeño, situated at 409 Chelsea Street, in East Boston, is open daily, from 10 am to 10 pm. Call 617.569.4942.

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