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Las Canteras, Peruvian in Adams Morgan


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Three of us had dinner last night at Las Canteras, the new Peruvian Restaurant at 2307 18th St. They've been open about three weeks.

We were greeted warmly by the host / owner and seated promptly. The space is small with cheerful red walls and the sconces provide warm lighting. Though the black and white photographs offer glimpses of the monuments and landscapes of Peru, I'd prefer something a little splashier on the walls.

We glanced at the wine list, saw another table sucking on some Dos Equis and asked for a beer list. Heineken, Amstel Light, Dos Equis, Tecate. We got the Dos Equis and ordered some apps.

We started with the Two Cebiches Sampler ($16). They were served on a dish curved like a "w", with the lime-soaked seafood on lettuce beds in the grooves. Both were similar to other ceviches I've known. The "Cebiche Classico", with mahi-mahi, red onions, cilantro, lime and a little heat was better and more generously-portioned than the four shrimp that came with "Cebiche Camarones". Bluntly, I can think of a half-dozen ceviches in the district that I'd take over these.

We also split the "very traditional" Papa A La Huancaina. Turned out to be two white potatoes trimmed down into conical frusta and topped with some sort of cream sauce. It was served at room temperature and it wasn't more than interesting. It wasn't even that interesting. Next time I go, I'll try the quinoa. I'm sure it's got nothing on Vegetate's, but it did look good.

The mains were worth returning for, especially the Seco De Carne ($13). This beef stew was served beside a scoop of seasoned white rice, all resting on a pool of baked beans and spinach. Visually, it reminded me of Indian cuisine, but the flavors were pure South American. It was rich, hearty, plentiful and delicious, especially at the price point. We also got an order of Aji De Gallina ($13), a shredded chicken in a mild yellow pepper sauce and an order of Lomo Saltado ($16). The chicken was rich but very simple, and the Lomo Saltado was a little stringy. The fries looked great, but they disappeared so quickly that I didn't get to try one.

We declined dessert.

As far as how traditional this Peruvian cuisine is, well, I'm simply not qualified to make that judgment, and it isn't that relevant to me. This was a hearty and inexpensive meal, and when I'm in the mood for one of those, I'll go back.

Alex

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Nice post, Alex. Were there any dishes on the menu that you wished you'd have ordered (besides the quinoa) or do you think you ordered well?

Shaggy,

Good question! I was disappointed to hear that the Polla A La Brasa (charcoal roasted half chicken) was unavailable -- I was told that they'd imported a special oven from Peru, but that they hadn't yet figured out how to get consistent results with it. Next time, I'd definitely consider a fish. I'd steer clear of the cream sauce and I fear that the bouillabaisse might be too demanding a dish for the kitchen. I'd probably get the stewed cod, or the Pescado Al Horno, which was a baked mahi mahi on Wednesday, though the fish changes... that one also comes with the quinoa cakes.

Did we order well? Eh, I wish we'd done a seafood main and bagged one of the ceviches in favor of a different app, be it the quinoa or something else, but I'll be back to explore further.

Alex

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We were happy to discover this weekend that Las Canteras does takeout, so I chilled out in the basement bar with a pisco sour while waiting for our food. The aji de gallina and the quinotto (quinoa risotto, heh) were both excellent. $13 for the aji, $11 for the quinoa, both very large portions. Place was packed. Most of the folks in the downstairs bar were waiting for tables upstairs.

Good neighborhood place. We'll be back. Possibly a lot.

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Two friends and I had dinner at Las Canteras last night. Pleasant experience. Service was very warm; they seem to want very much to please. The place is nice, although last night it was nice and deserted. I think there were three, maybe four occupied tables. The food was nice enough. Considering how inexpensive the entrees are, for generous plates of food, I was a bit puzzled by the starters. We ordered two of the cebiches classicos, plus one causa de pollo, which is a cake of mashed potatoes filled with chicken and corn. The causa was $8.00, and no more than about four bites. The cebiches were $12.00 each, and similarly minuscule. Everything was perfectly fine, just kind of stingy. And then for mains, one of my friends had the aji de gallina, the other the arroz con pollo, $13.00 each for big honking plates of food. I had the sudado de pescado, a codfish stew for which they had to substitute mahi mahi, which was fine. It was quite good, and a generous portion for $16.00. Pisco sours all round, plus a bottle of Chilean sauvignon blanc, plus one dessert, with tax and very generous tip the whole thing was $60 a person, which is a pretty good deal.

They still don't do the pollo a la brasa. They're still trying to figure out their "brasa".

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Been there several times and enjoyed just about everything, though I agree with The Hersch's assessment of the teeny causa. And I have to say, I absolutely cannot recommend the chocolate quinoa cake. Smeary and odd. Other than that, great place with warm service and delicious food, definitely worth a try if you're in the area and/or enjoy Peruvian.

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And I have to say, I absolutely cannot recommend the chocolate quinoa cake. Smeary and odd.
That was actually the dessert my friend had. I tasted it, and I thought it was just awful. Since I don't like desserts in general, and particularly don't like chocolate and don't like cake, my opinion has questionable value, which is why I didn't review it. But this cake had a horrible texture, with big, weird, hard nodules in it. I thought it was ghastly.
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Believe the menu when it says the Causa de Pollo ($8.00) is served cold. A beautifully presented dish, it's a cylindrical potato cake stuffed with chicken and corn, topped with a black olive and a quarter hard-boiled egg, the square plate having squiggles of cliantro sauce radiating out into the corners. At room temperature, or slightly below, this would be a great plate of food, but it lost something because it was just too cold.

Cebiche Classico ($12) was not worth the money, the condiments of sweet potato, red onion, and a handful of powdery, toasted corn kernels overshadowing a portion of marinated whitefish which was too skimpy for its own good.

Trio de Anticuchos ($19) consisted of two-flavorful-strips-each of chicken, beef, and beef heart, well-marinated, grilled, and served with good mashed potatoes and a mound of cold marinated red onions.

If I sound lukewarm, it's because I am, but lukewarm is still warmer than neutral: I'd happily come here if I was within walking distance; at $12-15 for parking, it may be awhile before I return.

Take the hot sauce seriously that comes with the bread!

Cheers,

Rocks.

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For a person with almost as big a sweat head as marion barry, the chupe de camarones is needless aggravation on a Saturday night when the steam is in town and you need to cool down. Im staring into a big hot bowl of milky chowder, looking for the soulfulness that caused todd kliman to twitter a few weeks earlier after he had some. A few size-husky prawns slip out of their orange heads and shells fairly easily, revealing pink meat that is tender and sweet. Stirred into the filling soup are an egg cooked beyond coddling, chunks of potato, a segment of corn cob with its kernels loosening up, peas (fava beans are on the menu) and a handful of rice thats dropped to the bottom. The starches are bland as its their nature to be and nothing but starch has been coaxed out of them, and theres not enough of the legumes to gather much flavor, but they do stand out as bright dots of green. Swirling through the mix is a yellow pepper sauce, so there is a simple tangle of flavor holding the whole thing together. the liquid, however, is not entirely pristine, with a hot spot or two of clotted spices lodging where the shrimp used to hold their brains. This is maybe not what you want for dinner on a sweltering night out, but it is filling enough to begin and end a meal. Its humble and basically good, not something to raise much deep emotion, as far as I can tell, but nothing regrettable either.

Beef heart anticuchos are a good start, and they are carved from cows with big hearts, big enough to shave them into flat, thin fillets, with robust steak flavor. Eating them is like eating tender steak, except theyre softer. This is hardly the best grilled meat in the world. For one thing, theres no crust, and theres no intensity of flavor. It doesnt suggest mastery in the kitchen, but quiet competence.

Im not ready to proclaim this restaurant a gem, but its right up there with a sparkly piece of quartz. The pisco sours were quite strong, and it is fortunate that I did not have more than two of them. Otherwise I suspect that once back out on 18th street I would not have been able to tell myself much apart from the crowds shuffling up and down the sidewalk carrying slices of giant pizza, just warming up for a long night of libations, poured over and over, just like the live band somewhere in the vicinity of tom tom that sounds like its ready to revisit the same dave Brubeck tune for the rest of its set.

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