Hidden away in a cobblestone-lined plaza in Brockton is a rarity, a Peruvian restaurant south of Boston. In a landscape of countless pubs, pizzerias, and seafood and Italian restaurants, The Peruvian Place was an exciting find.
And speaking of find, locating the restaurant is a feat. Google Maps and GPS will direct you the wrong way down a one-way street, and the restaurant’s exterior doesn’t stand out. (Tip: Park on Crescent Street and walk into the plaza.)
The interior is clean and tidy, the decor spartan. A television mounted on the wall features Spanish programming, and there are posters of Machu Picchu and Peruvian food.
Owner Angel Hinostroza opened the 40-seat restaurant in 2008. The transplant from Huancayo, Peru, does most of the cooking, along with his father and mother.
The menu spans various regions of Peru, and customers’ tastes vary.
“American people, when they come, they ask for lomo saltado or the rotisserie chicken,” he said. “When the Latin people come here, they ask for rice with seafood, and seafood soup.”
Hinostroza is hoping to expand to a second location in Boston, but opened The Peruvian Place close to home.
“We live in Brockton, and there’s a lot of people from Peru here,” he said.
Complexity was lacking, and balance was off — a side of roasted potatoes was missing seasoning, while a pork dish was salty with not much else for flavor.
Dinner out often involves hopes for something inspiring or surprising, something not so easy to replicate at home. We didn’t find that.
In fact, the lomo saltado ($11) tasted a lot like my mom’s Chinese beef and tomato stir-fry. The popular Peruvian dish — stir-fried tomatoes, sliced steak, and onions with a side of white rice, topped with french fries — falls in the category of chifa, cuisine that carries Chinese influence brought by immigrants to Peru.
My friend enjoyed the lomo saltado, but wanted more tomatoes for the generous mound of beef. The fries were more like oven-baked potato wedges than deep-fried potatoes. I liked the stir-fry, but was expecting something more than ordinary.
Another Chinese-influenced specialty, arroz chaufa ($10), or fried rice, tasted just like what you would get from a take-out joint. It was tossed with chicken, eggs, and scallion, and the large portion could easily feed three or four. It was basic, good lunchtime filler, yet pedestrian.
For something more out of the ordinary, choclo con queso ($6) is a sight to behold. The Andean corn is starchier and less sweet than its North American cousin, and the cob and its kernels are huge. The appetizer is served with a dipping sauce and slabs of queso fresco.
I found the cheese too bland a companion for the plain corn, but half our table liked the queso fresco. The dipping sauce was good, herby and zippy, but I couldn’t pin down the flavors, and the waitress spoke limited English.
Peruvian corn is also used to make a drink, chicha morada ($2 a bottle). The shockingly purple beverage is made from purple corn. Half our table liked the clove aftertaste and one friend described it as “bubblegum-y,” but I found the taste too strong and syrupy.
My batidos ($3), on the other hand, was very light. The pineapple juice blended with ice and water was slushy and frothy on top, watery on the bottom, and not very sweet. It could have benefited from some sugar, more juice, or the addition of another fruit.
A side of fried plantains ($3.50) was exactly what you would expect, sweet and a little crispy at the edges.
Chuleta a la parrilla ($10), grilled pork shoulder with potatoes and a salad, was “tough to cut, but easy to chew,” my friend said. There isn’t much to dislike about salty pork, but any other seasoning was undetectable. There was no hint of citrus, herbs, or spice — nothing to enhance it.
The same was true of costillas a la brasa ($12), rotisserie-cooked spare ribs with potatoes and salad. The ribs were tender with a lacquered, crispy surface, but the extent of their flavor was salt. The baked potato rounds that came with the pork dishes, on the other hand, tasted unsalted and unseasoned. There was more of the large corn, and the salad consisted of thinly sliced red onions and tomatoes in a lettuce leaf, the dressing acidic and bright.
The waitress left a check but no offer of dessert. Underwhelmed by the rest, I didn’t press for any. Worthy of note, however, is that one friend called the food flavorful and unlike anything she had tried before.
Her sister, a Brockton resident, said she would not return.Shirley Goh can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her blog at http://whataboutsecond breakfast.blogspot.com.