True to its name, Mixtura Latin Fusion Cuisine serves a variety of dishes from Peru, El Salvador, and Mexico. Breakfast is served all day, pancake syrup is a fixture on tables, and triangles of buttered white toast arrive with dinner. Think of Mixtura as Latino cuisine's greatest hits meets American diner.
Open since February, this colorful corner spot in Somerville near Porter Square is among a trio of restaurants owned by Rosy Cerna. Machu Picchu Restaurante Turistico and Machu Picchu Charcoal Chicken & Grill are her two other establishments, both in Somerville's Union Square. Cerna has been cooking since childhood. "Every girl in Peru learns how to cook," she says. While she spends more time training staff than working the line, she is the creative force behind all dishes.
One weekday evening, we are greeted by the hum of a juicer turning fruits and vegetables into rainbow-hued beverages. The young woman who serves us is also chief juice-maker. We order a large extracto traditional ($5), a frothy melange of carrots, apples, and beets with an amber layer of honey at the bottom of the glass. We prefer it to chicha morada ($2.50), a purple corn beverage made with pineapple and cinnamon. It reminds one dining companion of flat cola. Had we grown up with this beverage, it would probably remind us of home.
Salmon with quinoa ($15) arrives with plain steamed broccoli florets and carrots. Nestled next to the fish (a shade overcooked) is quinoa stewed with peas, carrots, and large white kernels of Peruvian corn. Don't let its porridge-like consistency throw you. The creamy side dish is delicious, colored a golden hue from aji amarillo, the yellow chili pepper iconic to Peruvian cooking. We set aside the buttered white toast (remember, it's a diner) and nibble instead on the chubby tortilla that accompanies another entree.
Costillas a la panca ($12) are two pork spare ribs, pleasantly fatty and dusted with cumin. Broccoli florets make another appearance, along with roasted chunks of potato with a light crust. The spare ribs are more tender than chicharron Peruano ($8), chunks of chewy marinated pork garnished with flash-fried sweet potato slices and salsa criolla.
Salvadoran carne asada ($13) is outstanding. Skirt steak is rubbed with cumin and aji panca, a paprika-like spice, then grilled. The dish comes with a mound of red beans and rice, a ramekin of fresh salsa, avocado, and queso fresco.
On a Sunday morning, we see that the neighborhood knows breakfast is Mixtura's real strength. The place is packed with customers, including a couple of Spanish-speaking families. More staff is on hand to keep the excellent coffee flowing. Huevos Mixtura ($7) features two perfectly poached eggs, which glisten next to quinoa stew, crisp bacon, and home fries that sport a cheerful red-orange hue from aji panca. Mexican omelet ($8.50) is a substantial bundle, stuffed with ground chorizo sausage, grilled red bell peppers, and a sprinkle of cotija cheese. Avocado and home fries are served alongside this. We order smoky refried beans and savor every spoonful.
We have to try the purple corn pancakes with blueberries ($6.50), made from purple corn flour. These are no mere flapjacks. Springy in texture and raspberry pink, they taste of ripe bananas. While delicious on their own, reach for the homemade syrup that Cerna and her staff make from fresh coconut, fig leaves, and sugar.
Mixtura is the best Peruvian-Salvadoran-Mexican diner we know.
Ellen Bhang can be reached at ellenbhang