ALTADOS, CEVICHES y CHAULAFAN DE CAMARONES
This weekend I discovered a new restaurant near by that I have driven past for decades. On an oddly shaped piece of urban real estate where Silver Lake Blvd. meets the Hollywood Freeway sits El Caserio, a romantic Spanish Revival building with a large open garden well planted with palms and tall banana plants and walls draped with sprays of Bougainvillea. The name means The Hamlet. It is an Ecuadorian place, not Mexican. The cuisine reflects the Andean nation but with heavy Asian (Japanese in this case) and Italian influences. The place is comfortable and club like, with soccer on the TV in the Bar. The patrons appeared to favor Chile over Argentina in the day’s Copa de Americas final game. They serve wine, beer and cocktails with a very good Pisco Sour — made with Pisco, grappa like grape brandy that is the dominant Andean liquor in Ecuador , Peru and Chile. It is a cross between a Margarita and a Ramos Fizz made with Pisco, lime juice and a bit of whipped egg white.
They have a large list of first courses, a dozen kinds of ceviche plus other Andean specialties include Humitas which is a sweet corn and meat cousin of a Tamale, a number of potato items and a variety of empanadas.
The Asian influence shows in main courses. They have Andean dishes, then a section call El WOK of Asian adapted dishes and another of Pastas reflecting Italian specialties and Italo-Andean hybrids. It is an unexpected blend of three schools of cooking that works.
The most popular main dish are the Saltados, stir fry of steak, chicken, shrimp or fish. Much like the familiar Fajitas which was created by Chinese cooks in Mexico, the Saltado was created by immigrant Japanese cooks in Ecuador and Peru and tastes a bit more Asian. The one big difference is that is topped at the end of cooking with a mass of great French fries and tossed and then plated. They use a heavy soy sauce and more garlic that provides a kick. The Andean nations serve it with a large mound of white rice, giving you two big helpings of both rice and potatoes. El Caserio also offers a selections of CHAULAFAN with a selection of ingredients. This a very Asian Andean fusion platter of fried rice and a lot of other ingredients including chilies.
Mara and I enjoyed our early dinner very much and recommend the club like ethnic place if you want something exotic, but not too exotic. As the Argentines know how to deliver good steaks, the Peruvian and Ecuadorians deliver great sea food, and pretty good steaks too. Like the Argentines and the Australians they like them al caballo, (on horseback) meaning topped with a sunny side up fried egg.
Los Angeles CA, 90026