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Pikeos:

Peruvian Tapas for Two or More

RESTAURANT LATIN PERUVIAN SAINT-HENRI MODERATE <$40

The Pitch

One of the world's richest and most diverse cuisines is the one that hails from Peru.  With its origins in indigenous/Incan practices influenced by the waves of European, Asian and African immigrants, the result is one of the planet's true fusion cuisines in its purest sense.

While a handful of Montreal restaurants specialize in a specific one of these sub-cuisines (native, Nikkei or Chifa), tonight I discovered one which seems to span the gamut of the South American nation's numerous facets.

The four-year-old Pikeos occupies an inconspicuous corner along the nightlife-dense stretch of Notre Dame Street, albeit on a quieter corner.  Although nearly packed on this Sunday night, I was able to make a last-minute booking at this Saint-Henri eatery before meeting a friend there for dinner.

tagged:  NO NEED TO RESERVE SUNDAY NIGHT

The Mood

Mood image

Even though I walked in front of Pikeos numerous times, I never got a glimpse of its interior; something about its narrow windows and recessed entrance conceal what lay behind from the passerby.  Stepping inside reveals a small room fitting forty people at most.

A high ceiling, equally-tall windows and white brick walls add brightness and an air of roominess.  Finally, a mosaic-tiled bar, wood-paneled walls and dangling plants add a pop of color and an element of design to the otherwise bare, industrial space.

Tonight, two central tables were filled by a large, thirty-person group who were unfortunately being too loud, making it difficult for my friend and me to converse without resorting to yelling.  We later learned the youngsters were a dragon boat crew toasting some sort of milestone.

tagged:  SPEAK UP!

The Food

Food Image

As already mentioned, Pikeos' menu covers a wide swath of Peru's varied cuisine.  While the bulk of the menu lists "local" stapes such as empanadas, lomo saltado and the quintessential ceviche, the Asian influence makes an appearance thanks to tiradito, karaage chicken and bok choy.

Dishes come in two flavours: either in smaller portions – tapas style – or as well-rounded main courses.  We opted for the "tapas for 2" option, which includes a main dish and four smaller plates.  Priced at $77, this would have been a reasonable price-to-quantity proposition; but given my tendency to overorder, I added an extra dish for good measure.

Filet Mignon Anticuchado thumbnail (click to enlarge)

$21

$21

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Filet Mignon Anticuchado

Anticuchos are a street-food staple consisting of skewers of marinated beef hearts, replaced by filet mignon cubes here.  I found these overcooked and overpowered by the cumin-vinegar marinade, which would have married better with offal.

Tiradito de Salmon thumbnail (click to enlarge)

$20

$20

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Tiradito de Salmon

The ultimate Nikkei dish (a rawer version of ceviche really), this tiradito featured fresh slices of salmon sashimi swimming in a citrusy/sweet juice, topped with corn nuts and giant corn kernels to add a popping/crunchy texture.  Nice!

Pollo Frito thumbnail (click to enlarge)

$14

$14

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Pollo Frito

Possibly the best karaageJapanese fried chicken – I have had; these chunks of boneless chicken were juicy, tasty and coated with a thin, light and crispy batter.  Well done!

Yuca Frita thumbnail (click to enlarge)

$10

$10

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Yuca Frita

A side dish you will find at many a Latin restaurant, these cassava sticks were soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside; but could have used a more exciting dip than mayo.

Arroz con Camarones thumbnail (click to enlarge)

$29

$29

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Arroz con Camarones

A generous mound of turmeric rice cooked with diced veggies was topped with large Pacific shrimps.  A decent – if boring – dish reminiscent of everyday cooking you would eat at home.

Ceviche thumbnail (click to enlarge)

$25

$25

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Ceviche

Last but not least, a dish I must try at every Peruvian restaurant; the ceviche at Pikeos resembles the tiradito above, but used cod pieces instead and turned up the heat.  Approved!

tagged:  GOOD FOR SHARING

The Service

Asides from the noise level caused by the large group next to us, I was originally fearful they would monopolize the single waitress I spotted working the room tonight.  As it turned out, the young lady of Peruvian descent was not only present and available, but brought out our dishes one by one with good pacing.  We even go to chat with her once the dust had settled and the background chatter subsided.

The Verdict

The choice of Peruvian for tonight was a result of my friend.  He had never tried the nation's cuisine before, but was curious about it.  His introduction at the hands of Pikeos was a positive, successful one.  Myself, I enjoyed the spot's decor and was mostly satisfied with the dishes I tried.  I found the tiradito, ceviche and karaage excellent, but the rest needed some tweaking.

While I am still smitten by Barranco – reviewed here – and consider it tops, it's nice to have good alternative in Pikeos closer to where I live.

tagged:  SOLID

Price per person:  $38.50

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514eats

Montreal restaurant and bar reviews brought to you by two regular guys who like to eat and drink.  We will go anywhere and we will say it like it is.

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