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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
Possibly the best karaage – Japanese fried chicken – I have had; these chunks of boneless chicken were juicy, tasty and coated with a thin, light and crispy batter. Well done!
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.
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.
tagged: GOOD FOR SHARING
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 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.
Price per person: $38.50
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.