Saturday, March 16, 2013

Between Peruvian Cafe and Lounge

While it has been on my radar for years, and it actually changed formats since I first noticed it, I have not actually made it to Between.  Details arranged themselves in such a way that I family was able to go there recently.  When it first opened, Between called itself a boutique lounge and served an Indian-Latin fusion.  It has since changed to purely Peruvian cuisine.  While it is located in a high traffic area, the storefront is actually kind of narrow so it is kind of easy to miss which is kind of funny because you would think that the bright pink and purple trim might make it more noticeable.  The pink and purple trim follows inside in the curtains that act as dividers between dining areas and some of the lighting.  The floor is hardwood and the walls are old brick making the space look kind of old but the lighting is very modern.  The lighting is provided primarily by several white hanging lamps that were spiral shaped and very modern looking.  We were seated near the front of the restaurant which was a slight issue because despite the fact that there was a shelter around the door, it was cold outside and the front of the restaurant was definitely cooler than the interior.  It wasn't a huge issue but there were members of my party that felt cold.  As most of the population of Peru is located along the coast, the interior of the country is very mountainous, much of the country's cuisine revolves around seafood which is where my dinner started.  I ordered a Ceviche Classico, a seafood dish that is technically raw but is tenderized with the use of a lot of lemon juice.  The Ceviche Classico contained "Lechon de Tigre"-Tiger Shrimp, Cilantro, Red Onion, Glazed Sweet Potato, and Andean Corn.  As one might expect, this had a very strong flavor.  While there wasn't a lot of liquid in the dish, there was a very strong flavor of citrus in the dish.  There was also a strong flavor of onion and cilantro.  While everything was very tender, it was also still technically raw and so the strong flavors of the onion and cilantro, which are normally toned down by cooking were still at the forefront.  Everything was very tender although their was enough textural variety that it was not all mush.  It tasted very fresh, very bright, and very strong.  I liked it although I do like strong flavors and I could see where someone who does not may have a problem with this.

For my main course, I went with more seafood, this time in the form of Paella. Called Arroz con Mariscos, literally Rice with Shrimp, this dish contained Aji Panca, a mild red pepper, Aji Amarillo, a yellow pepper, Corn, Shrimp, Octopus, Squid, Scallops, and of course the Yellow Rice that is a standard of all Paella and topped with Salsa Criolla.  This is a mixture of thinly sliced Red Onions and Jalapenos with Cilantro mixed with a little Lime juice.  This again had a citrusy flavor from the Salsa Criolla but it was also kind of spicy and the seafood in all of it's varieties was very good.  In some paellas that I have had, there has been some rice that was crisped from being at the edge of the pan.  This adds an extra level of texture and flavor to the dish.  This paella however, did not have the crispy rice.  The rice was cooked to a toothsome texture (instead of being cooked to mush) and between that and the cruch of the vegetables on top, there was a good amount of crunch to this dish.  It was a good dish despite it's overt spiciness.

For dessert, I had breakfast.  It was called French Toast Sabores a PicarĂ³n.  This was French Toast with Vanilla Ice Cream and topped with Honey.  It was a little unusual in my mind but it really worked.  The French toast was thick with a crispy crust and soft interior.  It had a slightly savory flavor to it and the Ice Cream and Honey brought it back to the sweet side.  While I do like French toast, I wouldn't normally think of it as dessert even with the sweet maple syrup that is normally served with it.  Ice Cream though, is obviously dessert and with the honey, it made this a nice finish to the meal.

While I enjoyed the food at Between, I feel like I missed the restaurant's prime.  The place looked nice but there was some wear around the edges and while the waiter was friendly when we saw him, the place felt understaffed.  He also acted as a bartender and was serving the entire dining room which, while not incredibly large or full, it was a lot of work for one person.  It sometimes took a while to get some service.  I really want to like this place but there were too many little things to overlook and while the food was good, it wasn't good enough for me to overlook everything.          

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