Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Peru in Passaic Volume 1

Passaic is a diverse city in North Jersey. It is home to a sizable Peruvian community, and with that comes Peruvian food. This is just the first post as I eat my way through these fantastic, inexpensive restaurants in downtown Passaic.

Anticucheria el Chevere - (603 Main Avenue Passaic, NJ 07055-4921 - (973) 458-8308) This is an authentic Peruvian restaurant specializing in Antichuchos, basically beef heart skewers, but I will get to the organ meat in a bit. It's in downtown Passaic, not the most scenic of areas, but a friendly resturaunt.

We sat down and before we ordered the waiter brought a plate with two hot sauces, the darker one made with garlic, hot and bell peppers, scalions and cilantro. The lighter one seemed to be an Aioli flavored with the other hot sauce. Both were very flavorful and really made the food pop.

We got an order of Peruvian corn to start with, and it came with a cold cheese sauce. The corn is not like what you are used to as American corn on the cob. It has large starchy kernels that seem to be a cross between potato and corn, and was served with little cubes of queso blanco, the kind that squeaks a bit when you chew it. This corn is interesting mostly as a textural mindfuck; one is not used to corn that feels that way. The cheese sauce was tasty but nothing too spectacular.

Next was Aguadita, listen on the menu as chicken gizzard soup, it also has rice, potatoes, chicken necks, and is flavored with a lot of cilantro. With it came some lime wedges. It is a hearty flavorful soup, the neck bones added a lot of flavor and the potatoes basically melted in the soup to give it a great thickness. The gizzards added a wonderful funky organ meat taste (like a very light liver flavor). Before the lime the soup was tasty, but after a healthy squirt from a few wedges of lime the soup positively sang!

Antichuchos is the namesake dish of this restaurant and does not disappoint . Antichuchos can be found all over South America, and be made from many kinds of meat, but when in Peru, antichuchos refer to beef hearts. I myself love to eat organ meat, and am not freaked out by hearts. Chicken hearts are fantastic little morsels of meat. Beef hearts are a great beginner organ meat to be honest. The flavor is very beefy, very meaty, and there is only the lightest mineraly organ meat flavor. They were grilled perfectly, the meat not tough or rubbery at all. They were served up on top of a few slices of potato very simply cooked ( I can't tell how honestly. I think likely boiled then put on a grill for color). With a bit of the hot sauces (both were great with the antichuchos) this is a very satisfying dish.

Next up is the Rachi, made from beef tripe (cow stomach), It was grilled with chili's, onions, and spices, and was both crispy and chewy. I have had tripe a few times, and usually it mostly resembles flavorless rubber bands, but this was tasty and wonderful with a great bit of kick to it.

And, lastly, a half chicken. Roasted chicken is a big deal in Peruvian restaurants, and the chicken here was perfectly cooked, with super crispy skin. The white meat was very moist, and the dark meat flavorful. The only downside was that it came with frozen french fries. I should have asked for one of the other options, and gotten it with one of a myriad of available Latin starches but this was only a minor drawback.

We accompanied the meal with chicha morada, a shockingly purple drink made with purple corn. Fruity and tasty and something I would drink at home if it was in the grocery.

All in all this was a fantastic restaurant experience and I will be returning to Anticucheria el Chevere again, once i have made my rounds through the other Latin delights that downtown Passaic has to offer. While I know this is likely out of your comfort zone there are surprises to be found, and this is a fantastic cuisine to get to know. The menu is not just freaky organ meat for the serious eater, but also contains some less daunting items that I might try the next time I am around: beef stir fry, some ceviche and some great chicken.

I give Anticucheria el Chevere 3.5 noms on the nomscale.
- Nomnomymous


  1. The nomscale ratings system is on the left of the page.
    0 noms = no
    1 nom = eh
    2 noms = meh
    3 noms = pretty good
    4 noms = really good
    5 noms = OMG
    courtesy of jewyorican.