There's always something happening in Wynwood. That's part of the charm of the arts district. And at the heart of Wynwood lies Wynwood Kitchen & Bar, known for its indoor/outdoor murals and Latin fusion. Last month, Venezuelan chef Miguel Aguilar gave locals a "Taste of the Americas."
A culinary tour through the countries that you might want to visit this summer but can't for one reason or another, "Taste of the Americas" offers authentic dishes and flavor profiles from selected countries every Thursday this month. Last time, we saw Mexico, which is Chef Aguilar and his wife's favorite country for travel. Tonight the chef will honor Peru for three simple reasons: "I love the spice, the ingredients, and the use of fish in Peruvian cuisine," he says. But the twist of this promotion is just that -- a twist on classic cuisine.
A taste of Peru began with a passionfruit pisco sour, which is less sour than its original counterpart. We'll blame that on the passion -- in a good way. Sip on that while you wait for your first course, papas a la huancaína. A simple dish, traditional papas a la huancaína are potatoes in ají amarillo sauce ($7). But Aguilar puts a spin on it by diverging from the typical yellow hue. His papas are mostly purple.
"I used purple potatoes instead of white potatoes," he says. "In Peru they use the purple potato, but not here. It's too expensive. I didn't mind taking on the extra expense for this dish that's one of my favorites."
He's also added kalamata olives, adding more flavor and more salt. After trying these papas and comparing them to those offered at my favorite Peruvian eatery, Sabor a Peru (which Aguilar's favorite too), I can definitely vouch for them. Though I prefer the sauce from Sabor a Peru, the purple potato was absolutely delicious, really making a difference in the dish, whereas a white potato grows tiring and bland after a while.
Next up was the shrimp ceviche ($14), with shrimp, roasted tomato sauce, red onion, ketchup, and Tabasco as the kick. Use of Tabasco and ketchup here is what sets this ceviche apart, aside from its overwhelming drench in the sauce, which we didn't mind. It was delectable -- and spicy!
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Gone in no time, it left us wanting more and eagerly awaiting the main and final course in this tour of Peru. It ended with chupe de mariscos -- another of Aguilar's favorite dishes. Priced at $16, the chupe de mariscos had been cooking overnight. The seafood stew contains clams, shrimp, and baby octopus, all sitting in a broth that contains corn and, interestingly, chorizo. Peruvians don't use much chorizo in the kitchen. That's where chef Aguilar's love for Mexico and Latin fusion comes in. It works. The broth is delicate and minimally spicy, the way a ceviche might be.
Available Thursdays for lunch and dinner through June, "Taste of the Americas" is a great way for restaurants to dive into other cuisines, and chef Miguel Aguilar is most excited about that aspect than anything else. But next month is the big one. Ending the series with Venezuela, the chef's native land, he promises it'll be very special. As far as that menu goes, all we know is an arepa will be involved.
Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha