It makes sense that the people who run Los Andes are the ones who had a popular place further up Chalkstone for nine years. It was named simply the Bolivian Restaurant and was, in fact, pretty definitive. At a recent visit to the new restaurant, a fellow diner enthused that the baked saltinas (potato, yucca, and cheese), an indulgence-encouraging two-buck impulse purchase "at the Bolivian," were "worth driving across town for." Indeed.
Chef Cesin Curi made the earlier restaurant, which he also ran with his brother Omar, an underground treasure, a place to enjoy exotic taste sensations for ridiculously low prices. The fancier Bolivian-Peruvian incarnation, homey with an aquarium and reproductions of scenic paintings and still lifes, opened last year. They had taken a two-year break, working in other restaurants.
Los Andes | 401.369.8025 | 903 Chalkstone Ave, Providence | Mon-Thurs, 10 am-9 pm; Fri-Sun, 7 am-10 pm | Major credit cards | Byob | Sidewalk-level accessible
Our long table started with some appetizers that they were especially proud of on a new menu. The first was ceviche mixto ($13.95), pricey but marvelous. It wasn't the expected pile of lime juice-marinated shrimp or undifferentiated seafood, but rather a visual feast as well. Spilling out of a martini glass were not only shrimp, scallops, and baby octopi, but in-shell mussels and tiny littleneck clams, with red onions for color and big kernels of roasted hominy for crunch. We could dunk mesclun from the plate into the juices when the seafood got low. Also down there was a slice of lemon for extra tang, more roasted kernels, and a daisy-shaped slice of hominy-on-the-cob for looks and taste bonus. Pardon the elaborate description, but I don't expect to encounter a ceviche more remarkable in the future and want to commit it to memory.
Another wheel of that steamed hominy, its stacks of five fat kernels arrayed for convenient eating, accompanied the next dish: grilled slices of beef heart, anticucho de corazon ($8). Two crossed skewers of the tender meat, done medium rare, were under huacatay, a sort of Peruvian pesto; the black mint was blended with queso de cabra, a goat-milk feta.
The last appetizer was a treat for an additional sense, the aroma of the chicken empanada ($2) wafting up when my fork cut into the baked, browned purse. There was plenty of juice with the shredded chicken — sweet and spicy. "We pumped it up a bit," chef Cesin said of its hotness as he helped serve.
Before my main course arrived, I got to exercise my appetite over two dishes across and next to me. The pollo de Los Andes ($10.95) had chorizo as well as chicken, along with bell peppers, onions, and tomato wedges, all over steak fries, with a garlicky white wine sauce puddling below. There was melted mozzarella on top. The pique a la Macha ($10.95) accessories were similar, but with strips of steak instead of chicken. As you can see by the prices, the comforting traditions of the previous restaurant have been maintained for many entrées.
One dish down the table that I considered getting was the aji de panza ($7.95). The tripe stew with potatoes and peas was being enthusiastically consumed by my friend Mike, who said he doesn't usually like the Italian versions, which can get too enthusiastic with tomatoes. The juices here tasted robust but only light red, and sampling the tripe brought me a smile. The bland organ meat had picked up a nice flavor and also was cooked to tenderness.
My main course arrived last and was formidable enough to need its own table. No kidding. Fortunately, I was sitting at an end of our long table, so that was no problem. The parrillada a Los Andes ($18.95) was in a large steel serving dish, blue flame below and glass cover on top. Inside was a medley that would impress any carnivore roaming a veldt: five slabs of meat, two thin but huge, including rib-eye and grilled chicken. (The menu had specified chorizo and "chicken tenders," but the replacements were OK, marinated and all tender.) There could have been more yucca with that quantity, but the arroz con queso was a tastier complement. The accompanying salad was generous with radicchio and even had a pile of potato salad on top, like a whipped cream lagniappe.
The Bolivian Restaurant is no longer. Long live the Bolivian-Peruvian Los Andes.
Bill Rodriguez can be reached at email@example.com.