Thursday, August 31, 2006

Restaurant: Los Balcones del Peru in Hollywood

The name, Los Balcones del Perú, refers to the impressive colonial-era cedar balconies that have graced the historic center of Lima for the past 500 years. Not only does the business card for this relatively new Peruvian restaurant in Hollywood have a full-color image of one of the most impressive of Lima's colonial balconies, the restaurant interior is warmly decorated with carved miniatures of these balconies, so evocative of a bygone era.

However, people don't come to Los Balcones del Perú simply to reminisce about Peru's colonial legacy or to discuss Lima's architectural history (although both are excellent topics of conversation). They come, and keep coming, for the food, in my experience, among the very best Peruvian food I've found in the greater Southern California area.

Today, when I decided to go to Los Balcones on a whim after work (having been dreaming about their choros a la chalaca for days), I didn't have my camera with me, but one day I will. In the meantime, if you click on any of the links which I'll post below from other Peruvian food lovers and critics, you can see some pictures of their very well-crafted dishes.

Surprisingly, while Los Balcones del Perú has been open for over a year, it was a dear Swiss friend, a Peruphile if ever there was one, who told me about it just a couple of months ago. When we decided to go together to the annual Los Angeles concert of the incomparable Peruvian singer, Eva Ayllón, held at the John Ford Amphitheatre earlier this month, the logical place for us to eat was at Los Balcones.

Location is everything, and Los Balcones is in prime real estate. At the southwest corner of Vine Street and De Longpre Avenue, it is just a short block south of Sunset Boulevard, within walking distance from the Arc Light cinema complex, the Amoeba Music store, and the Sunset + Vine shopping complex. The tower at Sunset and Vine, which years ago housed 360 Degrees, is now being renovated, and sure to bring more retail space and foot traffic to the area. Los Balcones del Perú is almost in the heart of the new, vibrant, and renovated Hollywood.

My research leads me to one conclusion: Los Balcones del Perú has been discovered.

Searching on the internet, I found a November 2005 review in the LA Weekly, by the guru of Los Angeles ethnic and off-the-beaten track restaurants, Jonathan Gold. Writing under his rubric, Counter Intelligence, the review is titled Lima and Vine. Gold waxes about one of the house specialties (shockingly, I have yet to sample it,) camarones a la piedra, a warm ceviche-style shrimp dish. Gold wonders where this unique ceviche has been hiding all his life. There are good pictures that accompany his review.

Pat Saperstein, another Los Angeles food blogger, has a post she titles Running with the Llamas: Los Balcones del Peru in her Eating L.A. blog, in which she writes that 'a veritable stampede of food writers and Chowhound posters' have made the trek to sample the fare. Not only does she praise the food, she also notes that the price is moderate, and the location superb.

A Chowhound search comes up with a number of posts (31 at last count) mentioning Los Balcones del Perú. Almost all posters agree, the place is a step up from other favorite, local Peruvian restaurants; although, there may be the occasional person who grumbles about something or other, but that's to be expected.

And what does this Peruvian food fan think of Los Balcones del Perú?

As I said, it is among the best Peruvian restaurants I've ever discovered in Southern California. The first two times I went there, I couldn't get past their appetizer menu. Their fish ceviche is prepared fresh and has the perfect blend of spice and citrus. Their papa a la huancaína has a sauce a little thin for my taste but flavorful enough to sop up with bread when the potatoes are gone. They also offer mote con queso, boiled large-kernel corn, accompanied by farmer-style cheese. I've rarely seen mote in the US. But, what has utterly smitten me since first sampling it there a month ago, is the appetizer called choros a la chalaca, a plate of steamed mussels served on the half-shell, topped with onion, ají­, and tomato. I like them picante, and eat them the Peruvian way: by inserting one end of the shell in my mouth and slurping in the entire contents all at once. These choros a la chalaca (meaning, mussels Callao-style) are the best I've had outside Peru.

Today, I finally ventured into the entrees.
Los Balcones offers a range of meat, seafood, and chicken dishes (by the way, I do plan on eating my way through their menu). I was recommended bistec a la chorillana, a decent cut of grilled beef topped with stir-fried onion and tomato, and accompanied by Peruvian-style white rice. It was tasty and filling. The restaurant serves Peruvian beers, wines (mostly Chilean), Inka Cola, and the usual beverages.

The owner, Jorge Rodríguez, hails from Ica, and has had previous experience in the Peruvian restaurant world here in Southern California. He is a gracious host, and his warm welcome, the tasteful decor, and most of all, the quality of the dishes, will keep diners coming back to Los Balcones. I hope this becomes one of the classic Hollywood restaurants. It is certainly well-located. I've been telling everyone I know about it.

Parking can be found in the neighborhood streets just east of Vine Street, although sometimes it's tough in this residential area next to the glitz of Sunset Boulevard. Otherwise, Los Balcones will validate one hour complimentary parking at the Arc Light complex.

If you are in the Los Angeles area, and enjoy Peruvian food, Los Balcones del Perú is not to be missed.

Los Balcones del Perú
1360 N. Vine Street
Hollywood, California

Phone: (323) 871-9600
Open daily for lunch and dinner

Click here for the Peru Food main page.

TAGS: Peru, Peruvian, food, cooking, cuisine, cocina, comida, gastronomía, peruana


Luis Colan said...

Hola Alexandro, hasta que porfin se revela tu verdadero numbre. El Gato Bolador era chevere though. Y que te parecio Eva Ayllon? La vi hase unos meses aquin en Times Square NYC y la mujer puso un tremendo show. The best I've las palabras de un expectador y repetido por ella, la musica del "callejon" me regreso a nuestro Peru. By the way I love this posting of Los Balcones. Me gustaron las imagenes de los balcones tanto que se me a dado ganas de regresar. Son como 10 anos que no piso tierra Peruana. Cuidate and it's nice to have yo back!!

sorry if I misspelled some spanish words, yo no escribo mucho espanol! Que verguensa!

::Alejandro:: said...

Hola Luís,

I've loved Eva Ayllón every time I've seen her, either here or in Peru. She puts on a great show, and I never tire of her music. People in the audience just went crazy when she came out and two hours later they were still screaming her name.

Those balconies in Lima are timeless. It's sad so many of them are in disrepair, but the city government is trying to refurbish many of them. You'll notice many changes, especially in the historic center, the next time you're in Lima. Ten years is a long time. It will be interesting to see how a return to Peru will influence your painting.

When I first entered the blogosphere, I thought I would want a pseudonym, and El Gato Volador reminded me of a street kid I saw doing a dance to that song in Plaza San Martín years ago. It was quite a sight to see!

I just decided to change it though; there are a lot of Gatos Voladores in cyberspace....

BTW, your written Spanish just needs practice, that's all, it's fine. The same thing happened to me.

Thanks for stopping by. Muchos saludos!

Carlos said...

Hola Alejandro,

Acabo de encontrar tu blog porque estaba buscando información sobre el Restaurante Los Balcones del Perú en Hollywood para enviárselo a una amiga española. Tan sólo quería felicitarte por tu dedicación en difundir la cultura peruana en general, sobretodo su cocina. Me gustaría escribir tanto pero esto es todo por ahora. Es hora de almorzar.

Te mando un fuerte abrazo.

Carlos J. Sayan
Pasadena, CA