Monday, August 18, 2014

Los Andes: A Diamond in the Rough

Sometimes the most fabulous meals are found in the most unexpected places. Right next to Roger Williams Hospital in a sketchy unassuming neighborhood in Providence, Rhode Island is one of my favorite restaurants in the entire state, Los Andes, featuring Peruvian and Bolivian cuisine. I have never heard a single negative word uttered about Los Andes. In fact, quite the opposite. Whenever I speak its name, it is met by fanfare from anyone who has dined there before. It also happens to be ranked as the #1 restaurant in Providence on Yelp, even higher than Gracie's which I absolutely adore.

So what makes Los Andes so special? Could it be the fantastic staff? I have dined at Los Andes on three occasions over the past year, and at each of these meals my server has been exceptionally knowledgeable, even in one case offering us useful tidbits of info about Peruvian cuisine, such as the fact that asparagus is a national staple and therefore included on the majority of menu items at Los Andes.

The specials from a recent visit...

The staff is also attentive and professional, and I'm pleased to say that during each and every visit to Los Andes, the friendly co-owner, Diego, has approached our table every time to ensure that we are enjoying our meal. This is rare in many restaurants, and I'm so thrilled to see such an importance placed on customer satisfaction. On one particular occasion, a friend and I occupied our table for nearly three hours, catching up long after we finished our meal, and not once did the staff interrupt us or ask us to vacate our table. They continued to fill our waters, and we tipped them really really well :)

Another thing I love about Los Andes is the incredible menu. Everything I have tried has been exceptional and also exceptionally priced considering the quality of the food and creativity of the dishes. I find it hard to resist some of the specials whenever I sit down for a meal at Los Andes. I've only ordered a couple items off the standard menu, but everything I've tried has been outstanding. The prices are a serious bargain for the portion size and quality. I ordered a lamb dish last fall that was priced somewhere around the mid-twenties range for an entire rack of lamb (one pound of meat per order). Now that's a steal!

The famous Ceviche Martini!

I also really love the ambiance. A large fish tank separates the bar from the main dining room. Live South American music is another feature at Los Andes on Wednesday and Thursday evenings.

There are so many items on the menu that I can't wait to try, and yet I often get sidelined by the incredible-sounding specials, so I have yet to make a dent into the actual menu. The first time I visited Los Andes there was a rack of lamb special on the menu that my friend and I couldn't resist (so we both ordered it!). It was served with yucca gnocchi, tomatoes, spinach, and asparagus in a curry sauce. The rack was served whole (an entire pound for each of us) and was sliced in between the bones just enough to make it easy for us to dig in while still maintaining the integrity of the lamb. It was absolutely fantastic. The lamb was cooked perfectly, and the flavor of the gnocchi and sauce was a wonderful, yet unexpected, compliment. Please forgive the quality of the photo, as it was taken with my iPhone in a very dark restaurant!

Rack of Lamb with Yucca Gnocchi

On my second visit to Los Andes, I dragged my big fancy camera with me and took some better pics! I started with a Caipirinha, a Brazilian cocktail featuring cachaça (a sugar cane hard liquor), sugar, and lime. It was delicious and refreshing.


Our appetizer was the Calamare al K'allu, which is an excellent standby and is tossed with queso blanco, choclo, mint, tomatoes and garlic butter and finished with an aged balsamic reduction. We are famous for our calamari in Rhode Island and the version at Los Andes makes this Rhode Islander proud.

Calamare al K'allu $7.95

My entree was the standard Paella (they also often feature a lobster version on their specials menu), which includes chicken, chorizo, squid, Prince Edward Island mussels, little neck clams, shrimp, and peas. It's not the best Paella I've ever had (it doesn't have the traditional texture you get from a true Spanish Paella since it's not served out of a Paella pan), but the flavors are fantastic, and it's an excellent option for any seafood lover. It's also VERY well-priced for a seafood entree, which typically can cost an arm-and-a-leg at many restaurants.

Paella $15.95

My friend ordered the Pollo a Los Andes which features strips of chicken breast, sautéed with chorizo, cherry and banana peppers, onions, tomatoes, finished in a garlic-wine broth, served on a bed of steak fries topped with mozzarella cheese and scallions. She absolutely loved it and says she would order it again next time. I'm seriously intrigued myself and will have to add it to my long "to do" list of dishes to try in the future!

Pollo a Los Andes $11.95

My most recent visit to Los Andes began with a cocktail off the specials menu, the Mango-tini. It's sweet, tropical, and a fantastic start to the meal. Definitely can't go wrong with this one, and I love the duel-color of the drink as well.

Mango-tini $10

For an appetizer we shared the famous Ceviche Martini, consisting of fresh diced tilapia, squid, shrimp, and Prince Edward Island mussels. It's not only extremely acidic (as any ceviche worth it's weight in gold needs to be) but also fairly spicy, which just sets it apart from other ceviches I've tried. The ceviche is easily one of the most popular dishes on the menu, and rightfully so. They even have a version of it you can order as your entree.

Ceviche Martini $9.95

I elected the Pollo Loco off the specials menu for my entree, which our server described as a Bolivian lasagna, featuring pan-seared chicken thigh topped with herbed goat cheese, lobster meat, and sweet plantains, another pan-seared chicken thigh, topped with prosciutto and finished in the oven (no actual pasta, just layered chicken thighs). It's served over mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus and drizzled with a sweet Malbec wine reduction. Holy moly. This is chicken outside of the box like you wouldn't believe. There's a reason it's called "Loco" because there is so much going on in this dish, but it all works so beautifully together! Between the tangy goat cheese, the sweet plantain, the salty prosciutto, the sweet Malbec reduction, and the creamy, decadent mashed potatoes, it's a symphony of flavor and I just can't get enough.

Pollo Loco $21.95

My dining companion on this most recent visit was my sister, who also ordered a dish off the specials menu. Her's was the Salmon Salvaje featuring fresh grilled wild Sockeye Salmon, basted with a cascabel panka pepper chili glaze, served over vegetable chaufa rice, and grilled asparagus. I tasted several bites of her dish, and just loved the sweet glaze on the salmon (which was cooked to perfection by the way) as well as the vegetable chaufa rice, which is a Peruvian fried rice. It's featured in some of the other dishes in the menu, and it's so good.

Salmon Salvaje

Although we were quite full, we decided to peruse our dessert options, which included chocolate cake, mango mousse cheesecake, Limoncello cake, flan, yogurt cheesecake, and tres leches cake. We settled on the Limoncello cake, which was absolutely light as air, featuring the distinct flavor of Limoncello. Although we shared a slice, in retrospect I could have easily finished it on my own since it was so light!

I'm so glad to have discovered Los Andes over the past year. I am already anticipating my next visit, and wondering what I will select off the menu (there are just too many delicious options!). I hope if you're ever in the Providence area you will consider having a meal at this diamond in the rough. Although it's located in a less-than-prime location, the line is out the door during peak hours, and after a taste from the menu, you'll be coming back for more!

Limoncello Cake
*Update 6/23/15* Los Andes has acquired a patio out back! It features a koi pond and plenty of seating. This is wonderful for summer months, but may not really solve the seating problem during the cooler seasons and rainy days. They also now feature complimentary valet parking, which is great since the available lots would normally fill up really fast on busy (read: all) nights! I'm including some more photos and notes from subsequent Los Andes visits below...

The Pisco Sour is one of their signature drinks, and the Sangria is a tried-and-true favorite as well. Both are fantastic options.

Pisco Sour

Red Sangria
The Causa Limena features chilled whipped Yukon gold potatoes with avocado puree and shredded chicken on top, along with a delicious Huancaina cream sauce. It's cool and light, a wonderful starter.

Causa Limena $7.95
The Envuelto de Pollo is one of their most popular dishes, and absolutely delicious. It's basically a chicken roulade stuffed with fire-roasted peppers, spinach, mushrooms and queso blanco, rolled in crushed Ritz crackers and baked, and then sliced and served with a delicious creamy aji amarillo sauce and mashed potatoes.

Envuelto de Pollo $13.95
The Bisteca Andino is a super tender (mine was cooked medium-rare) 12-ounce Angus top sirloin steak, and features a slightly spicy, super flavorful Madeira wine reduction sauce that really makes the whole dish shine! It's topped with choclo (Peruvian corn), mushrooms, and sun-dried tomatoes, and is served with a side of mashed potatoes and grilled vegetables.

Bisteca Andina $16.95

Los Andes Cevicheria and Churrasqueria Andina
903 Chalkstone Ave
Providence, RI 02908
(401) 649-4911


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