camarones a la piedra
It seems like a veritable stampede of local food writers and Chowhound posters have made their way to Los Balcones del Peru lately, and I think a good part of the reason is that the Arclight-adjacent neighborhood desperately needed some reasonably-priced new restaurants. We were going to a play, not a movie, but it's a convenient location on the way to anything in Hollywood. When we arrived, it was empty, so surely service would be prompt, right?
I hadn't read Jonathan Gold's review first, but I managed to order the dish he raved about anyway, as it sounded like one of the more interesting dishes on the menu. Camarones a la piedra is called a "warm ceviche," but it doesn't really resemble a ceviche -- the shrimp swim in a bright yellow sauce vaguely reminiscent of hollandaise, made with amarillo peppers. The sauce has corn kernels in it, corn being a very Peruvian ingredient, and the shrimp are surrounded by batons of yuca. The whole thing is covered in finely sliced red onions. It was an interesting combination, definitely different from any other cuisine, yet it needed a lot of the spicy green aji sauce to really bring out the flavors.
Matt had the saltado mariscos, which was sauteed calamari, shrimp and tomatoes on a bed of french fries served with rice, and pronounced it excellent. The fries I stole were indeed tasty. Some of the dishes have combinations that sound rather odd -- there were a few that combined bananas, eggs, steak or chicken and potatoes, I think -- but it all makes for a good change from the typical Mexican or Brazilian menu.
They had a nice-looking flan for dessert, but we needed to make an 8:00 curtain, so I took one of the alfajores cookies to go. My car is now covered in a snowdrift of powdered sugar, but those things are amazing. Two nice big butter cookies enclose a thick layer of dulce de leche, but somehow the whole thing isn't too cloyingly sweet. One cookie is enough for two to share, though.
The verdict: The price was right ($33 for two entrees, three soft drinks and a giant cookie) and there are some interesting dishes I've never tried before. Unfortunately, the service was extremely slow and not particularly attentive -- it would have been nice to have more bread to sop up my yellow sauce, Matt's second soda didn't arrive until he was nearly finished, and I was never offered a refill on my iced tea. If you're trying to make a movie, it's probably a good idea to let them know as soon as you arrive. Still, it's good to have another option in the area.
Los Balcones del Peru
1360 N. Vine