South of the border

  • Sue Waldburger<br>Enterprise writer
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 10:04am

Ivanna Caceres isn’t above a little bait ‘n switch to attract customers to Sabor Latino Mexican-Peruvian Restaurant in Perrinville.

Since Norte Americanos aren’t exactly clamoring for Peruvian cuisine, the Peruvian owner/cook added a Mexican menu in hopes diners will come for the tacos and stay for the ceviche mixto.

It would be a shame to resist Caceres’ tactics, given specialties like Peruvian rotisserie chicken (marinaded in spices three days and available in three sizes for take-out Saturdays only.) But if you must, there’s a variety of Mexican specials revolving around tacos and tamales ($7.99). An American sampler includes fried fish or a hamburger with French fries for under $5.

Among the choices on the kid’s menu are salchipapas (hot dog) and a burrito combo for under $5.

Hoping the food was better than the five ‘n dime decor, I sidestepped the familiar and opted for jalea mixta – mixed fried seafood – while my beef-loving amigo settled on lomo saltado de res (beef and vegetables in brown sauce.)

Both are listed as platos fuertes (“big plates”). Our take-home boxes attested to truth in advertising.

The entrees were among the sprinkling of Peruvian dishes available weekdays. Saturdays, when the local Peruvian community fills the scant few tables at the eight-month-old cafe, Caceres rolls out the native specialties.

On a Friday visit (it’s basically a lunch/early-dinner place), we sipped starters of homemade passion fruit juice ($1.50) and made short work of the gratis fried corn (think Corn Nuts without the dental damage).

The seafood platter (price varies with size) offered up fresh halibut, shrimp, octopus and mussels barely battered and quick fried. A tad dry even with tartar sauce, the dish redeemed itself with its briny tang.

There was no arguing with the tender beef slices sauteed with red onions, seasoned with cilantro and served in a flavor-rich brown sauce over what looked to be good ol’ French fries ($9). A snowball-size mound of savory white rice made sure no sauce went unsopped.

Peruvian cooks use a greater variety of rice and spices than Mexican chefs, noted Caceres, adding that tortillas aren’t a Peruvian staple.

Her specialty cookies ($1.50) weren’t available so we ended with a churro gussied up with a caramel drizzle and vanilla ice cream.

Our bill was $15.19, reflecting a slight overcharge for the drinks and a head-scratching price calculation for the scaled-down seafood dish that clearly favored the customer. A generous tip evened the scales.

Caceres – whose restaurant’s moniker means “Latin flavor” – says she also does special-event catering of Italian, Chinese, Mexican and Peruvian dishes. Take-out is available, too.

Due to high demand, she recommends the rotisserie chickens be ordered ahead of time.

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