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Machu Picchu

By Victoria Wiedel | Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Address: 3856 N. Ashland Ave.
Phone: 773-472-0471
Website: http://www.machupicchuchicago.com/

It's hard to miss the restaurant's distinctive sign. Credit: Victoria Wiedel

Like most countries, Peruvian cuisine has been influenced over the years by immigration. So if you expect a typical Latin American dining experience at Machu Picchu, 3856 N. Ashland Ave., you will be surprised to see flavors from Asia, Italy and West Africa sprinkled throughout the menu. All of which are brought together by tubers, the key ingredient that appears in many dishes.

For example, Machu Picchu’s version of ceviche ($14) is a zesty mound of fish pickled in lime juice that is served with steamed potatoes (including a sweet potato), instead of crackers or corn chips. Another popular appetizer is the Papa a la Huancaina ($8), sliced boiled potatoes smothered in Aji Amarillo sauce (made from mild yellow peppers) served with lettuce and hard-boiled eggs. It’s the Peruvian equivalent of potato salad.

Rice features prominently in several entrees, including Arroz con Pollo (top) and Arroz con Mariscos (right). Credit: Victoria Wiedel

Tubers are also available in mashed and fried forms for appetizers, but then they drop from prominence on the menu. Almost all entrees are served with rice, and in the case of the restaurant’s ultimate comfort food, Arroz con Pollo ($14), the rice is cooked with peas and cilantro in beer, and served with tender chicken. Another Peruvian specialty (they claim) is the Lomo Saltado ($14), sirloin steak strips sautéed with onions, tomatoes and french fries and served with white rice. The menu gets curiouser and curiouser with the appearance of Cantonese-style fried rice as well as fettuccini dishes served with either pesto or soy sauce.

For the most part this type of fusion cuisine seems to work, with the exception of the bland yet overly salty Arroz con Mariscos ($16), which is the Peruvian version of paella. While the seafood in that dish didn’t seem all that fresh or plentiful, other fish dishes featuring tilapia or red snapper looked like a better bet.

Machu Picchu restaurant is BYOB and the staff are efficient, accommodating and patient for those of us with lots of questions. And there is both soccer as well as giant photo murals of Peru to entertain you as you explore the multi-faceted cuisine.

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