This weekend in Wine Country, my eyes, stomach, and pallete got the tastiest little treat. After reading a review about a newer Peruvian restaurant, Sazon, in the SF Gate, I was determined to try it out. It didn’t take me long to convince a couple of friends to join, and together we had such a wonderful experience. The tastes, the ambiance, the service and of course, the company made for such a delightful afternoon. The little restaurant is hard to spot because it blends in with all the other shops in the area but once you find it and head inside, your surrounding instantly changes. Like a diamond in the ruff, I was extremely surprised with the well-designed interior and cozy atmosphere. Now, I’m going to take you through the late lunch as if you were there, so for those of you who haven’t had a Peruvian food experience yet, get ready to crave something you’ve never even tried (and now have to!). And for those of you that have, get ready to feel those distinct flavors and tastes hit you again like you were eating these dishes just yesterday.
We sat down, looked at the menu, and immediately started to uncontrollably drool. Not having the patience to wait for the last of our party to arrive, we went ahead and ordered the causa limeña for an appetizer, a glass of sangria, and a traditional chicha morada for drinks. Their sangria came served over ice in a wine glass with tiny bits of freshly chopped green apple layered on top as a garnish. The first sip tasted delectable–refreshing, fruity and not too sweet! The other drink we tried, the chicha morada, is a Peruvian drink made from purple corn, cinnamon, fruit, and cloves. It’s sweet and fruity with a kick of spice–our table came to the conclusion that it kind of resembles, and excuse us for our rough analysis, a blend between fruit punch and horchata (if you can imagine that). You can see (in the picture to the right) the sangria, and behind it is the glass of chicha morada. Both of these drinks started off our meal right and even gave us a little amusement! (As we finished the sangria at the end of the meal, the bits of apple were stuck under the ice at the bottom of the glass and we couldn’t get to them, but we experimented and we were able to get those suckers out with our forks! Classy, I know, but very entertaining!)
Before we knew it, our appetizer arrived. The splendid visual element of all the bold colors and sauces instantly attracted our eyes. Below you will see the causa limena. With the soft, tender and bright yellow potato as a base, it was then topped with crab, a hard boiled egg, avocado and an olive. That by itself spoke to us with the fusion of flavors, but add the two sauces to that mix and you might as well have just knocked us out of our chairs yourself!
Each bite was more delicious than the last, and the flavors just melted into your mouth. The potatoes were infused with aji-amarillo (a yellow Peruvian chile pepper) and lime. The two sauces were spicy (one more than the other) and the plate was completely clean by the time we finished.
One of the main dishes that entered our table next was the Pan con Chicharron which is a fried pork sandwich with thin slices of sweet potato and salsa criolla. This dish came with a side of fries, and it was huge! It’s always nice to see a good sized sandwich served with an enormous amount of fries. The Pan con Chicharron made a perfect meal for a sunny afternoon lunch.
Then came the Ahi Tuna Ceviche Nikei–what a beautiful visual appeal to the eyes (and the stomach!). The tuna was extremely fresh and seasoned just perfectly. Subtle hints of aji verde (a sauce made from Peruvian green chiles), sesame seeds, sesame oil, red onions, cilantro, and very thinly sliced jalpenos were scattered throughout the dish. Needless to say, it was hard not to keep asking my friend for more tasty nibbles! This a definitely a great plate to order and/or split with a friend because there was so much tuna on the plate that my friend ended up taking half of it home. I highly recommend it.
Next came the two other ceviche dishes we ordered–Ceviche de Pescado Clasico and Ceviche Mixto.
Both came beautifully arranged and with a side dish that included cusco corn (the larger, boiled white corns in the picture below), two little sweet potato bites and cancha (toasted corn nuts). The Ceviche de Pescado Clasico (pictured on the right) is fresh halibut with red onions, cilantro, ginger, and a spicy leche de tigre sauce. It definitely gave our taste buds a little jolt (in a good way)! Leche de tigre (translated as tiger’s milk) is a citrus-based marinade used to cure the seafood in ceviche. And in my opinion, the spicier the better–and this dish was nice and spicy–needless to say, we were glad we had ordered the sangria and chicha morada so we could cool down our mouths! Last in line for our entrees was the Ceviche Mixto (pictured on the left). Similar to the Ceviche de Pescado Clasico, this mound of savory goodness was loaded with fresh fish, squid, scallops, shrimp and then topped with a clam. They were layered on top of each other, creating a beautiful presentation and great way to get a little bit of everything into each bite. The Ceviche Mixto was also marinated in leche de tigre and even a little bit spicier than the Pescado Clasico. These two dishes were some of the best ceviche I’ve ever tasted, and even just writing this makes me want to run back to that restaurant and order another helping.
And last but not at all least was dessert. We couldn’t help ourselves, so when our server listed about 10 items off, all of which sounded alittle unfamiliar to us, we just said Um, we’d like the first two please! And we were not let down. Helado de lucuma is ice cream made from a native Peruvian fruit called, you guess it, lucuma! It tastes like a blend of maple and butterscotch–if that’s fruit, I would be glad to get more than my daily serving of fruit everyday! Added to that, we ordered some alfajores (Peruvian sandwich cookies made with dulce de leche and powered sugar) to go along with it– a simply perfect way to finish our lunch.
By the end of the meal, we were all about ready to give up our current lives and move to Peru for more of their food. This interaction with Peruvian food and Sazon has been nothing but positive and fulfilling. It has opened my eyes to their culture and now that I have a better idea of what to expect, I am excited to see what other dishes I will encounter. The spices and blends they use with their seafood, the strong flavors that sync together as you are chewing is an unforgettable feeling. With the friendly service and quaint atmosphere, you can bet I’ll be back at Sazon and also on a hunt for other unique and adventurous experiences with Peruvian food!
Peru ha robado mi corazon. Soy feliz para la comida buenisima y las companeras marvolosas. Salud!