\"Peruvian Cuisine and Cuban Delicacies\"
Hours of Operation
Monday - Saturday: 11:00 am - 10:00 pm. Sunday: 9:00 am - 10:00 pm.
The Washington Post Magazine Putting Peru on the Map At two area restaurants, it\'s easy to become a fan of this Latin American cuisine By Tom Sietsema Sunday, Aug. 5, 2007 If you\'ve never eaten beef heart, La Limeña is a terrific place to make its acquaintance. Marinated in cumin, garlic and red wine, and served as thin slices on a wooden skewer, the rich organ meat is pleasantly smoky from its brush with hot charcoal, and is further flattered with an accompanying salad of red onions and crisp roasted potato. The secret to the entree\'s appeal, which pertains to so much of the cooking at this small storefront in Rockville, is \"fresh, not frozen\" ingredients, says La Limeña\'s proud owner, Emma Perez. It would be easy to miss this fine little restaurant, all but invisible in the corner of a plain-Jane shopping mall. Up close, at the door, the place looks as if it might serve fast food. But the chickens tanning away on a rotisserie and a carved wooden cabinet dressing up the trim dining room suggest there\'s soul in this establishment. So does the staff. Not everyone has a firm command of English, but a diner couldn\'t ask for more warmhearted guides than the young men and women who watch over the restaurant. Heart (beef and otherwise) is not the only compelling reason to make a date with La Limeña. The ceviche of sliced fish is a party of color and flavor: tilapia decorated with chopped cilantro, onion and -- this being a Peruvian outpost -- wedges of sweet potato and a half-ear of steamed corn. The empanadas, their pastry almost as flaky as a croissant, make another nice entry point; crumbled ground beef mixed with raisins and purple olives is a particularly satisfying filling. If it\'s Peruvian comfort food you\'re seeking, you\'ll find it in rounds of steamed potato draped in a velvety, soft yellow cheese sauce with welcome kick in its seasoning.
Steak is offered half a dozen ways, and the version prepared \"Lima-style\" is noteworthy for its size, thinness and deft seasoning, while an order of (fried or grilled) trout revels in the kitchen\'s mission of \"fresh.\" As for that chicken, a marinade of beer, cumin and garlic lends charm to a tender bird with rich golden skin. The entree comes with a choice of two sides, and, if you\'re smart, you\'ll get crisp fingers of yucca, oiled white rice or a salad rather than the flat-tasting black beans. La Limeña also serves Cuban food -- ropa vieja, a roasted pork sandwich -- that is the equal of the Peruvian accents. Since it set sail in January, La Limeña (Spanish for \"The Lady of Lima\") has been serving its food on paper plates with plastic utensils, to keep prices low and embrace the masses, says Perez. The cooking deserves better; her customers have let her know that. And while beer would go very well with this food, La Limeña has yet to acquire a license for anything stronger than soda. Use that potential turnoff (steak without a drink? The horror!) as an opportunity to try one of the most refreshing beverages around: chicha morada. What looks like grape soda is a swirl of fruit juices, cinnamon and a bit of sugar, stained dark with purple corn. Another thirst-quencher, also made here, is not-too-sweet passion fruit juice. Either drink will make you very glad not to be sipping soda. No matter how much you\'ve eaten, no matter how full you are, save room for dessert. Or at least take something home from the pastry case. In her native Lima, Perez was trained as an economist. Here, she is the talent behind the delicate, caramel-sandwiched anise cookies served in so many Peruvian chicken joints around the area. At La Limeña, those and other sweets are baked with a great deal of care. After one of those warm-from-the-oven cookies, or a taste of a light, guava-filled pastry -- \"better than anything in Miami,\" my well-traveled Cuban friend insists -- all I can think is, thank goodness for career changes.