Mi Peru

So here in three words is a refutation for those (thankfully not many) xenophobes who have yet to appreciate the benefits of a diverse population (including restaurants) and chastise me for lauding spots serving food that’s not "Amurican":

Purple corn drink.

OK, on the surface this might not be the best choice for my argument, because even adventurous foodies may be put off by something called purple corn drink, but it’s the perfect one, as it turns out. It was on the menu at Mi Peru, and although I hadn’t tried it before, the on-the-surface weirdness sang to me a siren song.

"Uh, this purple corn drink …" I began with our waitress.

"It’s juice," was the reply.

Those few words spoke volumes. I knew it wasn’t carbonated, had at least some natural ingredients and probably wasn’t overly sweet, all things in its favor. So why not?

It arrived chilled, in a tall glass, with a straw. It was indeed purple. Cautiously I sipped — and discovered the best new flavor to cross my lips at least this year.

Purple corn drink — or Chica Morada, as it’s known to Peruvians — was indeed not too sweet, and gently infused with cinnamon and clove. Upon tasting it, the guy across the table set aside the wine list and said, "I’ll have one of those." See what happens when you’re open to new experiences?

Most of you have experienced such happy happenstance, but you might not know about Mi Peru, a small spot tucked into a strip center on a corner of Stephanie Street and Horizon Ridge Parkway in Henderson.

While we’ve accumulated a veritable United Nations of restaurants across the valley, we haven’t had many Peruvian ones, so the cuisine may be unfamiliar to many. A good thing to remember is that it carries nuances of its Incan roots but also Asian, Spanish, French, Italian and English influences.

Deep-fried yuca root, ($7.95) or cassava, I’d firmly put in the native camp. It was reminiscent of french fries — fitting, since cassava frequently is compared to potatoes — the thickish spears just crisped on the exterior. But they were firmer than french-fried potatoes, their flavor subtle but slightly more noticeable than that of a potato. Served with an herby dipping sauce, they were a great way to start.

Polla a la Brasa is a specialty of the house, available only after 3 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. It can be ordered by the quarter ($8.95), half ($10.95) or whole ($18.95, or $16.95 to go), and it’s simply chicken marinated and roasted until the skin is caramel-brown and lightly crunchy. We had a half chicken, and it was very flavorful and moist, including the white meat. Fries on the side were hot and crisp, though the advertised salad was pretty lackluster, mainly just iceberg lettuce with some tomatoes.

Lomo saltado ($13.95) is a classic Peruvian dish, and Mi Peru’s version makes it easy to see why. The beef was falling-apart tender, the tomatoes and onions recalling a tradition common to many cuisines, and for good reason. This one was served with white rice.

For dessert, we had the flan ($4.95), a caramel-coated creamy wonder topped with toasted coconut.

The flan was the recommendation of our pleasant and prompt waitress, who deftly served her numerous tables with ease. She was, as it turned out, a good source.

She even made the purple corn drink sound appealing.

Las Vegas Review-Journal reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact reporter Heidi Knapp Rinella at 383-0474 or e-mail her at hrinella@ reviewjournal.com.

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