Peru Taco Bar in Dublin offers delicious Peruvian food, Mexican dishes
Has the restaurant business ever been tougher? Yet in the face of rampant staffing and supply-chain issues challenging the industry, new eateries keep popping up.
When the ambitious Momo Ghar outlet in Dublin didn’t survive — it was a fun but short-lived extension of the popular Tibetan/Nepali eatery in the North Market — I felt bad for a worthy business whose risk didn’t pan out. Just a few months later in May, though, another operation premiered in the same space of Dublin’s Festival Centre shopping plaza: Peru Taco Bar.
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Tacos are about as Peruvian as pizzas, so that name might raise eyebrows. Research confirmed what a menu scan suggested: While offering widely available Mexican dishes, Peru Taco Bar — which shares ownership with the family that runs El Pollo Perucho, a stalwart West Side Peruvian restaurant — also skillfully cooks hard-to-find, but easy-to-love Peruvian food.
After being seated in the bright, tidy, moderate-sized eatery — which is largely white with black trim and divided into three sections enlivened by decorative plates and upbeat tunes from piped-in Spanish-language bands — good tortilla chips and salsa arrive.
Those snacks go great with a refreshing drink such as the mammoth classic margarita ($13), distinguished by fresh lime and orange juices. The pisco sour, a Peruvian favorite garnished with bitters and cinnamon and a bargain at $8, was equally citrusy and refreshing but also alluringly smooth (from whipped egg white) and uncommon.
The free chips and salsa plus those two cocktails add up to my synopsis of Peru Taco Bar: Good Mexican cuisine might get you in the door, but the reason to return often is similarly appealing but much more rare Peruvian fare.
So, yes, the al pastor tacos were winners — seared pineapple and pork nubbins with earthy yet perky seasonings packed into warm, soft corn tortillas ($12 for three, served with a side) — but I found the Peruvian offerings more interesting.
Like the chilled, must-order causa de pollo ($8): A wonderfully smooth, pretty little mashed potato-based “cake” with a chicken salad-like filling (containing peas, carrots and quality pulled meat) that’s decorated with egg and mayo offset by citrus and aji amarillo (Peruvian-sryle chile).
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Papa a la huancaina ($8) is another lovable and uncommon spud-based appetizer/side dish. It is warm boiled potatoes covered in creamy yet zippy huancaina sauce, which conjures a Peruvian answer to hollandaise made with cheese and aji amarillo.
The highly recommended trio marino ($22) could be a serves-four appetizer or an enormous entree. Plenty of Peruvian-style ceviche — hunks of firm yet tender white fish, shrimp and calamari energized by lime juice, cilantro, chile and “leche de tigre” (milky, literally drinkable leftover marinade) — are partnered with inhalable jalea mixta (think seafood fritto misto with spot-on fried yuccas) and a vibrant red onion salad. Canchas (similar to corn nuts) and sweet potatoes provide contrast.
Beef stew fans should target frijoles con seco ($16), lumps of tender meat married to a rich yet tangy sauce significantly brightened by cilantro. The delicious beef comes with bacon-enriched pinto beans, rice and that kicky onion salad.
Another Peruvian classic — charcoal-broiled chicken with juicy, slightly smoky meat beneath bronzed, flavorful skin — is sold multiple ways, including a half bird with two fine sides (such as plantains, fried yuccas, beans or cilantro rice) for $17.
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The crowd-pleasing chicken, like many dishes, was even more entertaining when eaten with Peruvian-style pepper sauces prepared in these stoplight-evoking colors: green — fruity, moderately spicy, fragrant with cilantro-like huacatay; yellow — creamy, quite spicy, slightly sweet; red — vinegary, ignited by fiery rocoto chiles.
When a server — service ranged from good to excellent — recommended “leche asada” for dessert, she was using a South American term for a variant of the menu-identified flan ($4). This dense custard tellingly resembled terrific flan, but with the appealingly uncommon “leche asada” difference of a dark-and-glassy caramelized cap.
Peru Taco Bar
Where: 2800 Festival Lane, Dublin
Contact: 614-389-1621; www.facebook.com/peru.taco.bar
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays; closed Mondays
Price range: $10 to $29
Ambience: casual, bright and tidy eatery with three little sections enlivened by decorative plates, Spanish-language pop and quick, friendly service
Children’s menu: yes
Liquor license: full bar
Quick click: Good Mexican cuisine plays second fiddle to the delicious Peruvian fare offered in this welcome new operation related to El Pollo Perucho.